There is nothing more wonderful than a fresh date!

I had fresh dates for the first time whilst visiting Egypt a few years ago. It isn’t so easy to find fresh dates in the UK, so I satisfy my love of these fruits by using dried Medjool, Halawi or Deglet Nour – still delicious.

The date (botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera) is thought to have been cultivated for around 5000 years, which makes it one of the oldest fruit crops and these amazing fruits add sweetness and flavour to many dishes.

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Dates have a number of beneficial properties.

They are a good source of: minerals, vitamins, fibre and phytonutrients.

Potassium

There is a higher amount of potassium in dates than found in bananas. Per 100g dried dates contain 700mg of potassium compared to 400mg found in bananas.

Potassium is a major mineral in the body that is required for nutrient exchange in cells, nerve and muscle function. Sodium and potassium work together in the body and must remain in balance to maintain normal function.

Many Western diets are deficient in potassium due to the high sodium concentrations in commercial foods.

Diets rich in potassium contribute to normal blood pressure and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular and renal disease.

In addition to dates, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of potassium.

Dietary fibre

Dates are a great source of dietary fibre, which contributes to intestinal health. The benefits of this include an increase in stool bulk, reduced intestinal transit time, an increase in beneficial gut bacteria and positive effects on cholesterol and blood sugar.

Higher intakes of dietary fibre are associated with lower body weights and protection against a number of diseases.

The polyphenols in dates are compounds that possess antioxidant properties. These help to protect cells from damage, reduce the inflammatory response and fight the ageing process.

Despite the calorie content of dates, the presence of plant sterols prevent a rise in body lipids and also regulate cholesterol levels.

health benefits of dates_2Dates are a ready source of energy due to their carbohydrate content and 100g of dates provides around 300 calories.

For individuals who struggle to gain weight, dates are a healthy source of calories and may help to regulate metabolism through enhanced blood sugar control.

The health benefits of dates don’t stop at the fruit: the leaves, flowers and kernel of the date palm also have medicinal qualities.

The leaf and flower are reportedly good for liver function. The leaf is used as an aphrodisiac and the seeds can be applied to wounds to promote healing.

Date palm kernel has also been incorporated into anti-ageing creams to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

health benefits of dates_6

This is one of my favourite recipes using dates and creates that ‘wow’ factor when people try it.

Raw Chocolate Brownies

1. Blend around 100g of ground almonds, 60- 70g of mixed nuts and a handful of pecans. Add 180 -200g of dates ( usually one pack) and blend until smooth.

2. Then add 2 tbsp of raw cacao powder, 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, 2 tbsp of melted coconut oil and a tsp of vanilla essence.

3. Process until the mixture clumps together and then press into a shallow dish. Sprinkle with desiccated coconut and place in the fridge for an hour or so until set.

4. Pop a whole pecan on top of each brownie when you cut them.

You can also make little petit fours with dates and pecans…  

Just slice the date lengthways and pop a pecan nut into the middle, you can add a little marzipan too if you desire.

Cookies are really good made with dates

Try mixing equal amounts of dried chopped apricots, ground almonds, chopped dates and raisins. Add 2 tbsp of almond or peanut butter, a handful of oats and enough water to bind.

Mould into flat rounds and bake for 10 minutes. These can be eaten raw if preferred.

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References:

– Potassium lowers blood pressure (2005) Harvard health publications.

– He. F. J. and MacGregor. G. A. (2008) Beneficial effects of potassium on human health. Physiologic Plantarum 133 (4)

– Dhingra. D., Michael. M. and Patil. R. T. (2012) Dietary fibre in foods:a review. Journal of food science and technology 49 (3) 

– Steel. A., Sunil. S., Varun. S. K., and Santosh. M. K. (2013) Phoenix dactylifera Linn, a review. International journal of research in Ayurveda and pharmacy 4(3) 

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