Dates are the small, oval fruits of the date palm tree, grown in tropical climates. Because of the distance they have to travel to get to American tables, dates are frequently sold dried, which concentrates their sweetness and gives them a pleasing chewy texture. Honestly, eating dates can feel a lot like indulging in gummy candy – except that they are a lot healthier.
The nutritional benefits of eating dates are many. Just one 3.5 ounce serving has about 20% of your daily requirement for potassium along with 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and several types of antioxidants. Dates also contain a nice amount of copper, manganese, vitamin B6, magnesium, and iron.
Fresh dates may be bright red or bright yellow in color (or somewhere in between), but dried dates typically have a golden brown hue. The most commonly consumed varieties are Medjool and Deglet Noor, but there are actually over 3,000 varieties to be found worldwide!
Whatever variety you choose and whether dried or fresh, dates offer some really great health benefits. Try eating just 2 of them every day for one week and see what happens to your body. We’ve collected some of the most exciting possibilities, but honestly, #5 is almost enough all on its own!
1. Better Digestion
Fiber is a critical component of healthy digestion despite that fact that we don’t actually digest it. Instead, fiber adds bulk to your stools. It sounds crazy, but that actually helps your body push waste through the colon and eliminate it more easily and regularly.
Dates have a hefty 7 grams of fiber per 3.5 ounce serving, so they’re a great way to add more to your diet. You can chop some up and sprinkle them on oatmeal for an even bigger boost, but it is best to work up to this meal. Fiber should be added gradually to the diet lest it cause the very constipation you’re trying to prevent.
2. Sustained Energy
Despite the fact that dates are quite sweet, they don’t spike your blood sugar. It’s the fiber once again that deserves the credit. Fiber slows digestion and evens out the rate at which the sugar in dates hits your blood stream. You won’t have a spike and subsequent crash when you enjoy dates, but rather a sustained source of energy.
So despite their candy-like taste, dates are considered a low-glycemic food, meaning that they score low on the test that measures how quickly blood sugar rises after eating specific foods.
3. Significant Disease Prevention
Dates are high in several types of antioxidant, which are compounds capable of binding with and neutralizing free radicals in the body. Free radicals tend to cause cellular damage until they are neutralized, which increases the risk of many common diseases. Dates have been found to have the highest level of antioxidants of all related fruits, including figs and plums. The three most potent antioxidants in dates are as follows:
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are antioxidants known reduce inflammation in the body. They have been extensively studied and found to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some kinds of cancer.
- Carotenoids: Carotenoids are antioxidants that do a lot to support the health of your heart; they may also work to keep your eyes healthy by lowering the risk macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Phenolic acid: Another strong anti-inflammatory, phenolic acid is thought to reduce your risk of developing heart disease or cancer.
Chronic inflammation is a factor in pretty much every disease known to man, so a diet high in antioxidant foods goes a long way toward maintaining your overall health. Dates are one such food.
4. Slower Age-Related Mental Decline
The time to protect your brain from the ravages of aging-related mental decline is now. Right now. There are lots of ways to challenge your brain and keep it sharp, but all of them rely on proper nutrition to maintain clear pathways in the brain. Dates have been found to lower inflammatory markers in your gray matter that are associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s.
There have also been animal studies that indicate dates have the potential to prevent the formation of amyloid beta protein plaques in the brain. When these plaques form, they disrupt communication between brain cells and cause cells to die at a faster rate. Other animal studies found that mice fed a diet including dates had better learning ability, longer memory, and less anxiety-related behaviors.
5. Less Reliance on White Sugar
The overconsumption of sugar is a serious health crisis that doctors think is fueling the obesity epidemic. Refined sugars are packed into so many foods, under so many different names, that even people who are trying to eat more healthfully may fall victim to it. If you are truly committed to reducing your sugar intake, it’s best to eat home-cooked meals almost exclusively.
To that end, dates are an excellent replacement for sugar. Eating them whole is a nice sweet treat, but you can also substitute dates for sugar in many recipes. Simply blend dates and water in a blender until you get a paste. The paste can then be substituted 1:1 for sugar in whatever you’re baking. While date paste is fairly high in calories, it contains dietary fiber and antioxidants – something refined white sugar does not.
Dates are an excellent addition to your daily diet. Because they are high in calories, we recommend sticking to about 2 per day. Luckily, that is plenty to reap the considerable health benefits. The nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants make dates one treat you don’t have to feel guilty about.
So chop them up for salads or oatmeal, use date paste instead of sugar in those cookies, or just snack on dates whole. The result will be a healthier body and mind as well as the sustained energy you need to power through your day. So what are you waiting for? There are 3,000 kinds to choose from!.
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