Why you should be eating dates, the fruit of Ramadan year-round
Dates, a symbol of abundance and a rich source of fiber, potassium and calcium, have been the staple food of Ramadan tables ever since Prophet Muhammad advised fellow Muslims to break their fasts with the sacred fruit. Native to the Middle East and tropical and desert climates, dates have many types – from sweet and fleshy Safawis and flaky yet chewy Khudris to juicy Medjools aka the "queen of dates," there is a type for everyone out there.
Besides being delicious, dates are truly a remedial reserve, especially when it comes to fasting. Thanks to their high carbohydrate content that packs a lot of energy in such a small volume, they help to quickly renew empty carbohydrate stores, suppress sugar cravings and thus help you control your appetite throughout the day.
High in body-building amino acids, vitamins A, B and C, as well as many minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, iron, zinc, copper and selenium, dates are truly a powerhouse of nutrients. However, they are also mostly made up of simple carbohydrates, mainly glucose and fructose, therefore like all foods, moderation is key when it comes to eating dates. Nutrition and dietetic specialist Demet Cerit of Acıbadem Atakent Hospital said excessive consumption of the sweet, syrupy fruit can lead to weight gain and imbalances in blood sugar.
Bar diabetics and those with insulin resistance, the health benefits of dates far outweigh its naturally high sugar content. Here are a few reasons why we should eat dates regularly, according to Cerit.
Studies show that dates can have a stimulating effect on the immune system. This effect of dates is associated with their beta-glucan content, which is a polysaccharide, the better and more complex type of carbohydrates doctors advise we should consume. In addition, dates also contain high amounts of phenolic compounds and carotenoids (both which have great cancer-fighting properties) as well as vitamins, all of which are thought to play a role in supporting the immune system thanks to their antimicrobial effects and antioxidant properties.
No more sugar cravings.
After prolonged periods of hunger or fasting, our body directs us toward sources with high carbohydrates, namely sweet foods, so that our blood sugar can rapidly return to its normal levels and replace those empty food stores.
“However, to prevent weight gain and avoid irregularities related to blood sugar, using the natural sugar content of fruits (instead of artificial sweets) to meet our needs for something sweet. With their distinctive flavor and rich sweetness, dates can be a good choice for all your dessert needs,” Cerit said.
Good For The Heart
Dates are known as an excellent source of potassium, an essential mineral responsible for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Potassium is involved in ensuring neural conduction, regulating our pulse and blood pressure. Research reveals that a diet rich in potassium helps to lower blood pressure, maintain cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of stroke.
Protect Eye Disease
Dates also contain compounds that help stop age-related eye diseases from developing. Studies have shown that dates are a strong source of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are types of carotenoids present in eye tissue and have antioxidant properties. Therefore, these compounds are thought to be useful in preventing the development of cataract and macular degeneration (macula: the central part of the retina) in elderly individuals.￼
Nervous system and Energy
Dates, which contain moderate levels of B1, vitamin B2 and niacin (B3), as well as vitamin B6, help us meet our daily vitamin B needs. The aforementioned B vitamins are involved in metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins and fats, i.e. getting energy from these nutrients. They also play an important role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. When you are running low on these vitamins, you will most likely complain about fluctuating and decreased energy levels, weakness, fatigue and concentration problems. This is all the more important when you are fasting when brain fog is a real challenge.
Key for strong Bones
Calcium and phosphorus are two minerals that work together to protect bone health and their absorption increases when taken together. Consuming dates, which contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as phosphorus, daily helps us improve our bone health and prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, Cerit said.
A 3.5-ounce (one hundred grams) serving of dates contains roughly seven grams of fiber, and fiber can help prevent constipation. It does so by helping the digestive tract form stools. The World Journal of Gastroenterology described a 2012 study in which researchers analyzed earlier studies of the effects of fiber on constipation. They found dates and other sources of fiber caused the participants to have more regular bowel movements. Fiber also makes individuals feel full longer, so they are less likely to overeat. One-quarter cup of dates provides twelve percent of an individual’s recommended daily intake of fiber.
So in conclusion
If you have a few dates every day, you won't have to take vitamin supplements. Not only will it keep you healthy, there will be a noticeable change in your energy levels as well because dates contain natural sugars such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose, too. So it works really well as a quick snack