Dates are a naturally dehydrated fruit and their popularity among the masses can be traced back thousands of years. While Medjool dates are the most popular variety, other date varieties you might find at specialty food markets include Dayri, Halawy, Thoory, and Zahidi. This delicious fruit is healthy and can be part of your healthy eating plan. At the same time, the sugar and carbohydrate content of dates still has many wondering, are dates good for you?
Having grown up in Israel, dates are a regular part of my daily diet. I toss them into smoothies, sprinkle dates in my morning bowl of oatmeal, and stuff them with almonds as a quick and easy snack. The answer to whether or not dates are good for you and whether the potential impact of side effects outweighs their potential nutritional benefit really comes down to how much you consume on a daily basis. Hence, the best way to reap the benefits of consuming dates is to consume them in healthy moderation.
To help you determine if dates are good for you based on your unique nutritional needs, read on to learn about some of the side effects and benefits of consuming dates, including what could happen to your body if you eat too many. Plus, for more healthy eating tips to help you stock up on the best fruits for your health, don’t miss 10 Healthiest Fruits to Eat Every Day.
Many studies have shown that dates have anti-inflammatory properties. Not only can you find these anti-inflammatory activities in the whole fruit, but you can also reap the benefits for yourself by consuming other date-derived products, such as date syrup and date paste.
Selenium, a mineral found in this fruit, is needed to help with immune function. The recommended daily amount of selenium for ages 19 and older is 55 micrograms for both men and women. One cup of chopped dates provides 4.41 micrograms of selenium, or 8 percent of the recommended daily value. Even if you eat one or two dates a day, you’ll be getting another food source that contributes this important mineral.
A 2020 systematic review looked at the effects of dates on work outcomes versus routine care. Data has shown that eating dates can significantly reduce the active stage of labor. The duration of the other stages of labor and the frequency of cesarean section had no effect. The researchers concluded that there may be a link, but more research is needed. If you’re pregnant and want to add a few dates a day to your healthy diet, go for it!
Dates provide soluble fiber, which can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Soluble fiber binds to LDL cholesterol which prevents it from being absorbed into the blood. In turn, this helps prevent the buildup of fatty deposits of cholesterol on the walls of your arteries (known as atherosclerosis) and helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
Dates also contain powerful antioxidants, including carotenoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins. A diet rich in antioxidants has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer. Additionally, a study published in 2014 found that dates may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Soluble fiber has many benefits, including helping control blood sugar levels. Additionally, the phytonutrients found in dates may play a role in helping control and even improve disease. According to a paper published in 2014 on the therapeutic effects of dates, various components present in this pitted fruit, including flavonoids, phenols and saponins, may play a role in diabetes control although the exact mechanism of action is not fully understood. A 2013 study of the flavonoid compounds in dates showed improvements in diabetic rats.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there are four nutrients that Americans of all ages and lifecycles consume. These four nutrients include fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Four dates (about 100 grams) provide 27% of the recommended daily amount of fiber and 20% of the recommended daily amount of potassium. Eating a little too much of this fruit provides an excellent source of the two underconsumed nutrients, which helps fill this nutritional gap.
Dates and the elements present within the fruit have been shown to help control the infection. A 2012 study showed that the leaf and nut extract inhibit the growth of several types of microorganisms. Another 2010 study found that the extract from the kernels helps inhibit the growth of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Since people don’t eat the leaves and pits of dates, more research is certainly needed.
Is it possible to overeat a good thing? In the case of this naturally dehydrated fruit, maybe. Four dates (about 100 grams) provide a whopping 277 calories. If you plan on popping those sweet babies during the day, you can definitely hit your daily calorie limit. This can eventually lead to weight gain. However, keep in mind that how much weight you can gain really depends on how many dates you’re crunching at a time. So, to avoid this, be mindful of your portions when consuming dates and maintain moderation.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN
Toby Amidor is an award-winning dietitian and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author who believes that wholesome and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Read more about Toby
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