If you’ve made any drool-worthy vegan baking in the last few years, you’ll know that dates are a staple for both their sticky texture and wholesome sweetness. We always have plenty on hand in the Food Matters kitchen. They make a great burst-of-energy snack for on-the-go and they make raw treats that much more delicious. But dates are a powerhouse in a wholefoods kitchen too, bringing widespread health benefits to the table. If they’re not already in your diet, here are 9 reasons why they should be.
1. Promote Good Digestion & Healthy Eliminations
Dates are extremely rich in fiber, which we know is vital for good digestion and healthy eliminations. Research has shown that the sugary fruit contains up to 8gm of fiber per 100gm, with most of it being insoluble fiber - which adds bulk to wastes moving through the gastrointestinal tract. It’s important to ensure we are getting enough fiber in our diets to avoid the development of diseases in the lower digestive organs such as bowel cancer and IBS. A suggested healthy ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber is 3:1. Dates are also praised for being able to relieve constipation.
2. Rich In Antioxidants To Fight Inflammation & Support Heart Health
Antioxidants are vital for protecting your cells from free radicals - the unstable molecules that have unpredictable reactions in your body and can often lead to disease. Dates, being a nutritional powerhouse, are host to an abundance of antioxidants. Carotenoids have been shown to support heart health and reduce the risk of eye disorders such as macular degeneration. Flavonoids and Phenolic Acid are powerful anti-inflammatories that have been studied for their role in cancer treatment as well as diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and heart disease.
3. Improves Brain Health & Function
If you get the 3 pm slump, it’s often sugar sending your brain into oblivion, but this sweet snack has profound short and long term effects on brain health and function. Multiple studies have shown a diet rich in dates is beneficial for lowering inflammatory markers such as interleukin, which is associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and reducing plaque formation in the brain. Animal studies have also suggested that dates have a significant positive impact on memory and learning abilities while relieving anxiety-related behaviors.
4. Healthy Alternative To Refined Sugars
Dates make the most beautiful raw treats, natural sweeteners, and rich syrups - but what makes it the healthier alternative? There is still a high fructose content in dates, so you don’t want to eat them in excess if you’re watching your weight or caloric consumption, yet they offer a natural, unrefined alternative to highly-processed white sugars. Plus, the extra health benefits they bring make dates one of the best options for a sweet treat.
5. Source of Vital Minerals for Bone Health
By now you likely know the difference between macro and micronutrients, and why it’s just as important (if not more) to make sure you get a sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals. But figuring out what minerals you need and why is still something we’re collectively dipping our toes into. Dates contain several minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. All of these have been studied for their potential to prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis and are vital for maintaining strong, healthy bones.
6. Concentrated Source of Iron
Bone health minerals aren’t the only ones you’ll find in dates, they’re also a concentrated source of iron - which is vital for so many functions in our body. As a key player in oxygen transportation, many issues can arise with deficiencies - and it may even lead to iron-deficiency anemia. For the vegans out there, and those eating lesser-quality meats, it’s important to keep an eye on your levels. A 100gm serve of dates offers roughly 5% of your RDI of iron, so it won’t get you all the way there - but will help to support your levels.
7. Supports Healthy, Radiant & Youthful Skin
With an abundance of health benefits and health-promoting compounds, it should come as no surprise that a diet rich in dates will do wonders for your skin health. The fruits are a good source of Vitamins C & D, which are vital for elasticity and giving you a radiant and plump complexion, and studies have shown that they can also prevent melanin accumulation - which is important for anti-aging. Date palm kernel extract also produces phytohormones that play another role in anti-aging.
8. Aids In Blood Sugar Regulation
For a food so high in fructose content, it seems surprising that they would aid in blood sugar regulation - but here’s how. Dates actually have a low glycemic index, and coupled with the fiber and antioxidants, they have been shown to have a positive effect on people managing diabetes.
9. Prevents Night Blindness & Preserves Healthy Vision
Those carotenoids do more than just protect your heart health, studies have shown they can protect your precious eyes from an array of disorders. Night blindness is a condition that impacts some, making it difficult to see in situations with low light. Concentrated sources of carotenoids support healthy eye function. They have also been shown to prevent macular degeneration, impacting your vision throughout your lifespan, and preserve healthy vision.