Health Benefits of Dates

Health Benefits of Dates

Dates are oval-cylindrical fruits that come from the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). This flowering plant is usually found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, namely Northern Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East.

Dates are known for their bright colour (ranging from red to yellow) and sweet taste. They’re also very nutritious, with their benefits ranging from improving heart health to reducing cancer risk – even enhancing male fertility!

The History of Dates

The date fruit is a food staple in the areas where it is commonly grown, such as the Middle East and Indus Valley (modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India). In fact, it has been consumed as early as 7000 BC in Mehrgarh, the area now known as Western Pakistan. Evidence of consumption is also seen in Eastern Arabia from as early as 5530 BC.

Although dates are good enough to be consumed by themselves, the ancients used them to create a variety of food and beverages as well. Egyptians, for one, used dates to brew wine that they drank during the harvest season. The Hebrews, on the other hand, utilised dates to make more than just wine – they used it to make vinegar, bread, and cakes as well.

The dates’ entry into the global market took place several millennia after, with traders managing to export it to the New World in the late 1700s. Now, dates are also cultivated in the warmer areas of Europe such as Spain – even the temperate American regions of California, Texas, and Florida.

Types of Dates

Like most fruits, dates range in a variety of cultivar groups. The soft types include the small & mild-flavoured Khadrawy, the chewy & caramel-like Halawy, and butterscotch-like Barhee. This group also includes the Medjool, which is popularly known for its mild rich flavour and orange-yellow flesh.

The mineral-rich Zahdi and the large & strong-flavoured Dayri, on the other hand, are categorized as semi-dry dates. This group also includes the Deglet Nour, which is heralded as the ‘Queen of all dates’. This date is known to have a translucent-coloured fruit that bears a honey-like taste and a juicy soft flesh.

There’s also the dry cultivar group that includes the Thoory date variant. Known as the bread date, it has a semi-sweet, nutty flavour and a firm, pastry-like texture. 

Nutritional Value of Dates

The nutrients for every 100 grams/about 4 pieces of Medjool dates are as follows:

  • Calories: 277
  • Carbohydrates: 75 grams (27% of daily value)
  • Dietary fibre: 6.7 grams (24%)
  • Protein: 1.8 grams (4%)
  • Copper: 0.362 mg (40%)
  • Pantothenic acid: 0.805 mg (16%)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.249 mg (19%)
  • Potassium: 696 mg (15%)
  • Magnesium: 54 mg (14%)
  • Manganese: 0.296 mg (13%)
  • Niacin: 1.61 mg (10%)
  • Phosphorous: 62 mg (9%)
  • Iron: 0.90 mg (5%)
  • Calcium: 64 mg (5%)
  • Riboflavin: 0.060 mg (5%)

100 grams (14 pieces) of pitted Deglet Noor dates, on the other hand, come with the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 282
  • Carbohydrates: 75 grams (27% of daily value)
  • Dietary fibre: 8 grams (29%)
  • Protein: 2.5 grams (5%)
  • Copper: 0.206 mg (23%)
  • Potassium: 656 mg (14%)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.165 mg (13%)
  • Pantothenic acid: 0.589 mg (12%)
  • Magnesium: 43 mg (11%)
  • Manganese: 0.262 mg (11%)
  • Phosphorous: 62 mg (9%)
  • Niacin: 1.274 mg (8%)
  • Iron: 1.02 mg (6%)
  • Folate: 19 mcg (5%)
  • Riboflavin: 0.066 mg (5%)
  • Selenium: 3 mcg (5%)

Why Are Dates Good for You?

Simply put, dates are good for you because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial substances. With regular consumption, you get to enjoy these many health benefits of dates:

Why Are Dates Good for You?

1. Improves Digestive Health

Medjool and Deglet Noor dates provide ¼ to 1/3 of your daily dietary fibre needs. Known as roughage, it helps facilitate bowel movements by adding bulk to your stool. It’s one of the best ways to relieve constipation, which affects roughly 1 or 7 adults and 1 of 3 kids in the UK.

