Top 5 health benefits of dates
Discover the nutritional benefits of dates, from their vitamin, mineral and fibre content, to how many of these sweet, sticky fruits count towards your 5-a-day
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What are dates?
Dates are a fruit that come from the date palm tree, which is native to the Middle East, although they are also now grown in the Mediterranean, Asia, the USA and Mexico.
Dates grow in large clusters which hang from the top of these palm trees. As they ripen, their skins turn brown and wrinkle as more and more moisture leaves the fruit. This is when they are usually harvested by hand, either by someone climbing up the palm or using a mechanical lift.
When picked, they resemble a large shrivelled raisin. Despite their appearance they still contain some moisture. Whole dates have a stone in the middle that should be removed before eating, or you can buy pitted dates.
Dried and fresh dates are available year round, but the fresh type are best between November and January.
There are lots of different varieties of the fruit, but the medjool date is one of the best known, as it has a sweeter and stickier taste and texture than others.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides or check out some of our best date recipes, start your day with our date and tahini porridge, and finish with our mackerel, date, aubergine and preserved lemon relish.
Nutritional benefits of dates
A 30g serving of dates (dried) provides:
- 81 kcal / 345KJ
- 1.0g Protein
- 0.1g Fat
- 20.4g Carbohydrates
- 20.4g Sugar
- 1.6g Fibre
- 210mg Potassium
A serving of 30g of dates counts as one of your five-a-day. Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Top 5 health benefits of dates
1. Rich in protective antioxidants
Dates are a rich source of protective plant compounds which have antioxidant properties. These include polyphenols, carotenoids and lignans, which have been shown to help manage the risk of chronic disease.
2. May support gut health
Research into fibre continues to support its important role in health, from helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome to reducing the risk of certain long-term health conditions.
A small 2015 study found that date consumption may reduce colon cancer thanks to its high fibre and polyphenol content, the latter also having useful anti-microbial benefits.
3. May support bone health
Dates are a source of bone-friendly minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They are also a source of vitamin K which is needed for healthy, strong bones.
4. May facilitate a natural birth
Including dates in the diet when in the final few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and reduce the need for an induced birth. They are also thought to be helpful in reducing the length of labour. Compounds in the fruit are believed to mimic the effects of oxytocin, a hormone involved in labour contractions.
5. May be a useful sugar replacement
Date syrup is a paste made by blending dates with water. The syrup has a low Glycaemic Index (GI) and a lower fructose content than most other sweeteners.
Are dates safe for everyone?
Some people may be allergic to dates and, in addition to this, compounds called sulphites may, for some sensitive individuals, cause allergic symptoms.
A mild reaction may include symptoms such as an itching mouth or tongue, sneezing or a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms after eating dates, speak to your GP. If a more serious anaphylactic reaction occurs, call for an ambulance immediately.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
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This article was last reviewed on 6 October 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
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