A food with powerful health properties
Besides their delicious and luxurious flavour, dates also have extraordinary health benefits:
Dates provide a number of essential nutrients: High in B and C vitamins, dates help to protect the cells in your body, maintain the health of your nervous system, and support your body to heal. They also contain vitamin A, which is important for healthy skin and eyes; and calcium, for strong bones and teeth and better muscle performance.
Dates keep your heart healthy: Dates are packed full of potassium, which is good for the heart and can help to lower blood pressure; fibre, which helps prevent cholesterol from building up; and iron, which helps in the production of red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.
Dates are an excellent source of energy: These caramel-sweet fruits are almost 75% carbohydrates, most of which comes from simple carbohydrates that are quickly digested in the body and turned into a big energy hit.
Dates have anti-inflammatory properties: Rich in magnesium, dates help to reduce inflammatory indicators in the body, protecting you against cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dates boost digestive health: Dates contain more than double the amount of fibre found in green vegetables. It is predominantly soluble fibre, vital in keeping your digestive system active, preventing constipation, and maintaining colon health.
Dates can improve labour and delivery for women in the late stages of pregnancy: A recent study from the Jordan University of science and technology found that when consumed in the last four weeks of pregnancy, dates can improve the likelihood of spontaneous labour, increase cervical dilation, and reduce the need for hospital intervention, improving the delivery outcome for many pregnant women.
- Carbohydrates: dates are small, healthy energy boosters
- Dietary fibers: provide a lasting feeling of fullness and are important for good digestion
- Potassium and magnesium: are important for normal muscle function and help regulate heart rate and blood pressure
- Calcium: is important to build and maintain strong bones and teeth and supports normal nerve and muscle function
- Iron: improves oxygen transport in the blood and strengthens the immune system
- Folic acid, thiamine and pyridoxine: are necessary for a normal metabolism
- Vitamin A: is essential for good sight and a healthy skin
Helps to boost your nerve health
The fruit is ideal for students, since it contains the monosaccharides fructose and glucose as well as the disaccharide sucrose. In combination with magnesium and B vitamins, these sugars are particularly good for concentration and nerves. The protein building block tryptophan from which serotonin, also called the happiness hormone, is derived contributes to feeling well and relaxed.
Carbohydrates and their metabolism (including secondary plant compounds)
Looking at the different kinds of sugar in dates, there are the already mentioned monosaccharides glucose and fructose as well as the disaccharide sucrose, also known as table sugar. Glucose, or grape sugar, is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and provides rapidly available energy. Fructose however, first has to be converted into glucose through complex metabolic processes and therefore doesn’t provide energy immediately. It can also be stored in the body’s sugar storage (glycogen storage in muscles and liver). While fruit sugar contained in fruits in considered healthy, increased consumption of isolated, industrially manufactured fructose in convenience products is problematic since it can lead to different metabolic diseases such as diabetes, gout, and fatty liver disease. Sucrose in dates doesn’t differ from the table sugar we use at home. However, dates also offer a multiplicity of secondary plant compounds. These are known to be good for health because, apart from having an anti-inflammatory effect, they can also help lower cholesterol, are anticarciogenic and immunomodulating. The last kind of sugar that is contained in dates is sorbitol. If consumed in high quantities, this can lead to gastro-intestinal disorders such as diarrhea, flatulence, or abdominal pain. However, except for raisins, all other dried fruits contain considerably more sorbitol than dates.
Iron is important for blood formation. Especially people who don’t eat meat frequently should know that. In the animal model it has been proven that iron can be better absorbed in combination with fructose. If additionally dates are combined with vitamin C from fruits or vegetables, the absorption improves once again. Nevertheless, a balanced diet is very important.
A balanced diet should contain 30 g of dietary fiber per day. It’s particularly important for a healthy intestine. A serving of 35 g (2-3 pieces) of dates contains 2.5 g of dietary fiber. Two servings of dates can therefore cover 1/5 of the daily requirement.
There are two broad types of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Whereas soluble fiber, to which the pectin contained in dates belongs, provide a long lasting feeling of fullness, slow down the rate of sugar absorption by the body and help maintain a healthy intestinal flora, insoluble fiber help moving bulk through the digestive tract.
The cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin contained in dates help add bulk to your stool which helps to have regular bowel movements.
Both types of fiber help prevent diseases such as colon cancer, heart diseases, or diabetes. In order for insoluble fiber to be effective, it’s important to drink lots of liquid, preferably water.
