Dates have recently become the healthier alternative to chocolate. In shops we can now buy different varieties of date – from dried and plain to stoned and glazed with pure sugar. The date itself is very nutritious but added Glucose is never a good thing. If you want to benefit most from this fruit, choose the most pure and natural version you can find. Sweetened dates will still have the benefits but also might carry disadvantages which are related to the overconsumption of sugar.
Dates originate from the Middle East and grow on palm trees. There are different types of date species cultivated which vary in size, colour and nutritional components. A review by London Metropolitan University (read the review) showed the nutritional differences in various stages of date development.
Dates are made out of simple sugars, some starch and cellulose. When ripening the simple sugar content increases and fibre concentration decreases. You can find more on fibre in the benefits of eating carrots. Dieters have recognised this property and commonly use it for enforcing weight loss. Dietary fibre also might prevent abdominal cancer.
Even though dates are fruit they still contain small amounts of fatty acids, both saturated and unsaturated. There has been spotted an opportunity to use dates as a source of oleic acid which can be found in the seeds of dates. Also found in the olive oil, it has a lowering effect on the blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The problem would be though to ensure the digestion of these seeds to get any benefits at all.
There 15 different minerals present from which some tend to decrease in concentrations in later stages of date development depending on variety – Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium and Phosphorus. This is another reason to eat more ‘young’ dates. Iron enhances the production of blood and dates are advantageous for people with Iron deficiency as the use of supplements can be avoided. Potassium is essential for a healthy nervous system and enhances physical activity too. On other hand Phosphorus is the building bone of genetic material in the body. It also is the part of the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the energy fuel for all reactions in all living things. Lack of phosphorus might cause muscular and neurological dysfunction and disruption of blood cells. It is also beneficial for hardening the bones. Dates have 5 times larger concentration of these three minerals than bananas and apples.
Dates are also very rich in Protein, again 5 times more than other fruit. There are 23 different amino acids in dates from which most are not available in other conventional fruits at all. The concentration of these again decreases with ripening. Proteins are the building blocks of our body and are needed for the growth of muscles. Therefore people who want to widen the range and type of protein they intake, dates are a great option. In the largest concentrations of protein in dates are Glutamic, Aspartic and Aspartamine amino acids. Glutamic acid is an essential neurotransmitter which mediates different metabolic reactions and as a supplement is widely used by athletes.
Different vitamins are also present but not in great amounts. You would have eat a lot of dates to reach the daily recommendation. The most significant amount of concentrations have vitamin C(Ascorbic acid), B1(Thiamine) and B2(Riboflavin) but there is also presence of Folic acid, Nicotinic Acid and vitamin A. Vitamin C mediates metabolism, is an antioxidant, detoxifier and has been claimed to boost the immune system. B1 has been associated with increased mental activity but B2 has been used for prevention of migraines.
Benefits of eating dates:
- Increase of energy
- Enhance bowel movement
- Prevent abdominal cancer
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower Blood pressure
- Enhance metabolism and absorption of nutrients
- Enhance physical activity
- Prevent neurological problems
- Enhance blood production
- Contribute to muscle growth
- Might boost immune system
- Prevent migraines and other physical pain