Although the exact origin of the date palm is lost in antiquity, it is known to have been used in construction of the temple of the moon god near Ur in Southern Iraq (Mesopotamia) as early a 4000 BC.
Dates were considered very important in both the Jewish and Islamic religions, and were believed to be a curative for many ailments.
Ancient Phoenicia was known as “the land of palms” and no doubt dates sustained them as they sailed around the Mediterranean and became the predominate maritime trading culture of the time.
Dates are one of the most nourishing natural foods. Containing 3,000 calories per kilogram (2.2 lbs.), just a handful taken with a glass of milk, can provide all the nutrition a person needs for the entire day. And because the natural sugars in dates are fructose and glucose, diabetics can safely consume them.
Dates are also high in dietary fiber and low in sodium and fat. They are also a valuable source of antioxidants (ranked #11 out of 100 fruits and vegetables in ORAC score).
100 grams (about 3 ½ oz.) of dates contains
- Carbohydrates 75 gm (including 63 gm sugar)
- Dietary fiber 8 gm
- Protein 2.5 gm
Full to the brim with super-healthy benefits this dry fruit is a must-have in your kitchen.
Fresh, dried, or semi-dry dates pack a nutritious punch when it comes to getting your daily requirement of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and especially magnesium.
One study indicates that 64% of men and 67% of women fail to get enough of this important mineral. Bone density, blood pressure and insulin activity are just some of the things affected by magnesium levels.
A Swedish study, conducted over 14.8 years among 61,433 women showed that a diet high in magnesium rich foods cut the risk of colon cancer by 34%. And the evidence is clear that a high fiber diet is very important in the prevention of colon cancer.
It is known that date consumers in Saharan areas have the lowest incidence of cancer, which is attributed to the high magnesium content of dates.
Top 5 Things to Know About Dates
- Fresh dates are a useful source of Vitamin C and when dried, they are richer in potassium than bananas.
- Dates can have a mild laxative effect, making them ideal for children and convalescing adults who need to clean up their intestines.
- Dried dates are a rich source of niacin, copper, iron and magnesium. Just drinking a juice made of dates soaked overnight in water will strengthen the heart and purify the blood.
- Certain cultures use dates to provide all the body’s necessary nourishment by stuffing dry dates with nuts and raisins to use as a snack during fasts. This is an easily made treat for those suffering from low blood sugar. Eating just two stuffed dates can quickly raise your blood sugar to normal levels.
- Dates are also rich in calcium, and date syrup added to milk strengthens bones. Even breast-feeding mothers can benefit from dates, because it is known to enrich the milk and boost the child’s immune system.
Caution: Use moderation. Eating too many dates at a time could lead to dental caries and gum disease as the sugar in the dates is fermented in the mouth and forms plaque. Dates are also known to trigger migraines in some people.
Quick and Easy Ways to Use Dates
- Chop and add to the dough when you are making cookies or brownies
- Put some in your milkshake instead of sugar or honey
- Dice and serve with ice cream or yogurt
- Blend with milk and use as syrup
- Stuff with nuts and a chunk of cheddar cheese
- Add to hot cereal to punch up the nutritional value
- Dice and put in your pancake or waffle batter
- For a super healthy snack, stuff with raw chocolate nibs
More exotic dishes include Moroccan tajines (a slow-cooked spicy stew) and ka’ak bi ajwa (an Arab cookie filled with ground dates). In Manila, a cake similar to fruitcake made with nuts and dates is called “Food for the Gods”.
It is estimated that there are 100 million date palm trees growing today. And because of that, you can easily enjoy one of the most nutritious and sustainable fruits in the world without traveling to Mesopotamia.
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