Date Fruit

What is a date fruit ?

A date is a fruit grown from the date palm, a tree that is native in Middle East and Northern America [1].


The English name of the fruit, date, as well as the species wherein it is classified from, the dactylifera, are both derived from the Greek word, daktulos, meaning finger. This signifies the elongated shape of the fruit.

  • In Spanish it is : el datil  ; and In Hindi  it is    : खजूर Khajūra

It comes in oval-cylindrical shape, measuring 3-7 cm in length, and 2-3 cm in diameter. When the date fruit ripens, its color ranges from bright red to bright yellow. There are three main cultivar groups of date that exist. These are soft, semi-dry, and dry [2].

Date tree picture

Picture1: Date tree
Image Source : aceoflifewellbeingblog.com

Date Fruit image

Picture 2: Date Fruit
Image Source: dried-fruits.organicxbenefits.com

Brief History

Dates are one of the oldest tree crops to be cultivated. They have been planted and grown for thousands of years [1]. They are believed to originate in Egypt, growing along the Nile, as early as 5th century B.C [3]. In the ancient times, people leave a bowl of dates on the table to be offered to guests at each meal. This represents the hospitality of the host to his guest. In those times, dates are served together with a cup of coffee or tea because it is the date that gives the desired sweetness to the drink. Until now, many cultures still practice this tradition [4].

During the late 1700s, dates were taken to the America’s Western Coast by the Spanish missionaries. In 1927, Medjool dates, from Morocco, were introduced in the US. Eleven shoots of dates were quarantined in Nevada for seven years. After 8 years, 9 plants survived and were taken to Southern California. That was the place where 24 offshoots were cultivated in 1944. [5]

Dates Nutrition

Dates have abundance of different minerals and nutrients. They are also rich in protein and fiber content as well as low in fat [6]. Aside from that, they are filled with vitamins and antioxidants. They are indeed one of the most popular fruits loaded with amazing benefits for health.

Moreover, dates have been reported to contain at least 15 minerals, including selenium. It is an element which is known to aid in cancer prevention and improvement of body immunity. Dates also have high levels of proteins, particularly 23 types of amino acids. Some of these amino acids are not found in commonly consumed fruits such as bananas, oranges, and apples. Unsaturated fatty acids can also be seen in dates. These are oleic, linolenic, palmitoleic, and linoleic acids. In this research, it has been discovered that dates are ideal for diet due to its high amount of essential nutrients and benefits to health. [7]

Calories

Dates contain about 23 calories in 1 serving (1 piece). Within 1 serving, its calorie breakdown is 96% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat [8]. Furthermore, a 3.5-ounce serving of dates has 227 calories, 75 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.8 grams of protein. In that 75 grams of carbohydrates, 66.5 grams of which are fructose and simple glucose [9].

Date Fruit Health Benefits

Digestive health

1. Better digestion

  • Dates supply the body with 20 different kinds of amino acids which facilitate better digestion.
  • Also, dates are abundant with fiber content. Dietary fiber is important in facilitating healthy bowel movements and easy food passage through intestinal tract. With this health benefit, dates are popular in relieving constipation.

2. Supplies beta-D-glucan to the body

  • These fruits also contain Beta-D-glucan, a special soluble fiber. It works by normalizing blood glucose levels, increasing the size of stools, and interfering cholesterol absorption. Digestion is also slowed down by Beta-D-glucan. As a result, it makes a person feel full or satiated for a longer period of time.

3. Relieves intestinal disorders

  • Dates have been discovered to increase the colonization of friendly bacteria in the gut. Thus, it promotes improved digestive health.
  • Nicotine has been also found to be contained in dates though this has a positive effect to the body since it’s believed to aid in relieving intestinal disorders.
  • Dates are also known to be popular among pregnant women as a remedy for their digestive problems such as constipation, extreme bloating, and more. It must be remembered though that for pregnant women with diabetes must monitor their consumption of dates due to its sugar content.

Cardiovascular health

1. Controls blood pressure

  • Dates provide the body with high levels of potassium. Potassium is a significant component of cell as well as body fluids which aid in regulating the heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Consumption of dates also normalizes blood pressure due to its effect on sodium. Dates are sodium-free and its high potassium content aids in the maintenance of normal ratio between the two. Thus, balanced sodium-potassium ratio lowers the pressure on the walls of the arteries resulting to normalized blood pressure.

2. Promotes heart health

  • Since dates are low in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat, they are considered to be healthy for the heart. Therefore, they provide excellent prevention of coronary heart diseases and stroke.

3. Provides essential minerals essential blood circulation

  • Improvement of the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood can also be achieved through date consumption due to its Iron content. Iron is a hemoglobin component which affects the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen supply to the body.
  • Copper is essential in red blood cell production while calcium is needed by the body for blood clotting. Both of these minerals are found in dates.
  • Vitamin K is found in dates in adequate levels. It is known to be a blood coagulant.

 

Bone and muscle health

  • Dates have high contents of other minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
  • Calcium is a significant constituent of teeth and bone. It is also necessary for muscle contraction.
  • Magnesium, on the hand, is needed by the body for bone growth.
  • Fluorine can also be found in dates. This mineral is known to aid in slowing down tooth decay. Also, it also strengthens the tooth enamel.

Other Benefits

1. Eye health

  • Dates have moderate amount of vitamin A. This is mostly known to improve vision. Also, the dietary carotenoid, Zea-xanthin, aids in the eyes’ protective light-filtering functions. Therefore, it prevents a person from acquiring age-related macular degeneration.

2. Strengthens immune system

  • With abundant levels of antioxidants, dates can aid in the protection against pancreatic, breast, prostate, endometrial, lung, and colon cancers.

3. Aids in pregnancy and labor

  • Dates have been discovered to strengthen uterine muscles, promote better cervical dilation, and facilitate spontaneous labor.

4. Increases libido

  • Dates can have a good effect on the libido by improving the body’s sexual endurance. [6, 9, 10, 11]

Dates Recipes

You can enjoy dates by chopping them and mixing them into a cup of cottage cheese or plain yogurt. It can also be incorporated to meat stews and rice dishes to help in enhancing the flavor.

Another way to eat dates is to make it into Date Spread.  It is easy to make and the ingredients need not to be meticulously measured. Here are the steps:

  1. Put the dates into a saucepan. Fill it with water until it covers 2/3 of the fruit. Add lemon juice to the pan. Boil it with the lid of the cover part-way to let the steam escape.
  2. Make sure to set the heat low. Let it heat till it reaches the desired consistency. Usually, it is determined by using a tablespoon. When it can stand up in the middle of the mixture and it does not fall off to the side, you’re done. This step takes about 10-30 minutes.
  3. Let the mixture cool. Then, place it in the food processor until it becomes smooth.
  4. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for a few weeks or in freezer.
  5. Now you’re done! Place your Date Spread to cakes, baked breads, and more. [5, 9]

 

References:

  1. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-date-fruit.htm
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_palm#Dates
  3. http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/natural-foods/natural-weight-loss-food-dates-ga.htm
  4. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/dates
  5. http://foodfacts.mercola.com/dates.html
  6. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/date-fruit-benefits.html
  7. http://foodfacts.mercola.com/dates.html
  8. http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/date?portionid=17211&portionamount=1.000
  9. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/calories-benefits-dates-4120.html
  10. http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/dates.html
  11. http://www.datesaregreat.com/health-nutrition/

Published by under Nutrition and Diet.
Article was last reviewed on September 25th, 2017.

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