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Dates are brown chewy fruits that grow in a bunch on date palm trees. These trees are native to the Middle East, with their origins believed to be in Iraq, but are found in other tropical regions as well. (1)
Nowadays, these sweet delights are imported across the globe and have many different varieties. Medjool and Deglet Noor dates are the most widely consumed ones in the USA, with Medjool being the sweetest of all varieties.
Dates have a lot of fructose sugar, which accounts for their saccharine taste, but there is more to them than just that. They contain a variety of nutrients that can improve your health in different ways. Read on to know more.
Benefits of Consuming Dates
Although research on dates is limited, here are some of their health benefits that have been verified by scientific studies:
1. Boosts energy
Energy comes from glucose, which is turned into sugar by the body. This sugar enters into the cells to provide the energy they need.
Different varieties of dates contain different amounts of glucose, which can vary from 60% to 80%. (2) This glucose is then utilized by the body to provide more energy.
2. Treats constipation
3. Fights anemia
Feeling tired could be a sign of anemia, which usually affects women but can affect anyone.
A study was done to determine if intake of dates and iron supplementation could boost the iron levels of adolescent girls. Results showed that date consumption combined with iron supplementation boosted their iron levels more than just iron supplementation alone. (4)
Another small study, which involved the intake of dates only (5–7 pieces or 100 g of dates), supported this finding. (5) Hence, consuming dates could be another way for individuals with anemia to boost their iron levels.
4. Promotes a healthy pregnancy
A review study found support for the use of dates to treat mild anemia in pregnant women. (3)
5. Promotes cardiovascular health
A review study examining two small studies revealed a beneficial effect of dates on cardiovascular health by decreasing triglyceride and cholesterol levels. (6)
However, both studies done were small, so the research should be taken with caution as many other factors can have a positive or negative effect on cardiovascular health.
6. Supports the nervous system
Dates contain a lot of potassium, which can be good for your nervous system.
7. Relieves arthritis inflammation
Research is being done into whether foods including dates with a high antioxidant content can relieve inflammation. So far, dates have been shown to complement the traditional treatment for arthritis-related inflammation. (7)
8. Treat a hangover
A general study on the benefits of dates mentioned that dates could help cure a hangover. (8)
However, another study showed the opposite. (9) This study tested the antihangover effect of date juice, which showed an increase in the activity of an enzyme called ALDH. This enzyme converts alcohol to a highly reactive and toxic substance called acetaldehyde.
This toxic substance is then converted by another enzyme ALD, to a nontoxic substance called acetate, which is a salt. (9) Increasing ADH with no increase in ALDH could make a hangover worse. Since the science is unclear at the moment, it would be best to use another food or drink to try to cure a hangover.
Nutritional Content of Dates
Medjool date: 1 date (24 g)
|Total Fat||0.036 g|
Precautions When Eating Dates
As discussed, dates have many beneficial effects and can be eaten daily, although it is recommended to keep these precautions in mind when consuming this sweet fruit:
- Dates usually come in dried fruit form and are high in sugar, which can cause tooth decay. Just remember to pair dates with a healthy fat or protein such as nuts and to have good dental hygiene to prevent tooth decay. (10)
- Dates are high in fiber. Increase your fiber intake slowly as too much fiber too quickly can lead to issues such as gas, bloating, and abdominal cramping. (11)
- You can eat dates every day as part of an overall healthy, well-balanced diet. A good starting place would be ~5 pieces of dates per day. To determine effectiveness, keeping a record of any positive or negative changes in health can go a long way to understanding your body’s unique needs.
Is it safe to consume dates regularly?
Dates are a fruit that can be consumed regularly and safely each day.
What is the best time to eat dates?
For those who can consume dates, there is no best time to eat them. Eating them in the morning can give you an instant energy boost to start the day.
You can also enjoy them as an appetizing snack during the day. They also make for a healthy dessert post-dinner. The options are limitless.
Who should not consume dates?
The answer to this is simply those who should not be consuming a high-fiber diet. This may include but is not limited to anyone suffering from diverticulitis or inflammation of the intestine, people who had surgical removal of any part of the small intestine or colon, and those who have recently had gastric bypass surgery.
The body of this group of people is unable to handle the amount of fiber from the dates and would cause more issues than benefits.
Can people with diabetes also consume dates?
People with diabetes can eat anything they like, but some foods are better for keeping their blood sugar under control. Dates are similar to dried fruit, in that people with diabetes can eat them. However, they should be careful how many they have at one time as too many by themselves could cause their blood sugar to rise rapidly.
Once all the sugar is used up by the body, the blood sugar will plummet drastically and quickly. This is known as a sugar crash. Despite this, dates can have a protective effect by lowering cholesterol levels in people with diabetes, so they shouldn’t be avoided. (12)
Instead, dates make a perfect snack when paired with protein or healthy fats such as nuts.
Dates can be fresh or dried, with the latter faring higher in sugar and calories. You have to be mindful about the amount you consume, no matter what the type since this fruit is essentially laden with sugar and calories.
Excessive intake of dates can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems. Thus, consume them in moderation as part of a nutritious well-balanced diet.