We're all familiar with dates - the large, sweet dried fruits that look a little like oversized raisins. It's thought that dates have been popular since around 5320 BC, and even today they're a staple fruit in North Africa, the middle east, and many European countries.
Dates are grown on the date palm tree. They contain a high content of natural sugars, and are also highly nutritional, making them a valuable food to add to your diet.
In this guide, you'll learn the 16 best health benefits of this popular fruit - and if you don't eat dates already, you'll soon be keen to add them to your pantry.
1. They're Highly Nutritious
You'd never think, from looking at them, that dates would be so packed with nutrients. But they're rich in many of the essential vitamins and minerals we need to live long, healthy lives. They're also a fantastic source of carbohydrates and fiber, making them ideal as a filling, satiating snack.
Dates even boast a high amount of antioxidant nutrients, which can support the immune system and boost heart health, even preventing diseases like cancer.
2. They Support Healthy Bowel Movements
Because of the high fiber content of dates, even a few grams of these popular fruits can be important for supporting healthy bowel movements, and may prove particularly valuable to people dealing with constipation and other digestive disorders.
One study found that dates can even prevent diseases such as colorectal cancer. In the study, it was also noted that those who eat dates experience more regular related bowel movements than those who don't.
3. They're Rich In Antioxidants
One of the best health benefits of dates links to their antioxidant content. Antioxidants, as the name suggests, inhibit oxidation, helping to eliminate cell-harming free radicals in the body. Dates contain particularly high levels of antioxidants, even when compared to similar dried fruits. Some of the healthiest antioxidants in dates include the following:
- Carotenoids, which have been found to promote a healthy heart and reduce macular degeneration, an eye disease that can affect sight.
- Flavonoids, which have anti-inflammation properties and can minimize symptoms of chronic disease like diabetes. They can also minimize the chances of cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer's, and they may even minimize cancer risk.
- Phenolic Acid, which also has anti-inflammatory properties and can minimize the likelihood of certain cancers and cardiac diseases.
4. They Can Improve Brain Functionality
The brain is at constant risk from inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin, which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease in particular. While your diet alone won't ward off Alzheimer's, studies have found that regularly consuming dates can naturally minimize the levels of interleukin, thus reducing the chances of developing this brain condition. One study found that consuming medjool dates from the date palm tree can also minimize amyloid-beta protein activity, which again helps to protect the brain from cell death and harm.
Not only can medjool dates protect against cognitive decline, but they have also proved effective in improving mental health, reducing anxiety, and boosting memory and the ability to learn.
5. They May Facilitate Natural Labor
According to recent research, adding dates to your diet when you're pregnant offers a higher chance of a natural labor. If you're hoping to avoid a cesarean delivery, it's thought that eating dates in your later stages of pregnancy should allow you to give birth naturally.
It may sound a little crazy, but there are studies to support this theory. Results from these studies suggest that dates can help to reduce the pressure that's applied during delivery, and interestingly, women who consumed at least 70 -76 grams of dates towards the end of their pregnancy shortened their labor time by approximately 4 hours when compared to those tho didn't consume dates.
Though we're not entirely sure why this is, scientific research suggests that it's the unique compounds found in dates that can mimic the effects of oxytocin during labor, helping to promote healthy contractions. Dates also contain tannins, which can help to encourage contractions during labor, and the sugars in dates will supply the mother with plenty of energy while giving birth.
Of course, eating dates isn't a sure-fire way to guarantee natural labor, and if you're advised to have a cesarean in the run-up to your birth, you should always follow this medical advice and put your baby's health first.
6. They Can Reduce The Risk of Cancer
There are a number of factors that can contribute to cancer, and it's virtually impossible to avoid the disease altogether, especially as data suggests that one in two of us will get cancer at some point in our lifetime.
We know that eating certain foods may help to minimize cancer risk, and dates are one of them. Dates are high in beta D-glucan, which has anti-tumor properties in the human body. Dates also have antigenotoxicity properties, which prevent cancerous cell reproduction and genetic mutation.
Additionally, because of their rich antioxidant content, dates can reduce free radical activity, again reducing the risk of cancer. Eating dates as part of your daily diet should help to lower the chance of cancerous and benign tumors.
7. They Prevent Microbial Infections
Bacterial infections can range from irritating to life-threatening, and they typically require spending lots of money on treatment - especially as many of these infections are recurring. Dates have been found to have active resistance against a number of types of bacteria, particularly gram-positive and negative bacterias. Even more impressively, recent stories have found that dates may also protect against deadly microorganisms like E-coli and pneumonia.
Dried dates may also be effective in reducing the side effects of antibiotics used to treat microbial infections, even when compared to similar fruits.
8. They Minimize Diabetes & Symptoms
Type 2 diabetes is incredibly common, difficult to treat and can be deadly - though it's also reversible with implementation of the right diet and exercise plan. It's not advised to attempt to naturally treat high blood sugar levels, but your doctor will recommend following a diabetes-friendly diet to help control your insulin levels.
Dates are one of the best foods for increasing insulin, thus helping to lower blood sugar levels. By reducing the amount of glucose absorbed by the body, dates can be incredibly helpful for people with type 2 diabetes who find managing their blood sugar difficult.
