Dates are stone fruits native to the Middle East and have been cultivated for millions of years. A sweet fruit that is rich in potassium, iron, manganese and is also said to have the trace element of selenium. From being a staple food in ancient Egypt to later being cultivated across different continents, dates have made a debut since times immemorial. A single seed surrounded by a dehydrated fruit flesh with less moisture content can be stored for a longer time. Dates basically grow on date palm trees, which may seem similar to coconut trees. Now you must be wondering what is so special about Dates!
As a child, I grew up eating Indian sweets and sugary cakes from a local bakery in Mumbai. My sweet tooth habit was so strong that I even chose to become a pastry chef. Just to be able to bake and satiate those sweet cravings. When eaten in excess in the forms of cakes, cookies, desserts, I realized that normal sugar could be harmful over the years. After every meal, I still crave to eat something sweet. Be it just a small piece of chocolate or a piece of the enchanting kaju katli.
My tryst with healthy eating led me to discover an alternative. And that’s when dates came into the picture. Instead of avoiding desserts completely, a friend advised what she was following: A date instead of a dessert. After a few months of swapping dates instead of desserts, and I feel a pleasant change. My hemoglobin is better. And I no longer crave cakes after every meal.
This is what I call therapeutic nutrition.
“The alteration in the intake of the food or nutritional supplements to cure an acute disease and a few chronic conditions.”
Health Benefits of Dates
Dates are naturally sweet: A stone fruit that is naturally sweet. Dates contain fructose, which is the natural sugar giving it a caramel-like sweet taste. Dates are high in fructose, which does not affect the blood sugar levels negatively. Unlike sucrose, which is found in processed foods. One more reason to ditch processed sugar-loaded desserts.
Good source of fiber: Often, we barely make it to our daily fiber requirement. The recommended dietary requirement of fiber for adults is between 25g to 30g. In addition to eating fruits and vegetables as a part of our daily diet, dates also help fulfill the daily fiber requirement. Each date provides roughly about 1.5g of fiber approximately. Instead of eating desserts that are laden with sucrose, swap them with dates.
Clean Bowel: Enough fiber equals to clean bowel movement as fiber aids in digestion. Enough water and fiber leads to a cleaner bowel and thus improving overall health.
Dates contain Tannins: Dates contain tannins and polyphenols that are micronutrients naturally occurring in food. Plant base tannins are often found in fruits such as bananas, plums, kiwis, cherries, etc. The high polyphenol content found in dates helps provide various trace nutrients to the body. Tannins can actually reduce inflammation and boost your immune system functioning.
Rich in Potassium: Potassium is an important dietary mineral needed to regulate muscle contraction and heart rate. Potassium is a macromineral required in the diet. The recommended allowance is 100mg / day. Dates are rich in potassium. Thus daily consumption of dates leads to a potassium-rich diet, thus helping maintain various bodily functions.
Maintains better metabolism: Did you know that dates are also a great source of protein? During the holy month of Ramadan, the day-long fast is broken with an offering of dates, which helps recuperate lost energy. It also helps make one feel more full and satisfied, thus keeping hunger cravings away. Apart from being rich in fiber, dates are also rich in essential fatty acids that aid weight loss, ultimately improving metabolism.
Natural remedy for cold, sore throat, and bronchial remedies: Really? Could dates help with cough and cold? Well, eating dates helps to remove accumulated mucus in the respiratory tract. So enjoy it as a snack or make a dry powder and use it as a substitute for sugar. It may take some time to get used to it, but it will not disappoint.
Can be stored easily and have a long shelf life: Since dates contain only 30% moisture and are naturally dehydrated, they make up for great shelf life. Various types of dates are found and available in the markets. Depending on the type, they usually last from a few months to also up to a year when stored in a refrigerator. I mean, isn’t that a great shelf life!
Contain beneficial antioxidants: Dates contain fat-soluble vitamins A and K. These are beneficial antioxidants that help in different body functions such as immunity and anti-infection cells, growth, and development, and facilitation of vision. While deficiency of vitamin K is rare, vitamin A is essential for vision. The antioxidants in dates reduce oxidative state, thus improving health.
Easy to use: Dates are versatile and can be used in plenty of post-workout snack bars or healthy desserts. You can simply choose to munch a few dates instead of eating chocolate post meals. Another interesting way to use them is to substitute them for white sugar. They give a sweet caramel earthy taste and pair with almost everything. You can use them in your milkshakes along with a side dose of honey. In the Middle East, dates are served along with most dishes, and why not. Since they grow there in abundance, most recipes have them incorporated.
There are so many health benefits of dates. They are easily accessible, easy to carry while traveling, and not so expensive except for a few varieties, like Medjool dates, which are slightly more costly than the rest. There are many varieties available, and you could try them all. I hope this article gives you enough reason to include it in your daily diet.
And let us know in the comments if you would also swap it for usual desserts?