Nutritional content of dates
Dates are a type of fruit that can grow at any time of the year. They are often harvested in the fall or early winter in their country of origin. The reason is because in winter this fruit is in its freshest condition. This fruit, which is also often referred to as the fruit of the prophet, is in fact rich in beneficial nutrients. In general, the main content of this fruit is simple carbohydrates (70%), mainly sugars, such as sucrose and fructose.
Dates also contain several other sources of nutrients, such as:
- 7 grams of fiber,
- 2 grams of protein,
- 20% of daily potassium requirement,
- 14% of daily magnesium needs,
- 18% copper requirement,
- 15% manganese requirement,
- 5% daily iron requirement, and
- 12% daily vitamin B6 requirement.
Not only that. Dates are also rich in calcium, iron, vitamin K, folate, and antioxidants such as carotenes, phenolics, avanoids, and anthocyanins.
Dried vs. wet dates
- Fresh dates have fewer calories and sugar than dried dates.
- Fresh ones only contain about 142 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrates.
- Fresh fruit also has much more water, fiber, and protein than dried fruit.
- The most common types of dates
There are actually thousands of varieties of dates in the world. But in general, dates are categorized into three main categories: soft, semi-soft and dry.
The wrinkly brown dates that you’re likely to see during Ramadan are the dry version.
They are not dried under the sun like other dried fruits.
The dates are actually ripe and ready to harvest, but tend to be left for the last harvest so that they contain less water.
For clarity, here are some of the world’s most famous dry and wet dates.
Barhi (Barhee) is a soft-fleshed, medium-sized date variety with a thin skin.
A perfectly ripe Barhee is said to have the texture and flavor of caramel pudding, similar to apples, crunchy and slightly sour.
2. Deglet Noor
Deglet noor is the main type of the semi-soft category. The native fruit originating from Tunisia has a smooth yellow skin and chewy flesh. It has a soft, honey-like flavor.
Halawy means sweet. The fruit is small to medium in size with a bright golden brown skin. The flesh is thick and semi-soft, with a sweet flavor like caramel candy and soft flesh.
Khadrawy is similar to Halawy, but is a soft variety. The fruit flavor is not very sweet, but the flesh is soft.
The color of this fruit tends to be reddish-brown when ripe and dry. The fruit is thick-fleshed and tastes legit. Although thick, the texture of the flesh is soft and slightly fibrous when bitten.
Thoory dates originate from Algeria. Thoory is a type of dried date that has a firm skin texture with chewy meat.
Thoory dates are also often referred to as “bread dates” due to their chewy, cake-like texture. The taste of this dried fruit is not too sweet, but tends to be legit and savory like nuts.
Zahidi comes from Iran and is of the soft type. This fruit is also referred to as Noble Dates or Butter Dates.
It has a crunchy, fibrous flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor. Sometimes there is a slight tangy aroma that reminds us of apricots.
Health benefits of dates
This sweet-tasting fruit has many health benefits.
1. Maintain digestive health
This fruit is a good source of dietary fiber. Depending on the variety and stage of ripeness, about 6.4% to 11.5% of the date content consists of fiber, especially the insoluble type.
Foods rich in insoluble types of fiber can help compact stool and aid digestion.
In other words, eating fiber foods every day (about 25-30 grams/day) can prevent you from diarrhea and constipation.
On the other hand, the high phenolic content in this fruit helps to cleanse the intestines, potentially lowering your risk of bowel cancer.
Not only that, dates can be a natural choice in maintaining the gastric mucosa when you are fasting. Dates have anti-inflammatory and protective properties, keeping your stomach healthy during Ramadan.
If you are bored of eating dates, you can also try other variations of date preparations. For example, in the form of drinks that do not contain artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
You can also try the 12-day healthy program by consuming date extract at suhoor and iftar to experience its optimal benefits for digestive health during fasting.
2. Prevents the risk of diabetes
Despite its sweet taste, eating this fruit does not immediately increase your risk of diabetes.
Instead, the fiber content in this prophet fruit will help you reduce your risk of diabetes. Insoluble fiber is digested more slowly in the stomach, helping the body better control blood sugar levels.
Research published by Nutrition Journal in 2011 also showed that this fruit has a low glycemic index. This Arabian fruit does not spike blood sugar levels immediately after eating.
3. Improves bone health
This fruit contains selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium which are needed to maintain healthy bones. All these nutrients have been studied for their potential in preventing osteoporosis.
4. Prevents anemia
Easy fatigue and pale skin are the two main symptoms of iron deficiency, aka anemia.
Fortunately, this prophet fruit is high in iron, making it a good food source to prevent anemia.
5. Improves heart health
Dates contain many vitamins and minerals that are useful for improving your heart health.
Magnesium and potassium, for example. Both can help lower blood pressure to healthier levels.
Plus, the fiber content in this prophet fruit is also beneficial for reducing bad cholesterol levels in the body.
This fruit apparently contains the antioxidant phenolic acid, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Phenolic acid is believed to help lower your risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Experts recommend eating this fruit at least twice a week to maintain your heart health.
6. Counteracts free radicals
This fruit is high in antioxidants that can reduce the effects of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants work to protect the body’s cells and tissues from stress and chronic inflammation that trigger various disease risks.
Flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids are some types of antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Carotenoids may also reduce the risk of aging-related eye disorders, such as macular degeneration.
7. Maintain brain health
A 2016 study from Neural Degeneration Research found that this fruit has the potential to inhibit the production of an inflammation-inducing protein called interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the brain.
High levels of IL-6 in the brain are often associated with the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, animal studies have shown that the fruit is also beneficial in reducing the activity of beta amyloid protein, which can form plaques in the brain.
When plaques build up in the brain, they can disrupt communication between brain cells, which can eventually lead to brain cell death. Brain cell death is one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Another study on mice also proved the fruit’s goodness for sharpening memory. In addition to showing better learning and memory retention abilities, mice fed dates also behaved more calmly.
The benefits of dates for brain health are still related to flavonoid antioxidants to reduce inflammation in the brain.
However, further research is still needed to confirm the potential role of this Arabic fruit for human brain health.
8. Helps with weight loss
A total of 100 grams of dried dates contains 284 calories and 76 grams of carbohydrates. This makes dates actually a high-calorie food.
On the other hand, the fruit is also high in fiber and insoluble types of protein.
The higher content of these two types of insoluble nutrients helps you feel full longer. That’s why you can make dates a snack fruit during your daily diet.
But remember, don’t overindulge. It’s better to stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine so that your weight loss efforts are successful without further problems.