Dates are a small fruit with a sweet taste. They grow on date palm trees and are tiny with dark, wrinkled skin. The sweetness of dates gives them an enjoyable taste and makes them a healthy option for satisfying a sweet tooth. Their calories and sugar also make dates a quick, natural pick-me-up. Dates are a great alternative to a caffeinated beverage filled with refined sugar when it comes to staving off an afternoon energy lull. However, the high sugar and calorie content in dates also makes them a pass for those trying to lose weight or struggling with weight control, but the health benefits of dates are to be celebrated! Dates are usually available at grocery stores, health food stores, and online.
Health Benefits of Dates
Perhaps the sweetest thing about dates is not their sugar content but the many health benefits they offer. A study published by Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar has shown the following health benefits of dates:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Lowered cholesterol
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Reduced inflammation
Don’t let the calorie and sugar content of dates turn you away. Dates also have a lot of nutritional value, including potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber, vitamin B6, and antioxidant polyphenols. So just what role do these ingredients play in making dates a healthy choice?
Calories are energy that the body needs to function properly. High-calorie intake can lead to weight gain while low-calorie intake can lead to lack of energy, fatigue, and weight loss.
Sugar is carbohydrates that the body turns into energy and glucose. Consuming too much of a food high in sugar can lead to weight gain and can be dangerous for those with diabetes.
Potassium helps regulate fluids in the body and supports healthy heart and muscle activity.
Magnesium regulates blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It also supports healthy nerve and muscle function.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in maintaining energy and staying focused. B6 helps convert food into energy, regulates mood, and supports healthy brain function.
Iron is part of hemoglobin, which is part of red blood cells. Iron plays an important role alongside hemoglobin and red blood cells in transporting oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also part of enzymes that our bodies need for proper digestion and functioning.
Fiber aids in digestive health and creates a feeling of fullness which helps with weight control. Fiber also reduces the risks of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some gastrointestinal diseases.
Polyphenol are antioxidants that helps cleanse the body of dangerous cells that cause damage, such as aging and cancer development.
How to Add Dates to Your Diet
It may be tempting to work dates into diet stictly as a dessert due to their sweetness. But the truth is that dates can be incorporated into a variety of meals and snacks. Try some of the following suggestions to add the health benefits of dates to your diet.
- Add dates to cereal
- Add dates to oatmeal
- Add dates to fruit smoothies or veggie shakes
- Serve dates as a complement to a meat dish like chicken
- Add dates to a salad
- Stuff dates with cheese (blue, gorgonzola, or cream)
- Stuff dates with nuts
- Eat dates on their own (after removing the pits)
- Mix dates with nuts and raisins
- Bake dates into muffins
- Bake dates into bread
- Blend dates into a paste and turn them into fudge
- Create a fruit salad that includes dates