I have always loved dates. As a child, I used to look forward to Christmas Day when we could partake of the dried Deglet Nour Dates complete in their tray with the special forked stick to take them out. My mouth waters at the recollection! Dates and date syrup feature widely in my Goodie Two-Shoes Cakes as they form a natural base and sweetener in place of conventional forms of sugar and are great sources of roughage amongst many other health benefits. In terms of date syrup, I first felt drawn to use it in the kitchen when creating some of my raw chocolate fudge recipes as I felt it would combine beautifully as well as being highly nutritious and in-tune with my ethos of a “healthy” alternative to commercial chocolate! The great news is that it did indeed combine well, and I have had favourable responses from those who have tried my various raw chocolate fudges and I use it in two of the varieties.
Dates are part of the “sweet” category of foods and are great for bringing balance to the spleen and stomach.
So, what are the other health benefits of dates and their syrup?
Dates and date syrup have a low Glycemic Index (GI) level, being just 42. (The glycemic index (GI) is the rate at how fast blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food. A high GI means that the food is rapidly absorbed by the body, spiking the blood sugar causing the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. A low GI indicates a food that is more slowly absorbed, thereby preventing that health damaging insulin spike. We can reduce the glycemic index of a food by eating healthy fats alongside the sweetener of choice, so, for example butter used in the making of cakes lowers the GI of the sugar used in the baking process
Date syrup is a thick, sweet liquid and is widely consumed across the Middle East
It has been shown in various studies that it has a great antibacterial effect on a number of disease-causing bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
The benefits of dates include relief from constipation; intestinal disorders; heart problems; anaemia and many other conditions
If you are having difficulty gaining or maintaining weight, then eating dates or consuming date syrup will help in this regard
The dietary fibre in dates helps to move waste smoothly through your colon and helps prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol absorption by removing potentially damaging chemicals from our bodies
They have a high iron content, which, in turn, helps to maintain a healthy level of haemoglobin in our red blood cells, so helping to balance the oxygen levels in our blood
They also contain potassium, which is an electrolyte. It helps to control your heart rate and blood pressure
The B-Vitamins present in dates, such as the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin, are absorbed into our retinas, which helps to maintain optimal light-filtering functions in our eyes and protect against macular degeneration
They also contain Vitamin A. Vitamin A protects the eyes as well as maintaining healthy skin and mucus membranes. It is believed to protect the lungs and mouth from developing cancer
Tannins, which are flavonoids as well as polyphenolic antioxidants, are present in dates. They help to fight infection and inflammation as well as preventing excessive bleeding (anti-haemorrhagic)
The Vitamin K present in dates is a blood coagulant, which also helps metabolize your bones
Copper; magnesium; manganese; vitamin B6 (pyridoxine); niacin; pantothenic acid and riboflavin are also present in dates and they provide their own unique preventive and healing functions
Dates, due to these minerals and vitamins present, help our bodies to metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats more effectively
Eating dates in moderation can also contribute to many other health benefits, such as protecting against free radical damage to our cells; thus helping to prevent strokes and coronary heart disease. They also help to protect against colon; prostate; breast; lung and pancreatic cancers
Some health experts recommend eating one date a day as part of a balanced and healthy diet
Nutritious and Fat Free – great for all of us, including diabetics,dates are fat free and cholesterol free and so they are a great snack for diabetics. Dates also provide many important minerals such as calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Many of these minerals are required in very small quantities but a deficiency can aggravate your condition. For instance the mineral zinc improves insulin action while magnesium is necessary for the regulation of blood sugar levels. Dates can also help in the treatment of other health conditions like intestinal disorders, sexual weaknesses, abdominal cancer and diarrhoea.