Mmm, dates – those small, shriveled and sweet punches of deliciousness! But did you know dates are some of the most healthy fruits found in nature?
Indeed, the health benefits of dates are simply short of incredible, as they have some of the most concentrated natural sugar content (cellular energy source) out of all fruits found in nature. This makes them incredibly nutritious, hydrating and energizing, given that simple sugars feed all our cells with fuel and nutrition, aiding the active and metabolic processes as well as contributing to healing degeneration.
Their caramel, buttery sweetness also makes them the ideal pick-me-up afternoon snack and a healthy alternative to making desserts free from processed sugar.
Dates contain many essential nutrients and provide numerous health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels, improving brain health, easing natural labor and duration, aiding in weight management, and promoting regular bowel movements.
Read on to learn more about the amazing benefits and nutrition of dates and how they can even help alleviate and treat painful and debilitating diseases!
Date Variety and Origins
Fresh dates come from the date palm tree that grows in sunny arid and semi-arid regions of the world with long dry summers and minimal humidity. Most dates come from the Middle East and North Africa, with pockets of growth in West Africa, Southwestern and Western United States, Australia, and Namibia.
It takes date palms 6-8 years to grow their first fruits, which they continue producing for up to 100 years of their approximate lifespan. The date palms are either male or female, with the males producing pollen and the females the date fruits.
In nature, the female palm trees are pollinated by wind and insects with the male pollen, but due to the demand of production, many date palm farms are using their own pollination, growth and harvesting methods that can speed up and make the growth process more efficient.
Generally, the harvesting process of dates is quite laborious, as dates are harvested in high summer temperatures (some reaching up to 120F) and require either high ladder or forklift harvesting.
Most harvest workers also have to wear long clothes that cover their skin and faces from the immense summer heat and sun exposure. It is quite the work to bring these sweet delicacies to the consumer – but it is truly worth it given the health return on investment!
There are many different types of dates that are harvested for consumption, and the following are some of the most common date varieties:
1) Medjool Dates
The Medjool date is large, fibrous and sweet. They are very rich in flavor and characterized by auburn-brown coloring and caramel taste. Given that they are very moist, hollow and chewy, they make for a perfect dessert when filled with tahini, nut butters, and coconut! They are also perfect for making energy bars, muffins and cookies.
2) Sukkari Dates
Sukkari dates are found in Saudi Arabia and are known to be nutritious and of high quality and are known to prevent tooth decay, lower cholesterol levels and energize the body for healing. They are very sweet and are known as the “King” of dates.
3) Deglor Noors Dates
Deglor Noors are one of the most common dates found in food markets, and the variety most available when it comes to pitted dates. They have a semi-sweet flavor with a pinch of nuttiness, making them a great option for sauces, cooking and salads.
4) Halawi Dates
Halawi dates are small, candy-like, and highly sweet. They easily dissolve in the mouth when eaten and have a deep buttery caramel flavor. They are perfect for smoothies, nice cream, baked goods, and as snacks with tea or coffee.
The Incredible Nutrition of Dates
Dates are high in potassium and magnesium, and this makes them incredibly cleansing and strengthening for the kidneys. They are also high in dietary fiber and natural sugars, which are essential for healthy digestion and brain function.
In fact, dates are incredibly beneficial for the brain and the nervous system due to their high nutritional and simple sugar content that feeds the brain with energy.
This is why they are known to be one of the top foods that protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, which combats the progression of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. The study points to the fact that “the mechanisms of protection may be related to the antioxidant activities of their phenolic constituents.”
Dates also contain calcium and iron, making them the perfect food for pregnant women, as they promote natural labor, late-term labor as well as reduce labor duration.
Likewise, regular date consumption has been linked to heart health and blood sugar control due to their high content of electrolytes and iron.
You can also eat dates regularly for their anti-inflammatory properties found in their calcium and electrolyte content, which eliminate free radicals, boost energy, and promote healthy bones.
The Proven Health Benefits of Dates
Dates provide the body with nutrition as well as alkaline chemistry which combats oxidative stress and improves many underlying inflammatory and chronic conditions. Here are just some of the health benefits of dates. By enjoying as few as 2 dates per day, you can experience:
- increase bone health and density
- improve digestive health
- reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease
- minimize weight gain
- promote heart health
- minimize cardiovascular disease
- ease natural labor and birth recovery
- boost brain health
- reverse inflammation
- improve kidney and colon function
- increase positive mood and lessen anxiousness
- enable better lymph and blood circulation
Below is a great video that shows you precisely what your body will go through if you eat 2 dates per day for one week. Pretty fascinating, right?
How to Choose the Best Dates
Although dates are usually grown organically without fertilizer or herbicides, the way they’re harvested and processed could compromise their quality significantly. The nature of production can vary depending on the company and country and can include measures to treat dates for “hygienic and quality control purposes.”
Although dates can stay fresh for months in a sealed container, many producers choose to treat dates with sulfites and other food preservatives to give them their shiny coating and increase their shelf life.
In order to choose the best quality dates, you should opt for organic dates, which are harvested and processed naturally and never treated with preservatives.
You can also choose to buy dates from a local supplier in large quantities, since dates keep for quite some time. By investing in personal, on-the-ground research by visiting a local farm, you can gain insights into the packaging process and develop a personal connection with the supplier and your delicious food!
Dates that come from the Middle East will inevitably have different production standards than dates that are grown and harvested in the US. Given the fact that all dates are not produced equally, my advice is to always look for the ingredients list and research the manufacturer to learn about its production practices.
