Dates are one of my favorite snacks. It’s a good healthy option if you want something sweet that is very healthy. You can take out the seed and blend them in a smoothie together with other fruits or eat them with some cottage cheese. Often when it’s later at night and we crave for some comfort, dates are a great healthy option to have.
Known as “the tree of life,” the date palm tree has been grown in the Middle East since before 6,000 BCE, according to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” most likely making it the first cultivated tree in the history of the world. Date palms bear their fruit in clusters that can weigh as much as 25 pounds and contain upwards of 200 dates. Each fruit is about an inch in length, with a deep red or golden brown skin and a sweet, soft meaty flesh surrounding a small pit. In the United States, the semi-soft varieties Deglet Noor, Medjool and Zahidi are the most commonly available dates.
Dates aren’t a low-calorie, low-sugar food. A 3.5-ounce serving of dates is the equivalent of four Medjool dates or 12 Deglet Noor dates. A single pitted Medjool date provides 66 calories, 0.4 g of protein and almost 18 g of carbohydrate, of which 1.6 g is fiber and 15.95 g are the natural sugars glucose, fructose and sucrose. A single pitted Deglet Noor date provides 20 calories, 0.17 g of protein and 5.33 g of carbohydrate, of which 0.6 g is fiber and 4.5 g are the natural sugars sucrose, glucose and fructose. Both varieties are virtually fat-free, providing 0.04 g of fat, or less, per date.
While their natural sweetness has earned them the nickname “nature’s candy,” dates are also packed with numerous beneficial nutrients. They’re excellent sources of dietary fiber, many B vitamins, copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Further, dates are good sources of folate and the trace minerals zinc and selenium. Ounce for ounce, the potassium content in dates is 260 percent and 64 percent more than that of oranges and bananas, respectively. Dates also provide 60 percent more calories than either of these fruits, however. According to “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” dates provide an almost perfect 1-to-1 ratio of calcium to magnesium; one Medjool date provides 15 mg of calcium and almost 14 mg of magnesium.
Dates contain a specific type of soluble fiber called beta-D-glucan. According to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” this type of fiber decreases the body’s absorption of cholesterol and helps keep blood sugar even by delaying the small intestine’s absorption of glucose. Consequently, although dates are high in natural sugars, their sugars are released gradually in the body. Beta-D-glucan also absorbs water, aiding in the bulking and softening of stool to help ease elimination. Dates are excellent sources of dietary potassium, a nutrient that supports a healthy nervous system and proper muscle function. Potassium may also play an important role in reducing high blood pressure, according to a Colorado State University Extension report.
Dates contain a myriad of nutrients in addition to being excellent sources of easily digested carbohydrate, prompting scientists who’ve studied them to label them “an almost ideal food.” Research has revealed that dates are also good sources of antioxidant compounds including anthocyanins, carotenoids and phenolics. According to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” date extract was found to prevent free radical damage to fats and proteins, with the more concentrated extracts exerting the most protective effect. Further, when scientists studying the protective nature of date extract tested it against the potent cancer-causing chemical benzyopyrene, the antioxidant power of the extract did not diminish.
How To Buy and Store
Dates are harvested according to stages of ripeness. Once fully ripened, the longer they stay on the tree, the drier they become. Delicate, just-ripe dates are sold fresh at some farmers’ markets and Middle Eastern grocers, but they’re most commonly available partially dried, often with the pit removed. Choose dates that are plump and glossy. They can look wrinkled, but shouldn’t feel hard. A thin coating of sugar on the outside is okay, provided it’s not crystallized. If the dates smell sour, pass them by. Like dried fruits, dates have a long shelf life and will keep at room temperature for about two months if sealed in plastic.
3 Quick Ways to Use Dates
Smoothie: Puree dates with yogurt, mango, banana, and lemon juice.
Appetizer: Stuff whole pitted dates with a strip of Manchego; wrap in pancetta. Bake at 375°F until pancetta is sizzling, about half an hour.
Sauce: Soak pitted dates in enough hot water to cover until softened. Puree fruit and a little soaking liquid with chili powder, ground cumin, pomegranate molasses, and honey; strain, season to taste, and serve with roast pork tenderloin.
Rener Gracie shows us how to eat Dates the Gracie way: