Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, Phoenix dactylifera, which originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Date palms are now grown in many places in the world. There are many varieties of dates, each having a slight variation in size and color. But are dates really a healthy and nutritious food, or are they harmful?
First, let’s look at the nutritional aspect of dates. For a small fruit – dates really have an amazing nutritional profile and there are lots of benefits to eating dates.
- Are high in dietary fiber, which is helpful for health of the colon and for lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Are easily digestible.
- Contain tanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties and help prevent bleeding. (read more about inflammation here)
- Contain Vitamin A, which is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, beneficial for the eyes, skin and mucous membranes.
- Contain other antioxidants: carotene, zea-xanthin, and lutein, which protect the cells from the damage of free radicals and help protect the body against various forms of cancer. Zea-xanthin and lutein protect the eyes against macular degeneration.
- Contain iron, which is a major component of healthy blood cells. Iron is very important for the blood to be able to carry oxygen.
- Contain potassium, which is beneficial for healthy blood pressure and for the heart, including protection against stroke and heart disease.
- Contain calcium, copper, magnesium and manganese – beneficial for bones and teeth, muscles, blood and nerves.
- Contain B complex vitamins, which help the body to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
- Contain Vitamin K, which is necessary for the bones and for blood clotting.
But what about the high sugar content? There is no denying that dates are very sweet, and many people question whether or not dates are a harmful fruit because of the high sugar content.
Will dates cause our blood sugar to spike, causing excess insulin production and all the negative side effects that go with that scenario? According to Dr. Michael Greger – dates are 80% sugar by weight. Despite that fact, he maintains that they are a whole food that contains fiber and phytonutrients, and they do not spike blood sugar. He further states that dates do not cause us to gain weight, and that they are beneficial for the body’s triglyceride level. View Dr. Greger’s video here.
All in all, dates seem to be a miraculous little package of nutrition! It seems that dates are one of the ‘super’ foods that can help us build our immune systems, fight free radicals, and help several systems in our body, including the digestive system. There is one caution that I would like to add regarding any fruit, including dates. Fruit contains natural sugar and even if the fruit itself is considered low glycemic (meaning that it won’t spike blood sugar or cause blood sugar issues) the chance of it causing blood sugar issues increase dramatically when a large portion of fruit is consumed by itself. Eating fruit along with foods that contain protein and fiber will reduce the risk of blood sugar issues occurring.
Do you have blood sugar balance issues? Have you been diagnosed as pre-diabetic? Interested in learning more about foods that help balance the body’s blood sugar? Contact me – I can help!
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