Considered nature’s caramel, the date is one of the sweetest fruits that exist and is usually found in dry form. It is composed mainly of carbohydrates and has a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, C, B-complex, and antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lutein.
Source of fructose, the date has a subtle flavor, is a natural sweetener and source of energy. “It’s a great substitute for white sugar in recipes, due to the nutrients, fiber and antioxidants it provides”, says nutritionist Caroline Mattos. vallinhos.
The date is extracted from the date palm, a palm tree cultivated for millennia and whose origin has not yet been confirmed, but there are indications that it emerged in North Africa or Southwest Asia. The date palm has a high diversity of texture, shape, color and chemical composition, depending on the genotype, environment, season of the year and cultivation practices.
There are around 50 types of dates, and by their moisture content and soluble sugars, they can be classified into three categories: dry, semi-dry and succulent, all famous for their sweet taste, the main characteristic of the fruit. “In Brazil are usually found the small dry and jumbo fresh juicy. The most famous is the medjoul, fresh in natura”, says nutritionist Bruna Quaglio.
It is worth noting that dried dates normally contain up to 80% more sugar in their composition compared to medjoul dates, for example. “This is due to its dehydration process, which is carried out industrially”, informs Vallinhos.
In fruit dehydration, numerous food preservation techniques are used, but this method is usually performed on fruits that could not be used due to several factors: sometimes inadequate packaging and transport, storage without refrigeration, etc. In other words, with the intention of increasing the commercial value of this product considered unsuitable for consumption in its fresh presentation, the dehydration process is carried out, in which a large part of the water present in the fruit is extracted.
The semi-dry variety is smaller, firmer and less humid than the medjoul. It is also very tasty and ideal to taste pure or to include in culinary preparations. “It is important to remember that the semi-dry date is a potent source of energy, as it contains twice as many carbohydrates when compared to fresh dates”, emphasizes Vallinhos.
Finally, medjoul, known as the queen of dates and nature’s caramel, is the fresh date that does not undergo any industrial processing, so it is succulent and has three times the size of other varieties, in addition to containing a lot of fiber and a delicious flavor. extremely sweet.
Dates are considered a nutritious food and can play an important role in health. “In addition, it has antimicrobial, antitumor and immunomodulatory properties”, says Aline ozana de Souza, Master in Food Science and Technology.
Here are the main benefits of the fruit:
1. Helps in the functioning of the intestine
The date contributes to the proper functioning of the intestine because it is rich in fibers, essential to prevent constipation, in addition to benefiting intestinal transit. These substances also provide satiety and help with weight control.
2. It is good source of energy
The date provides energy, due to its amount of carbohydrates: 100 grams have, on average, 314 kcal. It has even been studied as a good option for a pre-workout.
3. It’s good for the muscles
It promotes muscle development, as it is a source of potassium and magnesium, which are essential minerals for muscle contraction.
4. Helps strengthen the immune system
The date helps in strengthening the immune system and preventing diseases, as it is a source of zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants, which help to increase the body’s defenses.
5. Helps to prevent anemia
Because it contains iron, it helps fight anemia. Regular consumption of the fruit helps in transporting oxygen to the body’s cells, preventing disease. The lack of this mineral can lead to extreme tiredness, joint swelling and pale skin, in addition to other complications.
6. Relieves stress
It helps to relax and reduce tension as it is a source of magnesium. This mineral is related to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for well-being. The fruit still contains tryptophan (which helps in the release of serotonin and melatonin, a sleep hormone).
7. Helps in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases
It contributes to reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and helps to improve memory and cognitive ability, thanks to flavonoids and zinc. In an animal study, mice fed a chow containing dates were found to have significantly better memory and learning ability.
8. It’s good for eye health
Contributes to healthy vision, as it contains vitamin A, preventing the risk of eye diseases such as macular degeneration.
9. Helps in strengthening bones
Dates are sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are responsible for supporting the growth and proper development of our bones. Fruits also prevent osteoporosis, ensuring healthy aging for the body.
10. Helps in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases
The date contains great amounts of carotenoids, flavonoids and tannins, compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which fight free radicals and promote artery health, helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Benefit under study
Eating dates in the last weeks of pregnancy can promote cervical dilation and decrease the need for induced labor, according to a study. The fruit can also be helpful in reducing the time of labor.
In a small study, 69 women who consumed six units of dates a day for four weeks before their ideal delivery date were 20% more likely to give birth naturally. And they were still in labor for significantly less time than those pregnant women who didn’t consume them.
how to consume
It can be consumed pure, as a dessert, with a slice of fruit, such as strawberry, for example. Or even with cottage cheese, mixing sweet and savory. It can also be used to sweeten recipes and vitamins in place of refined sugar. “Each individual can consume according to their nutritional needs, ingesting naturally or as part of recipes”, suggests Souza.
The fruit is extremely beneficial and very practical to consume, but it is recommended to eat up to three a day, due to its high calorie content. “It is important to moderate consumption and not exceed this amount, especially people with diabetes and who want to lose weight”, he advises. vallinhos.
Sources: Aline Ozana de SouzaMaster in Food Science and Technology from UFPA (Federal University of Pará); Bruna Quaglio, nutritionistspecialist in sports nutrition from USP (University of São Paulo) and master in marketing from Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing; Caroline Mattos Vallinhosnutritionist specializing in weight loss, postgraduate student in clinical nutrition at Universidade Cruzeiro do Sul, food labeling consultant.