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Are Dates Healthy? 10 Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Nutrition

Are Dates Healthy? 10 Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 16, 2022
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8 min

Dates are a popular chewy fruit many enjoy as an ingredient for baking or simply a sweet snack. We’ll cover if dates are good for you and provide you with some potential health benefits.

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Dates from a date palm tree are perfectly sweet, chewy, and satisfying. Many people use dates as a candy substitute.

Let’s discuss the main health benefits, side effects, and nutrition information of dates. 

Are Dates Healthy?

Whether Medjool dates or another variety, dates are healthy fruits high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. While they are low in fat, eating these fiber-filled fruits will keep you satisfied until your next meal without adding any fat to your diet.

10 Health Benefits of Dates 

Are you wondering how dates can improve your overall health? Let’s break down 10 of the main health benefits of dates in your diet. 

#1 Promote digestive health and bowel movements

Dates are rich in dietary fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and bowel movements. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber is the part of a plant that cannot be digested by the body and, therefore, move through it.

More specifically, when you eat dates, you get soluble fiber, which can dissolve in water and create a consistency similar to a gel. The fiber passes through the body and can help support healthy and regular bowel movements. 

According to the USDA, one date contains about 1.6 grams of dietary fiber. 

The Mayo Clinic recommends that men consume between 30 and 38 grams of fiber each day, while women should aim for between 21 and 25 grams daily. 

#2 May reduce the risk of stroke

Dates are also a great source of potassium, which has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke. According to Harvard Medical School, potassium is a mineral that keeps blood pressure within a healthy range. 

When blood pressure gets too high, there is a significantly higher risk of experiencing a stroke, which occurs when a blood clot in an artery leads to the brain. 

Since dates have a high amount of potassium, they can help improve heart health and reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. 

#3 Source of electrolytes

As mentioned above, dates are a great source of potassium, but they are also rich in magnesium. Potassium and magnesium are electrolytes that work together with sodium to control fluid balance in the body.

Electrolytes are essential for the normal and healthy functioning of your body systems.

#4 Rich in antioxidants

According to research, dates also contain many antioxidants essential for healthy living and reducing the risk for many disease states.

Antioxidants are natural compounds in foods that help fight the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage body cells and contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation.

A balance of antioxidants to counteract the free radicals can help reduce inflammation and decrease your risk for many chronic diseases.

#5 Promote healthy blood sugar levels

As mentioned, dates are rich in dietary fiber. According to the studies, besides just supporting healthy bowel movements, fiber can also help control blood sugar levels.

When fiber is combined with something high in sugar (even natural sugar, such as in fruit), it slows down how quickly the body uses the sugars. Therefore, the fiber prevents the sugar from spiking your blood sugar levels very rapidly. 

#6 Medium glycemic index

For those who are diagnosed with diabetes, the glycemic index is a very important reference number to determine how quickly a food can spike their blood sugars.

Dates have a glycemic index of 70 and therefore are considered medium glycemic index fruit. Thus, dates will increase blood sugars at just a moderate speed. 

Combining dates with a protein or fat source can slow down the digestion and absorption of the sugars in the dates even more.

#7 Support healthy bones and teeth

Dates are rich in phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, which are crucial to teeth and bone health. According to the journal Biomolecules, these micronutrients are essential for the production and maintenance of bone tissue.

Calcium works well with vitamin D; therefore, for even more bone support, pair your dates with a glass of milk or yogurt.

#8 May benefit brain health

A study performed found that a diet rich in dates either lowered the risk, delayed the onset, or slowed down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice. 

However, this effect on brain health is yet to be examined in human subjects, and more research is needed to see if dates are effective in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. 

#9 May lower your risk for cancer

The antioxidant content of dates also contributes to potential cancer-preventing properties. According to the journal, oxidative stress, which antioxidants help to reduce, plays a role in cancer, and many antioxidants play a role in anti-cancer activity.

#10 Promote a healthy nervous system

Since dates are rich in potassium, they also support nerve functioning. According to research, potassium plays a role in nerve impulses that move along the nerve into cells in your body. 

Therefore, a diet high in potassium-rich foods can promote a healthy nervous system as well as improve brain health and more. 

4 Side Effects of Dates 

All these benefits aside, a few side effects could result from eating dates. Let’s cover a few and discuss how to potentially avoid them.

#1 May cause bloating and stomach pain

If you are not used to having enough fiber in your diet, consuming too much too quickly can lead to some uncomfortable side effects, including bloating, stomach pain, or flatulence.

