Dried Dates: Benefits and Nutrition
We all love the sweet and delicious flesh of dried dates. They may be wrinkled on the outside. However, their insides are chewy and sticky. The intensely rich caramel taste gives you the sensation of eating chocolates with a hint of toffee, butterscotch, and cinnamon. Most people do not know that the dates fruit is also rich in nutrients that provide a number of benefits. Let us get to know more about dried fruit.
What Are Dried Dates?
Dried dates are the fruits of the flowering species of plant we call date palm. Date trees can grow up to 75 feet in height. The fruits have an oval and cylindrical shape and can be anywhere between 1.2 and 2.8 inches in length. The tree is native to the Fertile Crescent. Egypt, Iran, and Algeria are the top three countries in the world that produces dates.
In the US, dates are also grown in Arizona, southern California, and southern Florida. Farmers here often grown the Deglet Noor and Medjool varieties of dates. One has to understand that there are hundreds of cultivars of dates. Almost each date-growing region in North Africa, the Indus Valley, and the Middle East have their own cultivars.
Nutritional Profile of Dried Dates
Before we start talking about how to eat dates, let us first take a look at its nutritional profile. This will give us an idea about the benefits that we can get from this kind of fruit. It is important to recognize that the nutritional value of dried dates may vary depending on the cultivar. For purposes of our discussion, we shall look at the Deglet Noor as our reference.
A hundred grams of Deglet Noor dates is equivalent to 277 calories. This is about half the amount of calories that you would get from a similar amount of chocolate, dark or otherwise. It is sweet and can provide you with an almost-similar experience as chocolate. The best thing is that you won’t have to worry about gaining that much weight.
A hundred grams of dates fruit also contain 75 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and only 0.3 grams of fat. Seven grams of the carbohydrates come in the form of dietary fiber. While you may worry about the sugar content of dried dates, you will be glad to know that it has a low glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a reflection of how fast a carbohydrate gets absorbed in the blood. Foods with a glycemic index not higher than 55 are known to be low-glycemic index foods. They are very slow to digest and absorb. Hence, they do not produce the dreaded sugar rush and insulin spike. This will help lower the risk of diabetes.
As already mentioned, there are hundreds of cultivars of dates. However, all of them have low glycemic index. For example, Khalas have a GI of 35.5, Bo Ma’ans have a GI of 30.5, and Barhis have a GI of 49.7.
Potassium is the principal element found in dried dates. A hundred grams of this date palm fruit can already supply 20 percent of your recommended daily allowance for potassium. It is also a good source of copper, accounting for 18 percent of your RDA. Other minerals that you can find in dates include magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. There are also traces of boron, selenium, fluorine, and cobalt.
Dried dates are not rich in Vitamin C, unlike other fruits. However, it makes up for this by providing you with the B-vitamins. It is a good source of pantothenic acid and Vitamin B6. There are also Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin, and Folate in moderate amounts. It also provides fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Dates also contain Vitamin E. However, it is only in trace amounts.
- Other substances
Dates contain Vitamin A and its derivatives that have antioxidant properties. They include zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta-carotenes. In addition to these Vitamin A-derived antioxidants, dates also contain other forms of antioxidants.
If you eat fresh dates, you will benefit from anthocyanidins. Dried dates feature polyphenols, like those that you find in green tea. As always, the amount of antioxidants in dates varies from cultivar to cultivar. Khala dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants.
Benefits of Eating Dates
Adding dried dates in your diet can help you obtain the following health benefits:
- Improves the health of the heart
Dried dates contain almost negligible amounts of fat. Consuming dates will not lead to an increase in bad cholesterol. This can lower your risk of heart disease, provided you do not compensate by eating fatty foods. Dates are also rich in potassium. This is a mineral that is critical in the more efficient contraction of the muscles of the blood vessels and the heart.
- Improves digestion
The dietary fiber in dried dates can also help improve digestion. It facilitates the more efficient absorption of nutrients, while also aiding in the removal of wastes. An improvement in digestion can lead to other health benefits. The body is able to absorb more nutrients that it can use for various purposes.
- Lowers the risk of diabetes
As already mentioned, the carbohydrates found in dates are the good ones. They are very slow to digest and absorb. This prevents the sudden increase in glucose levels in the blood. It promotes a more stable supply of glucose for the cells to use. This also helps prevent abnormal insulin spikes. It helps lower the risk of developing insulin resistance. This is good news for people who may be at risk of diabetes mellitus.
- Relieves constipation
One of the reasons why there is constipation is that the fecal matter is very slow to move through the colon. It can be due to dehydration or inadequate control of the peristaltic movement of the large intestines. While dates cannot address dehydration, they can help provide additional bulk to the fecal matter. The dietary fiber that these fruits contain can help push the feces out of the colon.
- Provides long-lasting energy
Carbohydrates are the body’s principal source of energy. There are two types. One is the simple carbs and the other is the complex carbs. Simple carbs are very easy to digest, giving the body the energy it needs in a very short amount of time. Unfortunately, this type of energy gets used up very fast, too. Complex carbs are better, since they provide you with a steady supply of energy. The energy you get from complex carbs lasts longer. It allows you to finish more tasks. Dried dates contain complex carbohydrates. As such, they are perfect for people who need an energy source that lasts longer than simple sugars.
- Fights the effects of oxidative stress
The polyphenols in dried dates have amazing antioxidant properties. These can help neutralize the many effects of free radicals in the body. It can improve the appearance of both your hair and skin. These compounds can also help protect you against some forms of cancer. They fight cancer in different ways. Some antioxidants will kill tumor cells, while others will facilitate the increased production of tumor-fighting cells.
- Improves the health of bones
Dried dates also contain calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals work together to improve the tissue matrix of bones. The calcium content of dates is not as high as dairy products. However, it can still improve the overall health of your bones. Dates can be a delicious way to prevent osteoporosis as well as other conditions that impact bone density.
- Promote natural labor
There are several interesting studies about the effects of dates on pregnant women. These researches show that dates can help promote natural labor. It reduces the need for inducing labor through artificial means. Dates can also reduce the length of labor. One should take these studies with a grain of salt, however. Research design flaws can lead to erroneous results and conclusions. We need more empirical studies to confirm these results.
How to Enjoy Dates
People who are not familiar with it will often ask how to eat dates. There are two ways you can enjoy this fruit. You can consume it fresh or enjoy it dried. In some Islamic countries, dates are often used to make a champagne-like beverage. Here are a few ways you can enjoy dates:
Stuffed dates can make excellent finger foods. You can stuff them with pistachios, cream cheese, almonds, or pecans.
Try adding dates to your banana smoothie to give it a more flavorful profile. The sweetness of dates will complement the sweetness of banana. It also increases the potassium content of the drink.
- Energy balls
Mix dates with coconut flakes, oats, nuts, or cranberries and form into balls. These are interesting snacks to feast on after a workout.
Salads will look more appetizing and more nutritious with the addition of dates. You can pit whole dates and then slice or chop them before adding to your salad.
If you’re a fan of Moroccan tagines, then you know that dates are an essential ingredient of the dish. North African and Middle Eastern cuisines always use dates in many of their savory stews
Dried dates are sweet like caramel. They make perfect companions to savory and sweet dishes. They are also nutritious and can provide different health benefits.