The Many Health Benefits of Dates

Bowl of dried dates
Photo: Thinkstock/baibaz

We all know that there’s no shortage of date recipes online. Between date balls, date squares and date bars, this fruit seems to be the base for many desserts and the solution to any sugar craving. But do you know the health benefits of eating dates? Dates have been enjoyed for centuries and have significance in many cultures and religions. There are many different varieties of dates, and the most common found in the U.S. are medjool and deglet noor dates. Fresh dates also can sometimes be found in farmers markets.

The Health Benefits of Dates

They are a rich source of fiber. One-half cup of dates provides 6 grams of fiber or around 22 percent of the daily value for fiber. Dates contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which help regulate blood sugar, keep us satiated, lower blood cholesterol and keep bowels healthy.

They are a great source of natural sugar. Dates are very sweet — that’s because they contain a good amount of natural sugar in the form of glucose and fructose. According to the USDA, one medjool date contains 18 grams of carbohydrate and three deglet noor dates contain 16 grams. Since they are very sweet, they have been used as a natural sweetener in many desserts and “energy balls.” The natural sugar in dates also makes them a great pre- or post-workout snack. During Ramadan, Muslims break their fast with dates because it quickly increases blood sugars and provides a burst of energy. People with diabetes should be mindful of the amount of dates they consume at once because of dates’ concentrated sugar content. One medjool date is equivalent to 1 carbohydrate choice.

They are a good source of minerals. One-half cup of dates provides about 14 percent of the daily value for potassium, 8 percent for magnesium and 10 percent for manganese. They also are an excellent source for vitamin B6, providing about 24 percent of the daily value for each ½ cup.

They may help with labor. A recent randomized control trial has revealed that consuming dates during late pregnancy significantly reduced the need for augmentation of labor, which is normally done with oxytocin. The study did not show a significant effect with the onset of labor but did conclude that consuming dates in late pregnancy may be considered as a safe supplement to reduce the need for labor intervention.

How to Eat Dates?

Now that you know that dates have a slew of health benefits, how will you enjoy this chewy, sweet, delicious fruit today?  Enjoy them as is or add them to oatmeal, trail mix, granola, smoothies, energy balls or protein bars. You also can incorporate them into loafs and muffins. Dates are available whole or pitted. They are best stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

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Rahaf Al Bochi
Rahaf Al Bochi, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC. Rahaf’s expertise is in diabetes, intuitive eating and the Mediterranean eating pattern. You can visit her online at Olive Tree Nutrition and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.