Of all the foods cultivated across the world, dates are considered to be one of the oldest. Originally grown over centuries in the Middle East, they have now spread all across the world. These fruits are renowned for their sweet taste and chewy texture. Currently, there are more than 2,000 known varieties of dates grown and consumed all over the world, with the medjool variety being the most popular.
Dates are incredibly versatile as well. After all, they find use in everything from protein shakes to dessert recipes to even savory meat dishes. As such it is worth knowing about the nutritional profile of dates.
The Nutritional Fact Sheet of Dates
Potassium: There are several essential nutrients present in dates and that makes them a rather healthy choice. In fact, just four dates will have around 668mg of potassium. That translates to approximately 14% of the daily requirement of the mineral.
Vitamins: A single serving of the fruit can provide you with 12% of niacin that you require daily. Niacin is essential for your body as it is used for breaking down food and converting into energy. It also helps in nerve function. Apart from niacin, other vitamins found in dates include vitamin A and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is essential for building muscles and aids in the growth of nails and hair. As for Vitamin A, it plays a role in the protection of the eyes, the skin and the mucous membranes.
Iron: Dates are also rich in iron. In fact, a serving of dates can provide you with 11% of the iron that you require on a daily basis. As you may already know, iron is a vital component of red blood cells and helps transport oxygen all over the body.
Fiber: Fiber is one of the major nutrients found in dates. In fact, four dates are enough to fulfill 21% of the daily required amount of fiber for men. In the case of women, that is roughly 30%. Of course, fiber is essential during the digestive processes as it can help you avoid constipation and reduces hunger pangs.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants can also be found in ample quantities in dates in the form of tannins. These antioxidants can reduce inflammation and help you avoid cell damage.
Calories and Sugars: A major health issue with dates is that they are not low on calories. In fact, they are quite rich in sugar and carbs. Therefore, while they can give you a burst of energy when required, they are not suitable for weight-loss programs.
The Benefits of Dates
There are several benefits to consuming dates. Take a look at some of them below.
Relief from Constipation
Dates are capable of providing relief from constipation. In fact, they are often considered to be laxative food. There are a few ways in which you can gain this benefit from the fruit. Usually people soak a few dates in water and leave them over night. In the morning, the dates will have turned into a syrup-like preparation which can be consumed easily. The laxative effects of dates are the result of the high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber is essential for the promotion of healthy bowel movements
Improves Bone Strength
Dates contain several minerals essential to the health of bones such as selenium, manganese and magnesium. These minerals can strengthen your bones and reduce your risks for serious diseases such as osteoporosis.
Reduce Risks of Anemia
Iron is one of the major minerals found in dates. As such, these fruits are perfect for helping you stave off the risks of anemia. Anemia is the result of a deficiency of iron in the body. By consuming dates, this lack of iron can be overcome. At the same time, it can improve energy levels and reduce feelings of tiredness and sluggishness.
The Disadvantages of Dates
Despite the benefits provided, dates should be consumed with caution. There are a few downsides to this fruit which you should be aware of.
The Sugar Content Is Too High
The high concentration of sugar and calories in dates makes them an unsuitable choice as a health food in many cases. Diabetes patients, especially, need to stay away from them since dates have a glycemic index of 103, a considerably high number. Due to this high glycemic index, dates can cause a rapid rise of the blood sugar levels in the body. This worsens the diabetic condition. As such, even healthy individuals need to consume dates in moderate amounts.
Can Increase Body Weight
It is difficult to include dates in a weight loss program due to their mixture of high fiber and high sugar contents. Since they are rich in dietary fibers, dates can keep you satisfied for a longer period of time, reducing your hunger pangs and stops you from overeating. However, dates contain a significant amount of calories and sugars. As such, it becomes extremely easy to exceed your recommended daily calorie intake.
As a result, you can quickly gain weight instead of losing it. If you are on a weight loss program and you want to consume dates, you need to do so in moderation.
May Worsen Diarrhea
Dates are often employed as a natural way of getting relief from diarrhea. However, that isonly possible when you are consuming dates in moderation. Excessive consumption of dates can, however, actually worsen it. It can also result in uneasiness and dehydration. This is due to the high amounts of fiber present in dates.
Can Lead To Hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia is a dangerous condition which occurs when the concentration of potassium in blood increases significantly. Since dates contain a significant amount of this mineral, excessive consumption of the fruits can actually lead to this condition. You should also note that hyperkalemia may even require immediate medical assistance.
Dates can certainly make a healthy addition to your diet plan. The benefits are considerable. However, care must be taken to ensure that they are never consumed in excess. Too many dates can lead to several issues, after all.