Dates: Are dates healthy?
Dates are one of the sweetest fruits. That is why they are often used as a substitute for sugar in various desserts. The sweetness also goes wonderfully with savory recipes such as white meat or poultry. Dates are high in healthy nutrients and have numerous health benefits. But because of the fruit sugars present, it is best not to have unlimited food. What Are The Health Benefits Of Dates? And how many dates per day are healthy?
What are dates?
Before we explain why dates are healthy, let’s first look at which food group they belong to. A date is a drupe that comes from the date palm and can be eaten fresh or dry. The cultivation of dates has been around for centuries and probably originated in the Middle East. Most of the production still comes from North Africa and the Arab countries, but California and Australia also produce dates.
In total there are more than 400 varieties, but only a few different ones are available in our countries. The most famous variety is of course the Medjoul date. A fun fact is that date seeds are used in soap and make-up. In Arab culture, they are often served at wedding parties and are a sign of hospitality.
9 health benefits of dates!
Dates contain all kinds of healthy nutrients that contribute to the proper functioning of our body. Just like with most other foods, it is of course not the case that you immediately develop superpowers by eating 1 serving. But if you regularly include them in your eating schedule, it will contribute to these 9 health benefits in the longer term:
1. Better brain function
The first reason that dates are healthy is that, just like bananas, they are rich in vitamin B6. This vitamin ensures that you can store and retrieve information more easily.
They have also been shown to decrease the amount of interleukin-6 in the brain. High levels of this compound increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, they ensure a reduced activity of so-called amyloid plaques. Build-ups of these plaques can also lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Cardiovascular disease
The fibers present in the body bind to the bad cholesterol, which has a cholesterol-lowering effect. In addition, the polyphenols present help prevent the oxidation of the “bad” LDL cholesterol. It is especially when cholesterol oxidizes that it becomes harmful.
Dates also lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream by 8 to 15%. A high blood triglyceride level is strongly related to heart attack, stroke or arteriosclerosis.
The high concentration of Magnesium and Potassium also has a positive effect on blood pressure.
3. Improved sports performance
Dates are easy to digest and the sugars are quickly absorbed by the body. That is why they are ideal just before or during a workout. The high concentration of iron has a positive effect on oxygen absorption and thus on your stamina. And the present minerals magnesium and potassium help prevent muscle cramps.
Eating dates regularly also provides provitamin A, which is known for its antioxidant properties. This can help limit muscle damage and speed up recovery from your workout.
Rest, recover and sleep
The presence of magnesium is also important for non-athletes for optimal metabolism and it helps you to relax. Magnesium nutrition in the evening will help you fall asleep. On the other hand, when you drink a lot of coffee or alcohol or experience a lot of stress, you use extra magnesium. Eating dates regularly helps keep your magnesium supply up to standard.
In addition, this drupe is also rich in the amino acid L-tryptophan, which produces mood-enhancing serotonin and makes sleep easier. A double win!
5. Good for your eyes
The substance responsible for this is Zeaxanthin lutein, a substance your body uses vitamin A to make. This vitamin is essential for the retina to detect light and convert it into signals. Vitamin A plays a big role in the prevention of night blindness. Eating three dates a day can make a difference.
6. A healthy pregnancy
Research shows that dates are healthy before and during pregnancy. The reason for this is probably the folic acid (vitamin B11) present. This vitamin is very important during pregnancy and to conceive. For personal advice, it is best to always consult your doctor.
7. Good for the bones
Dates contain potassium, calcium, and phosphorus: three valuable nutrients that ensure healthy bones and teeth. The drupe is also a good source of calcium for people who do not get enough of this mineral from leafy vegetables or dairy.
8. Good for your intestines
This is mainly due to the fiber, which is of course important for your digestion. Fiber ensures that your intestines digest and move your food in a natural way. And they ensure a good bowel movement. The fiber helps against constipation. And the presence of potassium helps against diarrhea.
9. Protected against cancer
Because of the fiber present, there is mainly an effect to be found in colon cancer. But dates also contain many polyphenols, which have a strong anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effect. As a result, they may protect against many more types of cancer.
What are the disadvantages of dates?
There are actually no major health drawbacks, other than perhaps the sugars present. So let’s see whether dates are healthy, also taking these sugars into account.
A date is a drupe and, like other fruits, contains fructose. Fructose is a fast sugar and thus enters the bloodstream quickly. This can be useful during a sports session but is not ideal for a healthy diet. An elevated blood sugar level is usually followed by a sugar dip, which is unfavorable for your energy level.
Not only the type of sugar is important to evaluate the effect on blood sugar, the amount is of course also decisive. A portion of 2 Medjoul dates contains about 133 kcal, of which 32 g is sugar. That’s quite a lot for relatively small snacks. Fortunately, dates are also high in fiber. The end result is a glycemic index of 40. (The reference to compare against is glucose, with a GI of 100.)
Are dates healthy?
Dates are healthy if you don’t overdo it. If you do not take into account the number of calories and the number of sugars, your diet will be ruined. As a rule of thumb, you can consider 2 dates as a serving of fruit.
Also, note the difference between fresh and candied dates. The latter are picked unripe and extra sweetened to extend the shelf life. Candied dates contain 287 kcal per 100 grams. Fresh, on the other hand, they contain ‘only’ 152 kcal per 100 grams.
Dates are a great alternative to refined sugar. The vitamins and minerals present to contribute to your health. As long as you take the energetic values into account, dates in moderation even fit into a healthy eating schedule for weight loss.