Dates – More Health Benefits and Nutrients Than You Think!

Dates are deliciously chewy and sweet and are fast becoming an alternative to refined sugars as we all become more health conscious. But aside from their natural sweetness, they also have a range of health benefits that you may not know about.

Here, we reveal the nutritional secrets of dates…

Dates are highly nutritious

Like all dried fruit, dates are calorie dense, with most of their calories coming from carbohydrates. 100g of pitted dates contains around 277 calories (one average serving of four pitted dates weighs around 25g and contains around 70 calories).

This makes them a great snack if you’re training and need some instant energy. But that doesn’t mean they’re not a healthy snack for everyone else, too.

Because unlike other calorie dense foods which also tend to be lacking in valuable nutrients, dates are very nutrient dense too. They’re a good source of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium (which are all essential for good bone health), copper, manganese, iron and vitamin B6. And they’re a fantastic source of dietary fibre!

Dates are full of fibre

Often overlooked in favour of its more glamorous nutritional cousins such as protein, fibre is an essential nutrient – and dates are packed with it.

100g of pitted dates contains around 7g of fibre (one 25g serving contains roughly 2g of fibre). The NHS recommends that adults eat around 30g of fibre a day. So although 2g seems small, given that four dates is a tiny amount of food, it means that dates are pretty packed with fibre. The NHS also say that most of us don’t eat enough fibre, so eating dates regularly could help top up your fibre intake.

We need fibre to keep our guts healthy. Studies have shown that those who eat dates every day have better, more regular bowel movements.

Fibre also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Dates have a low glycaemic index (GI), meaning that they prevent blood sugar levels spiking too high after eating.

Dates have antioxidant properties too

Antioxidants help protect our cells and DNA from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable by-products of normal bodily functions such as digestion and breathing. But they also find their way into our body by breathing in pollution, smoking and eating processed, fatty foods.

The body is therefore constantly ‘neutralising’ free radicals and needs antioxidants from the diet to do this. Without this system, we can develop health conditions and chronic diseases.

Dates contain three powerful antioxidants – flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acid. All three have the potential to reduce inflammation and protect against diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.

Dates might even boost your brain function!

Scientific studies have found that dates can help lower inflammation. This is particularly beneficial to the brain, as high levels of inflammation can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Other studies have also shown that dates can help reduce the formation of beta amyloid plaques in the brain, which can lead to dementia.

Studies continue into the brain health benefits of dates. But in the meantime, we see no harm in snacking on dates, to reap any potential rewards.

Could dates promote natural labour?

There is evidence emerging, that women in the late stages of pregnancy could eat dates to bring on natural labour. It’s thought that dates could help increase cervical dilation, and reduce the need for induced labour. Dates may even reduce the time it takes to give birth.

Researchers believe that this could be because dates contain compounds that bind to oxytocin receptors. This action makes the body think that oxytocin has been released. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when a woman goes into labour. It’s also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ and prepares women for bonding with their baby. Cute!

Health benefits of dates aside, here’s some reasons why dates are such a versatile ingredient…

Dates are a natural sweetener, and are ideal in vegan baking

Dates contain natural fruit sugar, or fructose, which gives them a sweet, almost caramel-like flavour. They’re ideal added to smoothies to give a subtle sweetness and can be used in baking instead of normal white sugar.

To use dates in baking, make a date paste by mixing pitted dates with water in a blender. Add the water slowly, until you get a smooth paste, with a thick consistency. You can then use this just as you would sugar. If your recipe asks for 200g of sugar, simply use 200g of date paste instead.

This sticky paste will also act as a binding agent and is therefore often used in vegan baking in place of eggs.

Dates are super easy to eat

Dates can be eaten on their own or alongside many different foods. They go great with nuts, chopped and sprinkled over salads and even stuffed with soft cheese and spices.

They’re so versatile, they pair well with both sweet and savoury dishes. Try them added to a slow cooked Moroccan tagine and you’ll never look back. Or, make your own protein balls or cereal bars with added dates for sweetness – we’ll have some recipes on our blog soon.

Dates are also found in the oddest of foods – did you know that brown sauce contains dates?

So get creative, and eat dates however you like. (Just be mindful that as they are calorie dense, you should eat them in moderation – just like everything else really.)

The final word on dates

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which grows in the sunny climes of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Despite looking like little brown, wrinkly bugs, they’re delicious and nutritious. Most dates are dried, and it’s rare to find them in their fresh form. This makes them easy to store, simple to snack on and great for adding to baking, smoothies or savoury dishes. And since they’re a fruit packed with fibre and full of valuable vitamins and minerals, we think they’re well worth adding to your diet!


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