Raising the blood sugar level: Diabetes mellitus and fast-breaking
For people suffering from diabetes mellitus, dates can help raise a low blood sugar level thanks to the different types of sugar they contain. However, since this provokes a release of insulin, it is advisable to also eat something that helps slow down the body’s absorption of sugar such as plain yoghurt or a cheese or ham sandwich.
Traditionally, dates are eaten when breaking fast after sunset during Ramadan. Eating dates first helps maintain a constant blood sugar level and gives the body the energy it needs to deal with the proper meal.
Dates are excellent food for endurance athletes. Apart from rapidly available energy that doesn’t negatively affect digestion, they contain a multitude of minerals. Those are important for normal muscle function, especially for the heart muscle. The B vitamins regulate the energy metabolism so that carbohydrates, protein, and fat can be metabolized. During a competition, the mood enhancing and calming effects of tryptophan can also be of importance.
For prolonged physical activity (> 90 minutes) with low to medium intensity (e.g. trekking, Nordic walking), a serving of 35 g of dates covers the energy need of one hour of activity. More intensive sports such as marathon or triathlon, require a higher energy supply of about two servings per hour.
In the final stage of a training session, dates can prevent the loss of protein in the muscles because, if the carbohydrate reserves are empty, protein from the muscles is used for energy production. The secondary plant compounds present in dates help to recover quickly after the training.
Dates in smoothies
Smoothies have become very popular as a quick, healthy snack or meal. A serving of a freshly prepared smoothie contains more vitamins, minerals, and secondary plant compounds than commercially available fruit juices, which are usually enriched with vitamins and sometimes with other micronutrients too. Furthermore, if you make the smoothie yourself, it’s a natural product. Moreover, you can refine your smoothies to your liking with oils, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and dairy products. Dates give smoothies a mild sweetness and a creamy consistency. The many recipes that include dates are proof of the popularity of those fruits in smoothies.
Loss of nutrients
Dates don’t have to be washed under running water nor do they have to be cooked in water in order to become soft. Therefore, there’s no loss of nutrients due to preparation. During the natural ripening process, dates dry by themselves. Once this process is finished, the dates can be packed without any problems.
Comparison to other dried fruits
Compared to other dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, or apple rings, dates contain more carbohydrates, more dietary fibers, and more protein. Due to this, the caloric value of a serving is 101 kcal. Not only do dates contain more energy, they also have almost five times as much folic acid. Furthermore, they contain a lot of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Dates as horse feed
Particularly in Arabic countries, dates are used as feed for horses, cattle, and sheep.
(Energy-rich feed, full use of the harvest)
We can’t say more regarding this topic, but dates are definitely suitable as horse feed.
Topic 1: Comparison of dates and chocolate and dates and Coca-Cola
When we’re tired or frustrated, we often grab something sweet such as chocolate, cookies, or soft drinks. This should help us to be able to concentrate better and be more productive. A serving of dates helps drive away fatigue and gives new energy. Moreover, with 100 kcal (per serving of 35 g), dates contain noticeably less calories than soft drinks like Coca-Cola or orange juice (190-225 kcal / 5 dl). In addition to a higher dietary fiber content, dates also contain more potassium, magnesium and iron.
Topic 2: Dates are low in fat
If you want to limit or watch your fat intake, a serving of dates is a recommendable snack since 35 g contain less than 0.2 g of fat.
Therefore, you could eat 14 kg of dates before reaching the daily fat requirement of 70-80 g. Due to the high energy intake, however, this would cause a gain in weight of 5 kg.
Topic 3: Keep your hunger in check
Who hasn’t been there: you’re suddenly craving for food, usually for something sweet and maybe you even show physical symptoms like tremble or sweating. This craving for food is considered to be appetite rather than normal hunger.
Food cravings can have physical or psychological causes. Physical causes can be a signal for acute hypoglycemia, however, food cravings are often caused by stress and negative emotions. In both cases, dates are excellent to calm food cravings. Because of the high carbohydrates content, the blood sugar level rises quickly and, in contrast to other sweets, remains constant thanks to good saturation from dietary fiber. The mood elevating serotonin, abundant in dates, helps against psychologically caused food cravings.