A high-fibre diet is also pivotal in maintaining bowel health. It can help reduce your chances of developing haemorrhoids or diverticular disease, a condition where small pouches form in the colon.

2. Reduces Cancer Risk

A study has shown that eating a high-fibre diet – including food such as dates – may help reduce a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Generally speaking, the higher your fibre consumption is (which you can achieve easily with dates), the better your protection against colorectal cancer will be.

Dates also contain a good amount of flavonoids (35.82–199.34 mg GAE/100 g) – antioxidants that possess anti-cancer activity. According to a study, flavonoids may help fight colon cancer cells, among many other malignancies.

Dates are also rich in Beta-glucans, which, according to the study of Rahmani et al., exhibits significant anti-tumour activity. Results show that a dose of 1 mg/kg may help fight cancer cells optimally.

3. Improves Heart Health

Statistics show that the prevalence of heart disease in the UK remains constant at about 3% in England and 4% in Scotland. And while these numbers have declined compared to the past years, heart disease remains the second main cause of death in the kingdom.

a) Fibre

Needless to say, cutting heart disease risk is all about exercising, living a healthy lifestyle, and of course, eating right.

The latter emphasizes the importance of eating a high-fibre diet, as this may help lower the level of bad cholesterol in the body. If left unmanaged, high levels of blood cholesterol can block the vessels – thus impeding blood flow and precipitating a heart attack.

According to research, a high-fibre diet may also help reduce blood pressure, which is another factor behind the development of heart disease. Hypertension can make the vessels less elastic, which can lead to a decrease in blood flow to the heart. If left untreated, high blood pressure can eventually lead to heart disease. 

b) Antioxidants and Phytochemicals

Apart from fibre, dates also contain other substances that help promote heart health. One is carotenoid, an antioxidant that is touted to improve cardiac health.

According to a study, this substance may help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. This process sets the immune system to overdrive, which in turn, triggers inflammation of the arteries. In the long run, oxidation can result in heart disease.

Dates also contain phenolic acid, which is a phytochemical that possess beneficial effects as well. According to research, it may prevent the processes that burden the heart, such as cholesterol oxidation, increased platelet activity, and inflammation.

With better heart health – courtesy of the fibre and antioxidants in dates – you may enjoy a longer life. Remember: people with heart problems stand to lose 10 years of life compared to those with healthy hearts, according to the American Heart Association.

4. Helps in Blood Sugar Management

About 4.8 million people in the UK suffer from diabetes. If left untreated, this can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and kidney problems, to name a few.

a) Fibre

As with heart disease, one way to keep your blood sugar under control is to eat a healthy diet. That means avoiding sugary food and opting for a nutritious, fibre-rich diet.

As dates are high in fibre, they play a pivotal role in managing blood sugar levels. According to a study, fibre can help reduce fasting blood sugar levels. It can also help improve glycosylated haemoglobin results, which is reflective of the person’s ability to control blood sugar levels for 2-3 months.

The study also suggests that a high-fibre intake can help reduce a person’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes. This is particularly noteworthy for people who have these risk factors:

  • Aged 45 years old and above
  • African, Hispanic, or Native Indian descent
  • Family history (immediate family member with diabetes)
  • Overweight
  • Physically inactive

b) Active Compounds

Dates are rich in steroids, saponins, and phenols – compounds that have natural anti-diabetic effects. They’re also rich in flavonoids, which, according to a study, may help promote better glucose metabolism in the body. Flavonoids make this possible by regulating carbohydrate digestion and signalling/secreting insulin.

5. Helps Protect the Kidneys

Medications such as Gentamycin may damage the kidneys and affect their function. According to Rahmani et al., the flesh and pits of dates may help reverse this problem.

Results show that dates help reduce the levels of Urea and Creatinine – both of which are elevated when the kidneys don’t function well.  They also help improve the state of the proximal tubules that may have been damaged by the drug.

