Humans have been eating dates for over 6,000 years, making them one of the oldest crops on earth.
Science and nutrition are just beginning to discover how dates benefit our health. With over 200 varieties grown worldwide, these may not all be available in your local supermarket, but read on to find out why you should include more of these tasty fruits in your diet.
What are dates?
A date is a fruit from the date palm tree, which is indigenous to the Middle East, but is now grown in the Mediterranean, Asia, the US and Mexico .
These palm trees produce clusters of dates that hang from their tops. Their skins become brown and wrinkled as more and more moisture leaves the fruit as they ripen. This is when they are manually harvested, either by climbing the palm or by using a mechanical lift.
The fruit looks like a large, shriveled raisin when picked. They still contain some moisture, despite their appearance. You may buy pitted dates or remove the stone from whole dates before eating them.
Dates are available year-round, but fresh dates are best between November and January. As a fruit, the medjool date is one of the best recognised, as it has a sweeter and stickier taste and texture compared with others.
Types of dates
There are several types of this healthy fruit namely: 
Medjool Dates: Produced in Morocco, Palestine and Jordan, with large, fibrous flesh, are reddish brown and sweet.
Omani Dates: Produced in Oman and are usually large, dark brown, are juicy and sweet-tasting.
Piarom Dates: Produced in the Gulf region and the Middle East with oval shape, thin and long, are dark brown or black colour, semi dried, has a unique sweet taste with hints of caramel or toffee.
Deglet Nour Dates: Produced in Algeria and medium-sized, are long and narrow, are golden brown with a dark tint, soft meaty fruit.
Mazafati Dates: Produced in Iran and are regular-sized, are soft and dark brown skin, mild taste with hints of chocolate and brown sugar.
Nutritional benefits of dates
A 30g serving of dates (dried) provides:
- 81 kcal / 345KJ
- 1.0g Protein
- 0.1g Fat
- 20.4g Carbohydrates
- 20.4g Sugar
- 1.6g Fibre
- 210mg Potassium
Dates provide the following health benefits and why you should incorporate them into your diet:
Contains antioxidants that protect the body
In addition to their antioxidant properties, dates contain a variety of protective plant compounds . Among them are polyphenols, carotenoids and lignans, which may help manage chronic disease risk.
Possibly beneficial for gut health
Researchers continue to find that fibre plays an essential role in health, from maintaining a healthy gut microbiome to reducing long-term health risks . Due to date’s high fibre and polyphenol content, as well as its antimicrobial properties, a small 2015 study found date consumption may reduce colon cancer risk .
It may be good for bone health
Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium are all found in dates, making them a good source of bone-friendly minerals. Additionally, they provide vitamin K, which is essential for bone health .
May facilitate for natural birth
Including dates in the diet during pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and reduce the need for an induced birth . In addition, they may reduce labour time. Fruit compounds may mimic the effects of oxytocin, a hormone involved in labour contractions.
Replaces sugar in some cases
Water and dates are blended to make date syrup. Compared with most other sweeteners, it has a low Glycaemic Index (GI) and a low fructose content .
What is the recommended daily amount of dates?
As it depends on your health and dietary preferences, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. A good rule of thumb is to eat at least two dates a day.
This will provide you with minerals such as magnesium, potassium and fibre, anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants and more. Additionally, dates are a great source of sweetness and calories, so eating them regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Eat two dates a day to reap the benefits of their antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Dates are also cholesterol free and low in calories, making them a perfect snack or breakfast option.
Date sugar can also be used in sweet and sour chicken or ice cream recipes. Dates can help control blood sugar levels, reduce weight, boost energy levels and regulate menstrual cycles.
Is it safe for everyone to eat dates?
It is possible for some individuals to be allergic to dates as well as to compounds called sulphites. A mild reaction may include an itching mouth or tongue, sneezing or a runny nose .
Consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms after eating dates. Call 911 or the emergency services if an anaphylactic reaction occurs.
Ways to use more dates
Dates are delicious plain as a snack. Various types can be found either fresh or dried in most supermarkets.
Drinks and smoothies are another favorite way to eat dates. Try a butternut cinnamon date smoothie, cacao, banana and avocado smoothie or peanut butter and jelly date smoothie. If you drink coffee, you could add dates to a coffee smoothie.
Dates make an excellent sweetener for healthier snacks, such as oat date bars, date and chia energy bites or raw vegan truffles.
You can also use them in savory dishes like salads, soups and casseroles. Try making Brussels sprout and date salad, cheese stuffed dates or rice with dates .