In conclusion, it can be said that dates are one of the healthiest natural fruits and serve as energy boosters throughout the year. Thanks to their rapidly available energy, these vegan sweets are a healthy alternative to processed sweets and are ideal for athletes, children, adolescents and adults. Sweeten up your life with a daily a helping (35g or 2-3 dates) of this delicious energy booster!
Origin and composition
A Christmas treat in many European countries, dates are outstanding energy boosters throughout the year. Date palms grow 20-25 meters in height and the fruits are ready for harvest about ten years after planting. Date palm trees can live up to 100 years. Over 8000 years ago, date palm trees were already cultivated in the Middle East. Also called „bread of the desert”, dates have an energy content of 276 calories per 100 g. In comparison, dark bread has about 237 kcal per 100 g. Furthermore, the Sukari variety, a mildly sweet date also known as royal date, is rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and is very low in fat. Rich in fibers, dates provide a lasting feeling of fullness and promote a healthy intestinal flora. Dates are a healthy energy booster and the ideal snack to go because of their small size. This makes dates very popular, not only with athletes.
By the way: With 10 kg of dates, one could survive 20 days on a deserted island – provided that there is sufficient drinking water available.
For further reading:
- Al-Shahib, Walid; Marshall, Richard J. (2003): The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future? In: International journal of food sciences and nutrition 54 (4), S. 247–259. DOI: 10.1080/09637480120091982.
- Gimbel, Bernd (Hg.) (2014): Körpermanagement. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
- Kofrányi, Ernst; Wirths, Willi; Fröleke, Hartmut; Sebastian, Kathrin; Fehnker, Ute (2013): Einführung in die Ernährungslehre. 13. aktualisierte Aufl. Neustadt an der Weinstrasse: Neuer Umschau-Buchverlag.
- Horn, Florian (2012): Biochemie des Menschen. Das Lehrbuch für das Medizinstudium. , korr. Aufl. Stuttgart: Thieme.
- Tang, Zhen-Xing; Shi, Lu-E; Aleid, Salah M. (2013): Date fruit: chemical composition, nutritional and medicinal values, products. In: Journal of the science of food and agriculture 93 (10), S. 2351–2361. DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.6154.
- diabetes-austria.com (Stand 08/15)
- Ali, Amanat; Al-Kindi, Yusra S M; Al-Said, Fahad (2009): Chemical composition and glycemic index of three varieties of Omani dates. In: International journal of
food sciences and nutrition 60 Suppl 4, S. 51–62. DOI: 10.1080/09637480802389094.
- Wölnerhanssen, Bettina Karin; Meyer-Gerspach, Anne Christin; Schmidt, André; Zimak, Nina; Peterli, Ralph; Beglinger, Christoph; Borgwardt, Stefan (2015): Dissociable Behavioral, Physiological and Neural Effects of Acute Glucose and Fructose Ingestion: A Pilot Study. In: PloS one 10 (6), S. e0130280. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130280
- Elleuch, Mohamed; Besbes, Souhail; Roiseux, Olivier; Blecker, Christophe; Deroanne, Claude; Drira, Nour-Eddine; Attia, Hamadi (2008): Date flesh: Chemical composition and characteristics of the dietary fibre. In: Food Chemistry 111 (3), S. 676–682. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.04.036.
- Gimbel, Bernd (Hg.) (2014): Körpermanagement. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
- Schek, Alexandra: Nahrungsfaktoren und seelisches (Wohl-)Befinden.
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 Schek, Alexandra: Nahrungsfaktoren und seelisches (Wohl-)Befinden
 Chandrasekaran, M.; Bahkali, Ali H. (2013): Valorization of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) fruit processing by- products and wastes using bioprocess technology -Review. In: Saudi journal of biological sciences 20 (2), S. 105– 120. DOI: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2012.12.004. Quelle: Fachmann, W.; Kraut, H. (2011): Lebensmitteltabelle für die Praxis. Der kleine Souci-Fachmann-Kraut. 5. Aufl. Hg. v. Gaby Andersen. Stuttgart: Wiss. Verl.-Ges.
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 Schmidt, D.; Petersen, M. (2013): Besonderheiten der Ernährung bei Diabetes. In: Frank Jochum (Hg.): Ernährungsmedizin Pädiatrie. Kapitel 24- Besonderheiten der Ernährung bei Diabetes. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, S. 261–265.
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 Tabula No 4 / 2014 http://www.trockenfruechte.com/news/sind-getrocknete-datteln-gesund(Stand 08/15)