6. Fights Bacterial Infections

Dates may also help fight bacterial infections, according to the above-mentioned study of Rahmani et al. These components are present in the pit though, which means you shouldn’t throw them away after eating.

Results show that the extracts of date pits and leaves may help inhibit the growth of the following micro-organisms:

  • Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacterium that causes pneumonia and other blood-borne infections.
  • Escherichia coli, a bacterium that causes blood infections, diarrhoea, and urinary tract infections, to name a few.
  • Enterococcus faecalis, a bacterium that causes cellulitis, wound infections, UTIs, prostatitis, etc.
  • Fusarium species, including F. solani and F. oxysporum. Any of these can cause Mycotoxicosis, a fungal disease that causes neurological, mood, and digestive issues.
  • Alternaria species including A. alternata. This fungus can cause sinusitis and facial osteomyelitis (bone infection).

7. Improves Labour

The benefits of dates for women are also apparent in the labour process. According to a study, women who ate 6 dates daily for the last 4 weeks may have better cervical dilation. Most of them presented with intact membranes as well.

Spontaneous labour also occurred in 96% of date eaters, compared to only 79% of non-date eaters. This period was also shorter in date eaters, who only endured the first stage of labour for an average of 510 minutes. On the other hand, non-date eaters had to tolerate about 906 minutes of painful labour.

8. Boosts Fertility

There are benefits of dates for men as well. According to Rahmani et al.’s study, they contain sterols, estrone, and other compounds that improve male fertility. Dates also help increase the levels of testosterone and estradiol, which may have a beneficial effect on sperm health.

9. Contributes to Weight Management

Dates are high in calories, which is why there is only a certain number of dates you should eat (more about this below). But as long as you follow this, you may be able to reap the benefits of dates in weight loss.

Dates can help you achieve a healthy weight given its high fibre content. For one, they’re filling and take longer to eat – which means you won’t end up eating as much as you would. They’re also less dense – which means they have lesser calories compared to the same serving amount of other food.

According to a study, adding 14 grams of fibre a day – half of which you may get from 100 grams of dates – may help you lose as much as 1.9 kg in a matter of 3.8 months.

How Many Dates to Eat Per Day

How Many Dates to Eat Per Day

Although the date fruit benefits are aplenty, you need to eat them with care. Since they’re high in calories, you should limit your consumption to 4-6 pieces of dates for weight loss.

You can eat them with milk, which helps supply the body with calcium. That’s because there are many benefits of dates with milk at night. These 2 nutrient-packed items provide the body with the nutrients it needs to build nerve tissues and muscles during sleep. Grinding dates and mixing them with milk may also prove useful in your attempt to lose weight.

Apart from taking dates with milk, you can also eat them together with a cup of coffee in the morning. Another option is to eat it at night-time together with a cup of tea.

Do Dates Make You Gain Weight?

As mentioned, dates are high in calories. And although it may promote weight loss because of its high fibre content, eating a lot of dates may result in weight gain.

As mentioned, each 100-gram serving of dates is rich in calories – 277 for Medjool and 282 for Deglet Noor variants. 70% of its raw weight comes from sugar, so you need to adhere to the recommended consumption of about 4-6 dates a day.

Other Side Effects of Dates

Apart from potentially causing weight gain, eating a lot of dates may lead to other side effects as well.

For one, it can cause allergies. Even if you want to enjoy the many date fruit benefits, you may need to stay away from them if you are sensitive to sulphites. If not, you may develop some unpleasant symptoms, such as skin rashes, diarrhoea, bloating, and stomach pain.

Eating dates may not be advisable for some people as well. Those with kidney disease, for example, should be careful when eating dates. These fruits are high in potassium, which damaged kidneys cannot effectively excrete. This can lead to the accumulation of potassium in the body, the increased levels of which trigger abnormal heart rhythms.

