The yearning for sweet is real and dates offer a wholesome, plant-based, sweet-fix with real goodness and satisfaction. Their dietary fibre and phytonutrients bring gut health benefits as well.
Dates are the fruit from palm trees native to the Middle East (Phoenix dactylifera). Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics include date palms, and they are known as the ‘tree of life’ because they have many uses from food to building materials. They are a tough, salt-tolerant plants that require 100 days of hot weather to produce fruit. Dates are sold at various stages of ripeness. As they ripen the colour changes from orange to brown or black, the sugars content increases and moisture decreases. In Egypt – the world’s biggest producer of dates – the four progressive stages of ripeness are known as ‘kimri’, ‘khalal’ ‘rutab’ and ‘tamer’. You will see the word ‘tamer’ in the GI tables at glycemicindex.com.
There are more than 200 varieties of dates, but they all have a sweet, earthy, caramel flavour and a chewy texture. Medjool dates are larger and plumper with a creamy mouthfeel and are sold fresh rather than dried. Dates are perfect just as they are, but they make a great binder for nuts and seeds to make energy or protein balls for on-the-go snacking. Ma’mool is a plump Middle Eastern and North African pastry with sweetmeat filling that combines dates and nuts. Sticky date pudding is a classic dessert, and dates are also great in cakes, breads, biscuits, cookies, bars and slices. They also add a delicious, sweet contrast in savoury dishes such as meat or poultry casseroles and tagines, couscous or salads. When made soft by soaking, dates are great in smoothies. Try them stuffed with blue cheese for an amazing flavour sensation or filled with peanut butter or walnuts for an everyday healthy pick-me-up.
In these waste-aware times, dried dates can be stored in the pantry and have a long shelf life. And being quite robust they are very portable for snacking away from home. Medjool dates are best stored in the fridge or freezer to keep them for any length of time (this is never a problem in my house as they disappear quickly!).
Nutrient content varies by variety, but they generally contain minerals and trace elements such as potassium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, and manganese as well as B-vitamins and fibre. And being a plant food, they also contain phytonutrients including phenolics, flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids and phytosterols that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. The GI of different dates varies, with the average being 54.
|3.5 Health Stars|
|Glycemic index (average)||54|
|Serving size – 5 dried (25 g or 1 oz)|
|Fats (g) – total||0.05|
|Includes: – Saturated fat (g)||0.02|
|– Monounsaturated fat (g)||0.02|
|– Polyunsaturated fat (g)||0.02|
|Saturated : unsaturated fat ratio||0.5|
|Carbohydrates (g) – Total||19.2|
|–Natural sugars (g)||16.5|
|–Natural starches (g)||0.3|
|–Added sugars (g)||0.0|
|–Added starches (g)||0.0|
|–Dietary fibre (g)||2.4|
|Glycemic load (g)||9|
- MAl-Okbi. Date Palm as Source of Nutraceuticals for Health Promotion: a Review. Curr Nutr Rep, 2022.