Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Dates
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4th Sep 2011, 01:39 PM #1
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Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Dates
Dates nutrition facts:
What nutrients are there in dates?
A lot indeed! Here are delicious dessert fruits with much needed minerals and energy to help you stay fit and healthy!
Botanically; they are the fruits grow on the palm tree belonging to the family of Arecaceae of the genus: Phoenix and scientifically named as Phoenixdactylifera. The date palm is believed to have originated in the lands around the banks of Nile and Euphrates rivers. It is now extensively cultivated for its edible fruit in warm climates across all the continents.
The date fruit is a "drupe" in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp and mesocarp) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. Each fruit is oval to cylindrical in shape, 3–7 cm long, and 2–3 cm diameter, and when unripe, range from bright red to bright yellow in color, depending on the variety.
The taste is sweet, like a mix of sugar syrup and honey. They contain a single, brown colored, hard seed about 2–2.5 cm long and 6–8 mm thick.
There are many varieties of date-palm cultivated and some important varieties that are popular for their high quality are ‘Amir Hajj’, ‘Saidy’, 'Khadrawy' and 'Medjool'.
Health benefits of dates
- Wonderfully delicious, dates are one of the most popular fruits with an impressive list of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, required for normal growth, development and overall well-being.
- Fresh date is made of soft, easily digestible flesh with simple sugars like fructose and dextrose that when eaten replenishes energy and revitalizes the body instantly; thus, for these qualities, dates are being used to breakfast during Ramadan months.
- The fruit is rich in dietary fiber which prevents dietary LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. It is also a good bulk laxative. The fiber content helps to protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time and as well as binding to cancer causing chemicals in the colon.
- Dates contain many health benefitting phytonutrients flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.
- They are a good source of Vitamin-A (contains 149 IU per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Also rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen free radicals and are found to be protective against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
- Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus it offers protection against age related macular degeneration in elderly individuals.
- Dates are an excellent source of iron, contains 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits (about 11% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.
- Also, dates are rich in potassium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that help controlling heart rate and blood pressure; thus offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.
- They are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve impulse conduction. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Magnesium is essential for bone growth.
- The date fruit is rich in B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. These vitamins are acting as cofactors help body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Vitamin K is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood as well as in bone metabolism.
Selection and storage:
Dates are available in the store year around. Some varieties of fresh, soft, good quality dates are available from September through December. In some dry climates regions of Africa, dates are picked when they are just mature and allowed to ripen inside the jars. In the stores, soft, semi-dry and dry types of dates are put for sale. Dry dates can be kept at room temperature for several months.
Preparation and serving method:
High quality dates have been handpicked directly from the bunch and sold as premium variety in the markets. On a large scale, most are harvested by cutting the entire cluster, fumigated, cleaned, graded, packed, stored under refrigeration, and released to markets according to demand. Here are some serving tips:
- Dry and soft dates are usually eaten out-of-hand.
- They can be stuffed with fillings such as almonds, walnuts, candied orange and cream cheese.
- They can also be chopped and used with fruit salad and in a range of sweet and savory dishes.
- Dates are also being used to prepare juice and Jallab (a type of syrup popular in the Middle East and made from dates, grape molasses and rose water).