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There are innumerable health benefits of dates. The date is an edible, sweet dry fruit rich in minerals and vitamins. A staple food of Middle Eastern countries, dates have been cultivated since ancient times, probably as early as 6000 B.C. The Date Palm (scientific name: Phoenix dactylifera) produces a bunch of oval drupes that are at least 3 cm long and 2 cm in diameter. These drupes are added in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines and are often eaten whole.
Archeological evidence reveals that dates have been cultivated since ancient times in the eastern Arab region. Later, they were cultivated around northern Africa, Italy, Spain and South East Asia. In 1765, the Spanish people introduced dates to California and Mexico. Today, two distinct varieties of dates, the Deglet Noor and Medjool are mainly cultivated in Arizona and southern California in the United States.
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1. Dates are a Good Source of Nutrients:
Dates are rich in dietary fiber, protein and contain vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 and vitamin A1. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids which ease the digestive process. Dates are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. According to the American Cancer Society, consuming 20-35 grams of dietary fiber every day is healthy.
2. Great Energy Booster:
Dates are considered to be one of the best energy-boosting snacks as they are power-packed with 29 grams of natural sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. They also contain 31 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of dietary fiber. These qualities make them an excellent energy boosting snack. Adding dates to milk is a healthy way to eat them for both kids and adults.
3. Low in Calories:
Dates have a very low calorie count - around 23 calories for a single date fruit and are suitable for people on a diet.
4. Dates are Rich in Potassium and Low in Sodium:
One of the key health benefits of dates is their ability to regulate a healthy nervous system, thanks to the rich potassium content. Research has recommended that higher intake of potassium (about 400 mg) can cut the risk of stroke by 40 per cent.
Other important mineral salts include copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. They also have a dense concentration of phenol antioxidants and other nutrients. Another key health benefit is the ability to lower undesirable LDL cholesterol.
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Consumption and Selection tips
• Dates are mainly served as desserts in most Middle-Eastern countries. They can be chopped into tiny slices and spread all over cakes and puddings and can also be stuffed with a sweet filling after removing their seed.
• While selecting, always make sure they are evenly colored and fleshy. A dry date has neither any taste nor nutritional benefits.
• Ensure there are no sugar formations on the exterior part of the fruit. This usually happens around a withered fruit and is not suitable to eat.
• Before you eat whole raw dates, make sure you wash them properly. This is because dust easily gets stuck on top of the fleshy part.
• Dates are dry fruits, so there are no storage problems. But, to ensure its freshness remains intact, you must keep them under refrigeration. Dates kept in refrigerators can remain fresh for up to two to three weeks or longer.
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The Fruit of the Date Palm: Its Possible Use as the Best Food for the Future? (Al-Shahib W, Marshall RJ.): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12850886
Image (First section, top-left) - Wikipedia, photo by Zeeshan Jaaved
Image (Second section, top-left) - Wikipedia.org, photo by J.P. Lon)