In a number of studies of diabetic rats, date extracts helped to minimize weight gain and even promote weight loss. Weight gain is often associated with type 2 diabetes, and can make it even more difficult to manage symptoms. Dates can also stabilize the glycemic and lipid activity in people with diabetes, helping to support overall health.
9. They're an Anti-Inflammatory Agent
All of us experience inflammation from time to time - it's a sign of reactive response from the body that fights infections, diseases, injury and trauma. Regulating the body's inflammatory agents is vital, as it protects us from chronic inflammation, which can have a negative impact on our overall health.
Dates contain flavonoids and phenolics, which are excellent at reducing inflammation in the body. Date fruit also contains antioxidants, as we already know, which can help to inhibit inflammatory markers and minimize chronic inflammation. Resultantly, with these inflammatory markers regulated, the body is less likely to produce unwanted inflammatory activities.
Fresh and dried dates have proven particularly useful in reducing swelling in the hands and feet that's caused by inflammation, with one study finding that extracts from date leaves may even be as effective as commercial anti-inflammation drugs.
10. They Can Protect The Kidneys
We don't give our kidneys the credit they deserve - they're vital for removing excess fluid from the body and maintaining a good balance of minerals and salts. Several studies have found that the date fruit can minimize toxicity, kidney lesions and kidney disease by forming a protective layer.
Another study found that date extract could minimize urea and plasma creatinine in the kidney, helping to improve overall kidney function.
11. They May Improve Male Fertility
Infertility is more common than you might imagine - it can be caused by a number of modern factors, including stress, smoking, drinking, and radiation exposure from electronic devices. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent and treat it.
The fertility health benefits of dates have long been known. Dates contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals that can help to not only improve sperm count, but also increase sexual libido and energy. In a number of studies, the benefits of dates went so far as to increase the size of male testes and female breasts.
It's thought that the flavonoids and amino acids found in dried and fresh dates can help to boost sexual performance. Compounds such as estrone and sterols in date fruit can improve fertility by boosting sperm motility and count.
12. They Promote Bone Health
Our bone health decreases naturally with age, putting us more at risk of diseases like osteoporosis, which makes a person more likely to experience fractures and bone breaks. For strong bones throughout life, we need to make sure we're consuming a number of important micronutrients, which are mostly found in fruits.
Being a good source of micronutrients like manganese, magnesium, selenium and copper, dates boast a wealth of bone health benefits that can be used to prevent and tackle bone problems. The micronutrients in dates can also treat bone health conditions such as osteoporosis.
13. They Strengthen The Nervous System
Dates are a good source of potassium, and also contain only a small amount of sodium, which makes them incredibly important when it comes to supporting neurological health. Potassium is needed for effective communication between nerve cells, and the low quantity of sodium in dates minimizes the chances of high blood pressure (hypertension), helping to keep the nerves protected.
Supporting your nervous system may help to keep a range of similar conditions at bay, and adding plenty of date fruit to your diet should help you to stay healthy on the whole in the long run.
14. They Improve The Skin
We all know that diet and skin are closely linked, and that many people with skin conditions could benefit from making the right food choices on a daily basis. Dates provide both vitamin D and vitamin C, which are essential for skin nourishment. They can improve the skin's elasticity, preventing signs of aging, and can give skin a healthy glow.
The nutritional value of date fruit, including its antioxidant properties, also helps to prevent the formation of skin spots and other signs of aging. This food can help the skin to maintain a good balance of melanin, too, for an overall healthy appearance.
15. They Reduce Hair Loss
Hair loss is something that many of us will face in life, and can have a huge effect on self-esteem. Rather than spending money on over-the-counter medications for hair growth, however, it's wiser to take a look at your food choices. For instance, when you add dates to your diet, you may help to naturally prevent hair shedding.
According to some studies, eating dates may provide more blood flow to the scalp. This is because dates are a rich source of iron, enabling the scalp to get plenty of nourishment and facilitating the growth of new hair strands. Dates also contain vitamins we need for hair health, including vitamin D and vitamin C - so eat up if you're on a hair growth mission!
16. They May Improve Hangovers
If you've ever laid in bed, scrolling through hangover remedies after partying too hard the night before, you may have heard of dates being a so-called hangover cure. Though the information we know so far is purely anecdotal, many people believe that soaked dates can help to minimize hangover-related symptoms.
For the best benefits, it's advised that you peel your dates and soak them overnight before eating them as a morning snack, so this is something you'll need to prepare in advance!
Dates have a whole host of important health benefits and contain a number of healthful vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Studies show that they can support weight loss and minimize weight gain, promote digestive function, and boost energy - and what's more, they're really versatile and easy to add to your diet. You can eat dried or fresh dates, and their stickiness makes them an ideal ingredient to add to sweet desserts.
Thanks to their natural sugar content, dates are sweet and tasty, so you can enjoy all their goodness without even feeling like you're eating healthily. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket or health store out there - so don't delay any longer! See how the benefits of dates can change your life from this moment onwards.