Dates are tasty and sugary fruits rich in antioxidants, they are beneficial for human health. Here are the properties of dates and some tips for use.
The dates are a sweet fruit rich in beneficial properties from the date palm, a typical plant of North Africa and South-West Asia and around the eighteenth century was also exported to the Americas.
The fruits of the date palm, which for centuries have been part of the common diet of the peoples of the Middle East, are recognized to be rich in benefits for human health. The cultivation of this tree is very intense in Asia and Africa, but also in other places such as the United States.
The fruit has an oval shape, with a typical length of about 3 cm and a diameter of about 2 cm. There are numerous varieties and it is estimated that today about 400 are grown. The fresh date, before being consumed, is generally dried in the sun: the increase in the concentration of sugars allows better conservation of the same, as well as giving it a pleasant taste and sweet.
Dates: calories and nutritional values
The fresh date is a fruit containing a high quantity of sugars: the database of the European Oncology Institute reports a quantity of more than 30 g of sugars per 100 g of product and, again 100 grams of fresh dates, provide 128 calories. You can therefore imagine that the date is not really a so-called “dietetic” fruit!
Conversely, the quantities of proteins and fats are decidedly low. The most represented amino acids, in particular, are valine, serine, lysine, alanine, glutamic and aspartic acid. It is therefore good to pay attention to the consumption of this fruit, especially if our doctor or our trusted nutritionist has recommended us to avoid simple sugars. Conversely, it represents a good and healthy source of energy for the sportsman, pre or post-workout.
The situation is further amplified in the case of dry dates: 100 grams of dehydrated dates, in fact, provide more than double the calories of fresh dates (279 kcal) and a practically doubled quantity of simple sugars (more than 66 grams!). We, therefore, wish to emphasize once again the attention to be paid to this fruit, which is absolutely healthy, but not suitable for feasting. A portion of dates corresponds to about 4 fruits.
Nutritional values per 100g of fresh dates:
calorie 128 kcal
water 60,7 gr
Proteins 1,5 gr
Fat 0,1 gr
Carbohydrates 31,3 gr
Of which simple sugars 31,3 gr
Fibre 1,8 gr
Glycemic index 55
C vitamin 14 mgr
Thiamine 0,06 mgr
Riboflavin 0,07 mgr
Pantothenic acid 0,21 mgr
Vitamin B6 0,12 mgr
Vitamin K 5,60 ugr
Calcium 24 mgr
Phosphorus 28 mgr
Magnesium 24 mgr
Sodium 7 mgr
Potassium 410 mgr
Iron 0,3 mgr
Dates: nutritional properties
As you can see from the table just last, the date contains several vitamins and mineral salts useful for our health. In particular, vitamins of group B appear fairly represented in this fruit: 100 g of dates contains about 5% of the daily requirement of thiamine, a fundamental vitamin for metabolism and cellular energy production; moreover, we find just over 4% of the daily requirement of riboflavin and pantothenic acid, other B vitamins essential for our metabolism. However, the vitamins most represented are undoubtedly the following:
Vitamin C: 100 grams of dates contain 14 mgr of vitamin C while the estimated daily requirement for an adult man is 105 mgr of vitamin C and for a woman of 85 mgr. This vitamin, essential for our well-being, is very important for the correct functioning of our immune system and for the synthesis of collagen;
Potassium: we find more than 400 mg of potassium in a portion of dates, that is more than 10% of the daily potassium requirement of an adult man. Potassium is a fundamental mineral for our health, it is involved in many cellular reactions and its deficiency is associated with cardiovascular problems, water retention, cramps and muscle fatigue;
Magnesium: also with regard to Mg we find about 10% of the daily requirement of an adult in 100 grams of dates. This mineral is very abundant inside our bones, while the small part present at the cellular and plasma level is essential for the correct functioning of the muscles, the brain and metabolism in general.
Finally, dates also contain a fair amount of carotenoids with antioxidant action, in particular lutein and beta-carotene.
Dates: health benefits
The properties of dates are numerous because it is very nutrient-rich and very nutritious food. The cultivation of this fruit has increased exponentially in recent decades and consequently also the studies carried out to verify the real benefits of dates. Let’s now explore this aspect and see what are the main beneficial effects of these fruits.
✓ Antioxidant property As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, dates contain, like all plant species, a fair amount of carotenoids. These molecules, to be considered as the precursors of vitamin A, have an antioxidant activity capable of inactivating the free radicals present at the cellular level. However, we must underline that the amount of carotenoids in dehydrated dates is not very high.
✓ Anti-inflammatory properties Dates also exert an anti-inflammatory property and their consumption is associated with lower production of pro-inflammatory molecules such as COX-2. The anti-inflammatory properties of dates seem to be expressed mainly in the respiratory system.
✓ Cardiovascular health As we have seen, dates contain a very high amount of potassium and for this reason, they are useful for our cardiovascular health. In fact, potassium, together with sodium, controls heart rhythm, blood pressure and the hydroelectric balance in our body.
✓ Improved vision The same carotenoids just mentioned can bring an additional benefit to our health: that of improving our site. Lutein, in fact, is also present inside our eye and carries out a protective action against damage from light rays.
✓ Remedy for constipation The benefits of dates also extend to the digestive system. As we have mentioned, fresh dates are foods containing a fair amount of fibre, which can improve intestinal regularity in the presence of constipation.
✓ Useful in case of male infertility is often associated with a highly oxidized cellular environment and a high presence of heavy metals within the human body. According to recent studies and a systematic review dated December 2015, polyphenols naturally present in dates would be able to chelate heavy metals and consequently improve the cellular environment. A man’s consumption of dates can therefore improve the motility of his spermatozoa, states the review just cited.
✓ Oncological prevention According to some studies, dates may have an interesting anti-tumour property. In fact, it was found that the consumption of dates was able to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Likewise, their consumption exerts an anti-proliferative effect also against colon cancer cells. Finally, we want to emphasize how dates can be useful against chemotherapy-induced toxicity.
✓ Energizing properties These fruits, as we have seen, are rich in readily available simple sugars. This characteristic gives dates useful properties for those seeking weight gain or for those who carry out physical activities of moderate intensity. In this regard, it could be useful to consume some dates before the start of the activity itself or, when of prolonged duration (as for example in the case of cycling races), during the activity.
Dates: some usage tips As we have already mentioned, the date can be eaten fresh or dehydrated. In general, it is advisable to choose fruits with a peel that is not bruised or damaged, but uniform. The fresh date is not present in all seasons and is, therefore, more difficult to find, however, it is less sugary and less caloric. In addition, it is preferable to choose untreated and organic fruits.
The dates are suitable for many uses. From the creation of jams to natural drinks, fruit juices, or smoothies in the preparation of desserts to replace sugar. They are also an excellent ingredient for breakfast or as a snack to eat in the middle of the morning to have more energy and concentration. But not only! They can also be used as “containers” as in the case of dates stuffed with mascarpone and walnuts, typical appetizing sweets that are prepared around the Christmas holidays.
Dates: contraindications and potential negative effects
No particular contraindications to the consumption of dates, except those already mentioned. We repeat them once again: dates are very caloric (especially if dehydrated) and sugary fruits. So be careful if you are overweight or if you suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance. In any case, only one rule applies: never overdo it!
In particular, up to 4 or 5 dates per day can be consumed according to USDA recommendations. In the diabetic patient, it is advisable to further limit the intake and include dates, rich in sugars, in a more complete meal rich in fibre and healthy fats.