Likewise, people with asthma should be careful when eating dates. They can worsen wheezes, which are brought about by inflammation and narrowing of the airway.

How to Include Dates in Your Diet

A great thing about dates is that you can consume them in a variety of ways. For one, you can eat them fresh out of hand.

If you want to add some flavour, you can pit the dates by slicing the fruit lengthwise. You can then stuff pitted date with walnuts, almonds, pecans, or lemon peel.

You can also eat pitted dates by themselves. However, you should dry it first and glaze it with syrup for a sweet treat.

Apart from being nutritious snacks, you can also enjoy the many dry date benefits by adding them to recipes. You can add them to puddings (like the sticky toffee and Christmas variants in the UK) and cakes (such as the date nut bread in the US).

You can also use them to make regional dishes, such as the Berber Tajine or the Arabian ka’ak cookies. Another option is to follow what the Spanish do, and that is to wrap dates in bacon and fry them.

Dates can also be processed into juices, vinegar, sugars, cubes, pastes (Ajwa spread), and syrups (the popular dibs/rub honey from Libya).  It may also be covered with chocolate for a cocoa treat.

While dates are perfect for eating, you can use them to spoil your skin as well. All you need to do is soak the dates in milk overnight. Crush them into a paste and apply it directly onto your face. Leave the mask for 15 minutes before it off with cold water.

Tips on Buying, Storing, and Preparing Dates

Given the many benefits of eating dates, you may be already on your way to buy a pack or two. But before you go to the grocery store or buy online, you need to keep these shopping tips in mind:

  • Avoid buying overly-dried dates.
  • Check the skin – it should have a nice shine and good translucency. Add to that, it should only have little rips and tears.
  • The dates should be intact and separate – not clumped together.

If you’re thinking of preparing the dates yourself, you can soak them in water overnight. Remove the pits before eating them or adding them to the recipes below.

To store dates without losing moisture, keep them in an airtight consider or inside the fridge (for up to 6 months). Dates may also be frozen for about a year. 

Healthy Date Recipes

Healthy Date Recipes

There are so many benefits to eating dates, which is why you should add them to your recipes today. Here are 3 easy and delicious examples you should try at home:

1. No-Bake Date Bar


  • Pitted dates, 2 cups
  • Cashews, ¾ cup
  • All-natural peanut butter, ¼ cup
  • Coconut flakes, 1/2 cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons
  • Salt, 1/8 teaspoon


  1. Put everything into the food processor and pulse the mixture.
  2. Transfer the mixture to an 8/9-inch square dish lined with parchment paper. Cover it and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Cut the bars into small square pieces and serve.

2. Raw Date Brownies


  • Walnuts, 1 cup
  • Pitted and chopped Medjool dates, 10 pieces (large)
  • Cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons
  • Honey, 1 tablespoon
  • Pure vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon
  • Water, 1-3 teaspoons


  1. Line a bread pan and set it aside.
  2. Pulse the walnuts until they are finely ground.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except water) and pulse them well.
  4. Add some water to mix the ingredients together.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the bread pan.
  6. Slice and serve.

3. Coconut Protein Balls with Dates



  1. Pit the dates and soak them in water for 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Pulse the dates and pecans in the processor until you attain a doughy texture.
  3. Form a ball with 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture. Set in the fridge for 5 minutes.
  4. Roll the ball in desiccated coconut. Serve.


Dates are sweet, nutritious fruits that remain to be staple food from then until now. They are rich in carbohydrates, fibre, as well as several other vitamins and minerals.

Given these nutrients, eating dates may help improve your digestive & heart health, reduce your cancer risk, manage your blood sugar levels, and protect your kidneys. It may also help improve labour in women and fertility in men – even fight certain bacterial infections. When eaten in recommended amounts, dates may help promote weight loss as well.

As dates are high in calories, the recommended serving is 4-6 pieces a day. You can eat them as is, or add them to smoothies, pastries, or recipes.


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