Some of the most common chemicals and additives to watch out for include:
- Sodium Sulfite (E221)
- Sulfur Dioxide (E220)
These preservatives are usually added to dried fruits, juices, wine, vinegar, beer, soft drinks and other processed foods. Depending on individual sensitivities, sodium sulfite and sulfur dioxide are known to worsen the symptoms of asthma and can cause headaches, allergies, rashes, breathing problems, flushing and tingling, and even anaphylactic shock.
Why Eating Dates Will Benefit Your Overall Health
Simple sugars that come from fresh, organic fruits are the key source of energy for cells, and provide the body with the fuel it needs for activity, metabolism, detoxification and healing. Unlike cane sugar, which is complex and processed, natural sugars don’t require much digestive processing and pancreatic insulin, ensuring that very little energy is used to process fruit chemistry.
Since plenty of food chemistry goes into the body and very little is utilized in its metabolism, fruits are the ideal foods for hydrating, alkalizing, and healing the body.
In fact, they are some of the most energetic food sources found in nature, which, unlike vegetables, can be used to heal the nervous system, which requires the highest sources of energy for proper function.
The high concentration of simple sugars in dates makes them exceptional as a snack for athletes, for those whose jobs rely on a lot of mental focus, for growing children and the elderly.
They are also ideal for diabetics, as they won’t cause sugar level spikes and crashes, since simple fruit sugars don’t require insulin to be utilized by cells for energy. On the contrary, the sugars provide so much direct energy to cells, that they actually aid in strengthening the function of the liver and the pancreas.
And due to their electrolyte and fiber content, they are likewise the perfect food for body detox! You can include them in smoothies, munch on them regularly for energy boosts, and include them in culinary recipes that require that touch of sweetness.
Overall, dates are the one food staple that those who care about their health should consume daily! They not only clean but also regenerate cells and tissues, giving energy immediately to the weakest parts of the body.
Why You Should Replace Processed Sugar With Dates
The health benefits of dates are many, and as discussed previously, their high natural sugar content is one of the most important nutritional values of palm fruit.
And despite what the mainstream health discourse propagates about all sugar being bad for health, in actuality, sugars found in fresh fruit help assist in many health conditions by providing energy to core cells and tissues responsible for detoxification and regeneration.
Dates make for a wonderful natural sweetener, and unlike processed table sugar – or sucrose – that dehydrates the body, robs it of energy, and causes inflammation, simple sugars in fruit do quite the opposite.
If you have a sweet tooth and find it hard to quit sugar, dates and figs are the perfect snacks to help you replace processed sugars with natural sugars!
You really don’t have to sacrifice taste but simply have to be more strategic in which products you buy and how to use dried or powdered dates and figs in dessert recipes. Date paste makes cooking and baking easier and is a great alternative to jam and molasses.
My favorite source for sweetening drinks, snacks, and desserts is date sugar. The reason commercial date sugar is one of the healthiest and most quality sugars you can buy is that it is not extracted from dates through heating and chemical extraction that eliminates other nutrition and enzymes, but it simply dries the dates and crumbles them into small sugar granules.
This process does not denature their nutritional content and does not change the chemical composition of fructose.
Therefore, commercial date sugar is one of the best healthy sugar substitutes you can buy on the market today. By investing in natural sugar substitutes that come from dried fruits, you can still eat “sweetly” and see your body and health turn around significantly!
My Love Affair With Dates
I have been a big fan of dates for some time, especially since I changed my diet from vegetarian to vegan about 5 years ago. This change coincided with the important decision to cut out all processed sugar and to look for healthy sweet alternatives.
Today, I incorporate dates as part of my breakfast and as a quick afternoon snack. I usually make a banana breakfast that includes a few cut-up bananas, chopped-up dates and figs, cinnamon/clove/cardamom powders, flax seeds, and top it off with tahini. It’s my favorite breakfast staple, and I’ve been eating it for years! It is absolutely delicious and keeps me full until mid-afternoon lunch.
I also really enjoy eating dates when drinking tea and my occasional decaf coffee! In fact, dates are full of iron, calcium, and electrolytes and can offset much of the acidic chemistry of coffee, as coffee is known to leach electrolytes from the body and cause dehydration.
And, it’s not just I who adores dates – my whole family does! In fact, my sister created a small business selling stuffed, chocolate-covered dates in Arizona a few years back called Little Joys. I was a part of the dessert-making process (reflecting back on some “sweet” memories), helping her make them and sell them to local vendors. And, guess what? Little Joys were a big hit with customers!
If dates are not a part of your diet, you are absolutely missing out! Whatever your lifestyle, enjoying a few dates, date paste, or date sugar with your tea or coffee or as a sweetener for your meals and desserts will not only help you cut out processed sugar cravings but will also contribute positively toward your healthier lifestyle goals!
Dates are one of the most nutritious fruits found in nature and are the ideal food to integrate into your diet if you’re looking to experience more energy and vitality in your life.
Eating dates helps facilitate better toxin elimination from the kidneys and the bowels, making them a super-food when it comes to detoxification. For optimal healing benefits, I suggest including them in any fruit-based detoxification protocol.
And if you are suffering from any chronic illness, know that detoxification is essential to reclaiming your health. The first step is to reverse inflammation by alkalizing the body, then purging obstructions and toxins from major organs, and finally, regenerating (rebuilding) cells and tissues.
This insightful article about body inflammation will show you precisely which lifestyle and dietary habits to eliminate to reverse acidosis and advise you on the steps you can take to regenerate the body!