The benefits and harms of dates: 8 scientific facts

The benefits and harms of dates: 8 scientific facts
  • What you need to know about dates
  • Calorie content of dates
  • What are the benefits of dates?
  • Harm of dates
  • Selection and storage of dates
  • Expert commentary

What you need to know about dates

Dates are the fruit of a palm tree that grows in the tropics. Depending on the variety, the small fresh fruits vary in color from yellow and red to dark brown. They are often sold for sale in the form of dried fruits. You can determine whether dates have been dried or not by their appearance. The smoother the skin, the fresher the fruit. Dates are sometimes soaked in syrup, but even without added sugar they have a distinctive caramel flavor.

Calorie content of dates

100 g of fruit contains:

  • 277 kcal;
  • fiber, 7 g;
  • protein, 2 g;
  • carbohydrates, 75 g.

Vitamin content (% of daily value):

  • vitamin K, 5%;
  • vitamin B6, 12%;
  • vitamin C, 1%;
  • manganese, 15%;
  • potassium, 20%;
  • magnesium, 14%;
  • copper, 18%;
  • iron, 5%.

What are the benefits of dates: 8 properties

Dates contain antioxidants (in this respect they are healthier than figs and plums), fiber, and fructose. Scientists have found that dates are good for the brain and promote digestion. In addition, they are useful for pregnant women. You can eat dates when you want something sweet, but you shouldn’t overuse them.

1. Dates are rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants in foods help reduce the risk of developing many dangerous diseases (1). They protect cells from free radicals that provoke harmful oxidative reactions. The fruit contains the highest amount of antioxidants compared to other similar products – plums and figs (2). Palm fruit is rich in flavonoids and phenolic acid, which reduce inflammation, as well as carotenoids, which are beneficial for the heart.

2. Fruits contain a lot of fiber

One study found that those who ate seven dates a day had significantly improved digestive health (3). This is facilitated by fiber, which prevents a sharp rise in blood sugar levels (4).

3. Dates Help Keep Your Brain Healthy

Studies have confirmed that palm fruit reduces inflammatory markers in the blood, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6), which is found in the brain. It can provoke neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (5), (6). In addition, dates reduce the activity of beta-amyloid proteins, which cause plaque in the brain. When they accumulate, connections between cells are often disrupted (7).

4. Dates are a natural sweetener.

You can eat dates when you want something sweet, but you shouldn’t overuse them.

Sweet fruits contain a lot of fructose, so they can replace the usual white sugar. Dates are made into a paste by mixing them with water in a blender. Although they are rich in fiber and nutrients, the fruits are quite high in calories, so they are best consumed in moderation.

5. Fruits help maintain healthy bones

Dates contain several beneficial minerals, including magnesium, potassium and calcium. These substances prevent bone diseases, including osteoporosis (8). However, more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

6. Dates prevent infections

Today, almost all microbial infections are treated with antibiotics. This is an expensive method that has a number of side effects. Replacing antibiotics with natural products can be a smart decision. In a study using extracts from the kernels and leaves of the date palm, it was found to have active resistance to many harmful bacteria (9).

7. Fruits promote natural childbirth

One study involved 69 women who ate six dates a day four weeks before they were due to give birth. Compared to those whose diet did not include these fruits, the experiment participants were 20% more likely to give birth naturally and in less time (10). Eating dates in the last trimester of pregnancy helps dilate the cervix and reduces the need for artificial induction of labor (11).

Dates can be combined with nuts and seeds to make raw food desserts.

Dates can be combined with nuts and seeds to make raw food desserts.

8. Dates are easy to add to your diet.

Unlike many foods that require time-consuming preparation and additional ingredients, dates are a ready-made healthy snack. In addition, they can be used to add viscosity to dishes, for example, they can be combined with nuts and seeds to prepare raw food desserts (12). Sweet fruits are the basis for dressings, sauces and syrups. It is useful to add them to breakfast so that the fiber saturates the body for a long time. Their high calorie content makes dates an excellent pre-workout snack that provides a gradual boost of energy.

Harm of dates

Despite all the positive qualities, in some cases it is worth reducing the amount of dates in the diet. So, doctors do not recommend them to people with diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome. Since dates are a source of fructose, they can cause bloating and stomach upset. Like many foods, dates are not safe for allergy sufferers, so if you are planning to try them for the first time, consult your doctor and start with one fruit. They contain sugar alcohol sorbitol, which can cause diarrhea. Therefore, if you have problems with the intestines, it is better not to eat them too often, including in syrups.

How to select and store dates

Before you buy dates, pay attention to their appearance. The fruits should not be covered with white bloom and sugar crystals. The latter indicates soaking in syrup to increase shelf life. Dates that are too hard and dry will taste less good than dates that are smooth, bright, and fleshy. The fruits should be stored in an airtight jar in a dark and dry place. Before eating, dates should be washed under running water: dust settles on their sticky peel.

The quality of dates is influenced by various factors: variety, region of origin, harvesting method, transportation and storage conditions. When choosing dates, give preference to those that have dried naturally on the palm tree, without additional processing. The second method is drying in ovens, and the third, less desirable, is soaking in glucose or sugar syrup. The last method is the cheapest for the manufacturer, but the most useless for the consumer: a fruit that is naturally very rich in glucose and fructose, soaked in syrup, becomes a sugar bomb.

When choosing a product, pay attention to the color – the fruit should be uniformly dark, moderately soft (but with a stone), matte, and the skin should be without cracks and should not peel off (this happens during rapid drying in ovens). Fresh dates have a yellowish golden-mustard color and a smooth, shiny skin. Their taste is tart-sweet, slightly astringent, and the more mature fruits have a honey-like taste. Fresh dates contain more vitamin C and fewer calories, they are juicy – they contain about 80% moisture (in ripe ones – 50-70%, and in dried ones – less than 10%). Therefore, the degree of concentration of sugars in dried dates is much higher. Regardless of the method of consumption (fresh or dried, with milk or tea), you need to remember moderation and eat no more than a couple of fruits a day.

Expert commentary

The benefits and harms of dates: 8 scientific facts

Can pregnant women eat dates?

Dates in moderation can be not only safe, but also beneficial for pregnant women. There is no evidence that eating dates is harmful in the first, second or third trimester of pregnancy. They can help cope with morning sickness, fatigue and become an alternative to sweets and cakes with trans fats, which definitely will not benefit the body of a pregnant woman. However, it all comes down to quantity. Moderation is needed with any sweet foods.

Is it possible to have dates…