Rich in various nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, dates are popular throughout the world and are consumed as dried fruit. A 2014 review conducted by researchers at the Qassim University, Saudi Arabia and Suez Canal University, Egypt states that dates are beneficial in treating various conditions due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties.
What are Dates?
Dates are sweet fruits of date palm tree scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera. They are one of the best versatile foods that can regulate the digestive process and have gained popularity in recent times. Date palm trees are cultivated all over the world especially across tropical regions. You can also use date molasses, a natural sweetener made from date syrup, in your smoothies or desserts in place of sugar.
The Institute of Medicine recommends an intake of 25-38 grams of dietary fiber per day, which can be high fiber supplied through high fiber foods like dates. It is also said that consuming these dried fruits can promote eye health and may be effective in guarding against vision problems like night blindness. Medjool dates, in particular, are one of the popular varieties that have many benefits.
The massive health benefits associated with dates have made them one of the best ingredients for muscle development, brain health, regularity, and more.
Let us look at some of the key benefits of dates in detail below.
Good Source of Energy
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. The high energy present in them can be attributed to this high sugar content. Many people around the world eat natural low-fat dates for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish to help bump up energy levels fast.
Often when you exercise in a gym, outside or even on a stretching machine at home, you feel exhausted. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, suggests that dates rich in essential nutrients may help you regain your energy immediately.
People who follow Islam and observe fastings, break their fast by eating them along with water. This also helps avoid overeating of food once the fast is over. When the body begins to absorb their high nutritional content, feelings of hunger are pacified.
May Boost Brain Health
A study led by Musthafa Mohamed Essa, Ph.D.et al. suggests that dates protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. According to research, “date palm fruits are a good source of dietary fiber and are rich in total phenolics and natural antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ferulic acid, protocatechuic acid, and caffeic acid”.The presence of these polyphenolic compounds could potentially help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Dates Rich in Fiber May Help Relieve Constipation
In traditional Tunisian medicine, dates are used for treating constipation. According to research on the effects of dietary fiber, the foods that are rich in fiber are essential for promoting healthy bowel movements and ensuring the comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract. A 2005 study also suggests that these dried fruits have high levels of dietary fiber and insoluble fiber, in particular. The insoluble fiber found in dates promotes healthy digestion by bulking up the stool and may also aid in relieving the symptoms of constipation.
How to use: Start by soaking dates in water overnight to help them soften up. Next, add soaked dates and a bit of soaking liquid to a food processor and blend to make a thick, fiber-rich date paste.
Relief from Intestinal Disorders
Research suggests dates contain insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids which can stimulate the digestion of food and ensure quick passage through the gastrointestinal tract. According to a review published in the Journal of Nutrition Reviews, the fiber may also aid in the treatment of conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
Give Relief from Anemia
Dates are a good source of many nutrients, including iron. A deficiency of iron can contribute to anemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, dizziness, brittle nails and shortness of breath. Fortunately, increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as dates could help provide relief from anemia symptoms. However, there is currently a lack of research evaluating their direct role in the treatment of anemia.
Prevent Heart Diseases
A study by Waseem Rock et al. concluded that consuming dates was effective at reducing triglyceride levels and decreasing oxidative stress, both of which are risk factors for heart disease and atherogenesis, which is the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. These dried fruits are rich in antioxidants, which may help prevent atherogenesis and aid in reducing risk of stroke. They are also high in various phytochemicals which may also help protect against heart disease.
Furthermore, they are a rich source of potassium, which studies have shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke as well as other heart-related diseases.
Treat Sexual Dysfunction
In 2006, an animal study revealed the effects of date palm pollen and its oil on sexual functioning, reporting that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components in dates are helping increase sperm count and motility. Another study conducted in India states that date palm pollen have been used to treat male infertility in traditional medicine.
Therefore, if you are looking for an easy way to boost libido and sexual function, you may consider consuming organic dates, thanks to their aphrodisiac like properties.
How to use: Soak a handful of dates in fresh goat’s milk overnight, then grind them in the same milk with a mixture of cardamom powder and honey. However, consulting with a trusted medical practitioner before trying is strongly recommended to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Prevent Night Blindness
Vitamin A deficiency is often linked to night blindness, along with other symptoms like dry eyes and an increased risk of infection. According to an article by H.A. Hajar Al Binali, M.D., dates are rich in carotenoids, which may help prevent night blindness and preserve healthy vision.
Help Treat Chronic Diarrhea
According to an article published by Columbia University Medical Center, foods rich in potassium such as dates can help replace and replete electrolytes that you may have lost due to chronic diarrhea. Thanks to their high fiber content, they can also aid in digestion and may alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea.
May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Research conducted by Prof. Dr. Jeremy PE Spencer et al suggests that eating dates may help improving bowel health and slow down the development and spread of colorectal cancer cells. Studies also indicate that these dried fruits exhibit anti-tumor activity, although the exact mechanism remains unknown and requires more research.
A publication by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D.et al. and colleagues of North Dakota State University suggests that dates contain boron which is amongst the nutrients that promotes healthy bones. A study published in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests that significant amounts of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium found in dried fruits make them a superfood for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis.
Organic pitted dates contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which may aid in managing bone health, particularly amongst older adults.
Dates May Promote Healthy Weight Gain
According to USDA, these dried fruits are rich in sugar along with proteins, and many other essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which can aid in weight management. Medjool dates are easily available in grocery markets and make for a healthy and delicious snack!
An animal study conducted in 2014 suggested that intake of dates may aid in weight gain.  However, another animal study done in 2016 indicated no such increase in weight. In view of the conflicting reports, more research is needed to support this benefit.
Aid in Relieving Symptoms of SAR According to a study conducted in 2012, dates may have a positive impact on SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), a condition which affects approximately 30 million people in the United States alone. The study published in Inflammatory Research actually found that date palm immunotherapy was effective at decreasing several markers of inflammation in patients with allergic rhinitis.