During Ramadan, the first thing Muslims eat after sunset is dates. Large quantities of dates are sold during Ramadan, so even if you are not a Muslim you may have seen them or eaten them as dried fruits.
The high nutritional value of dates
Dates are the fruits of the date palm, and are said to have been cultivated since before 8000 BC. In the Middle and Near East they have been an important fruit since ancient times. The Old Testament of the Bible calls them the fruit of the Garden of Eden, and the Koran (the holy book of Islam) calls them the fruit provided by God.
Dates have long been studied by scholars and researchers because of their very high nutritional value. This research continues today. When they are dried, dates keep their nutrients even when they are stored for long periods. For these reasons travelers and nomads used to carry dried dates with them as a preserved food, and eat them for extra nutrition or instead of meals when they were hungry.
The main nutrients in dates and their benefits
Dates contain all these nutrients and provide a variety of health benefits.
- vitamin K
- vitamins B1, B2, and B3 (niacin)
- dietary fiber
(1) Regulating digestion
Magnesium draws water in the body to the intestines and can relieve constipation. Dates are also rich in fiber, so they can improve bowel movements.
(2) Relieving anemia
Dates contain high quantities of iron, which increases the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. This is especially beneficial for women who lose blood by menstruation.
(3) Benefits for dieting
Dates improve bowel movements and the iron they contain is also seen to have a positive effect on the metabolism. They are rich in vitamin B2, which metabolizes fat, and vitamin B1, which converts sugar into energy.
(4) After drinking alcohol
Zinc is needed for alcohol dehydrogenase to break down alcohol in the body.
(5) Protection against lifestyle-related diseases
Zinc is an essential nutrient for the body to make insulin, which is needed to metabolize sugars. Proper metabolizing of sugars can prevent diabetes. Carotene can protect against cancer and the hardening of the arteries, and calcium can protect against the hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. Vitamin B3 can relieve diabetes and has beneficial effects on high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
(6) Increased immunity
Zinc activates the cells of the immune system and increases immunity against a range of diseases. It is also said to lessen allergic reactions such as eczema, asthma, and hay fever.
(7) Antioxidant effects
Carotene can contribute to clearer skin and break down reactive oxygen and other damaging substances. Vitamin B1 can help to keep the skin and mucous membranes healthy.
(8) Benefits to the eyes
When carotene is absorbed by the body it is converted into vitamin A, which helps the eyes to focus properly and helps to prevent inflammation of the eyes.
(9) Mood-stabilizing effects
Calcium, the various types of vitamin B, and zinc are thought to have calming properties and relieve irritation.
(10) Prevention of osteoporosis
Calcium and vitamin K can help prevent osteoporosis.
How to eat dates
Eating dried dates is the easiest way to enjoy these fruits. It is said to be normal for pregnant women to eat dates every day, and it is said that this helps them to have healthy babies. Some people eat dates instead of a normal breakfast, as they provide a good balance of nutrients.
However, dates are extremely sweet and contain large amounts of fructose and glucose. These are both easily absorbed into the body, and they are part of the group of simple sugars that are quickly converted into energy. But they are sugars and so it is not sensible to eat too much of them.
If you have a food allergy then some foods can cause health problems. Carefully read the food label before eating.
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