Therefore, make sure you increase your fiber intake gradually at first.

#2 May promote diarrhea or constipation

Similarly, too much fiber can cause diarrhea or constipation rather than fix it. If this occurs, it may mean you need to drink more water since water and fiber work closely together to help with healthy bowel movements.

Therefore, increase your water and fluid intake and aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day. 

#3 Can contribute to weight gain

Since dates are relatively high in calories, with over 60 calories in just one date, they can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. However, be careful because they are easy to over-consume.

Be mindful of the number of dates you are eating rather than consuming them while distracted, and perhaps stick with a few dates. 

#4 May contain sulfites

Many concerns surrounding dates involve their potential sulfite content. According to the University of Florida, sulfites are inorganic salts that help preserve and increase the shelf life of your dates. 

While it is regarded as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA for most people, it is important to avoid sulfite-rich foods if you have an allergy or sensitivity. 

Nutrition Facts of Dates 

Now that we have covered the benefits and side effects of eating dates, let’s discuss the nutritional information. 

Nutritional value (per 100g) 

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)277
Sodium (mg)1
Net Carbs (g)68.3
Fiber (g)6.7
Sugar (g)66.5
Fats (Total)0.15
Protein (g)1.81

  Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients

High in calories and low in fats 

A serving of dates has 277 calories, which is rather high given that 100 grams of dates is around four dates. As a result, one date has around 67 calories. Furthermore, dates have so little fat that it is deemed minimal. 

Nonetheless, eating too many dates might contribute to weight gain due to their high calorie content.

Low in protein 

One date has less than half a gram of protein. This is considered a very small amount of protein.

Protein is needed to support healthy muscle growth, maintenance, and repair. Therefore, pair your delicious dates with a serving of nuts or seeds, lean meat, or a dairy source to increase the protein in your snack. 

High in carbohydrates 

Dates are chewy fruits that are very high in carbohydrates, with 68 grams in 100 grams of dates. Therefore, consuming too many can increase weight gain.

Rich in vitamins and minerals 

Besides the vitamins and minerals already mentioned, dates are also rich in copper, manganese, iron, vitamin B6, and more. 

Healthy Dates Recipe 

Are you craving dates now? Let’s walk through a recipe for delicious and nutritious date peanut butter protein balls. 

This sweet treat is similar to granola bars, but they are bite-sized and perfect for taking on the go for energy! They are also very customizable! So let’s dive into it!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of pitted Medjool dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of all-natural nut butter, creamy or chunky 
  • 1/3 cup of rolled oats 
  • 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips, optional

Whether using almond, peanut, or even sunflower butter, make sure the nut butter contains peanuts as an ingredient and does not have any other oils or sugars added. 

Additionally, if you would like, you can add dark chocolate chips to even more deliciousness and antioxidants.

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until uniform throughout.
  2. Using your hands, a spoon, or an ice cream scoop, form the mixture into small bite-sized balls and place them onto a plate or baking sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before enjoying.

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FAQs

Are dates fattening?

Dates are not fattening. Dates are low in fat, with a practically negligible amount – 0.036 grams of fat in one date.

Are dates good or bad for you?

Dates are good for you because of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, you should only have a few dates at a time because they are high in calories, sugar, and carbohydrates.

Do dates have seeds?

Dates do not have seeds. However, fresh dates have a pit that needs to be removed before consumption.

What is the glycemic index of dates?

Dates have a glycemic index of 70, which is considered to be medium. Therefore, dates can raise your blood sugars moderately.

A Word From a Nutritionist

The many health benefits of dates make them a great option if you are looking for a sweet fruit that can replace a high-calorie and high-fat dessert that is low in nutrients, such as a cookie or piece of cake.

Chop up your dates and use them to bulk up the nutrition of your favorite trail mix or yogurt parfait. You can toss them into a salad or even pair them with goat cheese for a savory and sweet combination.

However, dates are higher in calories than many other fruits. Therefore, stick with a serving of just a date or two as a sweet and nutritious treat!

It can also be used as a natural sweetener due to the natural sugars it contains.

Conclusion

Overall, dates are a healthy fruit that can be a part of a balanced and healthy diet. Dates are high in dietary fiber, vitamins (such as vitamin B6), and minerals (such as magnesium and potassium). 

These date palm fruits are a great source of antioxidants that can protect your body from many disease states, such as diabetes, relating to oxidative stress and inflammation.

They have many other benefits of dates, including blood sugar control, improved fluid balance, supporting heart health, and many more.

So, incorporate dates into your diet for many health benefits!

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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