What Are Dates?
Dates are a fruit that comes from the date palm tree, which is native to the Middle East, although they are also now grown in the Mediterranean, Asia, the USA, and Mexico.
Dates grow in large clusters which hang from the top of these palm trees. As they ripen, their skins turn brown and wrinkle as more and more moisture leaves the fruit. This is when they are usually harvested by hand, either by someone climbing up the palm or using a mechanical lift.
When picked, they resemble a large shriveled raisin. Despite their appearance, they still contain some moisture. Whole dates have a stone in the middle that should be removed before eating, or you can buy pitted dates.
Dried and fresh dates are available year-round, but the fresh types are best between November and January.
There are lots of different varieties of the fruit, but the Medjool date is one of the best known, as it has a sweeter and stickier taste and texture than others.
Nutritional Benefits Of Dates
A 30g serving of dates (dried) provides:
- 81 kcal / 345KJ
- 1.0g Protein
- 0.1g Fat
- 20.4g Carbohydrates
- 20.4g Sugar
- 1.6g Fibre
- 210mg Potassium
A serving of 30g of dates counts as one of your five-a-day. Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Top 5 Health Benefits Of Dates
1. Rich in protective antioxidants
Dates are a rich source of protective plant compounds that have antioxidant properties. These include polyphenols, carotenoids, and lignans, which have been shown to help manage the risk of chronic disease.
2. May support gut health
Research into fibre continues to support its important role in health, from helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome to reducing the risk of certain long-term health conditions.
3. May support bone health
4. May facilitate a natural birth
Including dates in the diet when in the final few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and reduce the need for an induced birth. They are also thought to be helpful in reducing the length of labour. Compounds in the fruit are believed to mimic the effects of oxytocin, a hormone involved in labour contractions.
5. May be a useful sugar replacement
Are Dates Safe For Everyone?
Some people may be allergic to dates and, in addition to this, compounds called sulphites may, for some sensitive individuals, cause allergic symptoms.
A mild reaction may include symptoms such as an itching mouth or tongue, sneezing, or a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms after eating dates, speak to your GP. If a more serious anaphylactic reaction occurs, call for an ambulance immediately.
- Peanut butter & date oat pots
- Orange & mint salad
- Aromatic lamb with dates
- Spiced duck & date tagine
- Pecan-stuffed dates
- Date & walnut cinnamon bites
- Moroccan chicken couscous with dates
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