By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Dates are the fruits of the date palm tree that is usually found in the tropical regions of the world. Almost all the dates that are found in stores are dried and can be recognised by their wrinkled appearance. The variety of the fresh date can be determined by the size. Fresh dates are small in size, with colour ranging from bright red to bright yellow. The most consumed variety of dates are the Medjool and Deglet Noor dates. Chewy and sweet in taste, there are lots of advantages to eating dates. (1)
Dates are one of nature’s sweetest treats. Their high sugar content may have you wondering whether dates are considered a healthy choice. Dates are definitely sweet, but as a fruit, they also provide beneficial micronutrients and some fiber.
Dates are a good source of potassium, magnesium, and iron. Also, dates supply six essential B vitamins, including folate and pantothenic acid. Dates also have a high concentration of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that protects against cellular damage, along with beneficial phytoestrogens. The micronutrients and plant compounds in dates are associated with several promising health benefits. (2)
- High in polyphenols: Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that can protect the body from inflammation. Dates contain more polyphenols than most other fruits and vegetables.
- Alternative to empty-calorie sweets: Dates can satisfy a person’s sweet tooth while also providing essential nutrients, such as vitamin B-6 and iron.
- High in fiber: Just ¼ of a cup of dates provides 12 percent of a person’s daily fiber requirement. Fiber helps a person feel fuller for longer.
- High in potassium: Dates are high in potassium, which is an electrolyte the body needs for good heart health. Potassium also helps to build muscle and proteins in the body.
- Great for substitutions: People can replace the sugar, chocolate chips, or candies in baking recipes with dates to ensure they are eating natural sugars instead of refined sugars. (3)
Fresh Dates vs. Dry Dates
- Fresh dates are soft, and dry dates are harder. They naturally contain less moisture than fresh dates.
- We also can find dried dates that are fresh. These are fresh soft dates that are deliberately dried over a period.
- From a nutritional standpoint, fresh dates are not very different from dry dates. But they are different from dried dates.
- Dried dates have double the amount of carbohydrates than fresh dates. They are also a better source of fiber. Dried dates also contain higher levels of calcium and iron, but fresh dates win in vitamin C. (4)
Easy to Add to Your Diet
- Dates are incredibly versatile and make a delicious snack. They are often paired with other foods, such as almonds, nut butter or soft cheese.
- Dates are also very sticky, which makes them useful as a binder in baked goods, such as cookies and bars. You can also combine dates with nuts and seeds to make healthy snack bars or energy balls.
- You can use dates to sweeten up sauces, such as salad dressings and marinades, or blend them into smoothies and oatmeal.
- It is important to note that dates are high in calories and their sweet taste makes them easy to overeat. For this reason, they are best consumed in moderation. (5)