Benefits and side effects of Ajwa dates

Know in one minute about Ajwa dates

  • Ajwa dates are soft, dark red to dark brown in color with medicinal properties.
  • It has a prune-like texture and fine wrinkled lines.
  • This date is dry but soft and has a mild sweetness.
  • Ajwa date is an excellent source of dietary fibers, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and folic acid.
  • It manages diabetes and fights against cancer.
  • Improve gut health and promote good digestion.
  • Treat and prevent anemia, infections and improve fertility.
  • Reduce the chance of cesarean section and be healthy for pregnant women, lactating mothers, and babies.
  • Consumption of Ajwa dates reduces the risk of heart disease. 
  • Protect against tissue damage induced by many other toxins. 

Introduction

Ajwa dates (Phoenix dactylifera) are pleasant, fine-tasting fruit. It is also called “super date” and has good nutritional and medicinal properties. The fruit is dark red (half ripened) to dark brown (fully ripened or dried form) with an egg elongated shape and medium size. They are soft, dry, and have wrinkles and white lines in mature form. 

Ajwa date has religious, cultural, and social importance. “Hadith” and Islamic historical literature stated that eating these dates will cure many chronic diseases and ailments (1).  

This date has antioxidant, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-diabetic, antiinflammatory, anticancer, hypolipidemic, gastroprotective, cardioprotective, and hepatoprotective properties (2).

Geographical distribution

It is grown in the Holy city of Al Madinah, Al Munawara, and its neighboring areas in Saudi Arabia.

Nutritional value of Ajwa dates

Ajwa contains dietary fibers, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B3), and folic acid. It is a rich source of energy, sugar (77%), sucrose (0.5%), glucose (34.5%), and fructose (25.6%) (3). Also, it contains an ample amount of minerals (3%) like calcium (1.22 g/100 g dry matter) than other varieties of dates. Furthermore, phytochemicals such as sterols, flavonoids, glycosides, phytosterols, and polyphenols are found in these dates (4).

Benefits of Ajwa dates 

1. Anticancer properties

Antioxidants, flavonoids, and fiber present in Ajwa date inhibit the growth and production of cancer cells (5). Therefore, this date induces apoptosis and fights against cancer like colon, breast, prostate, and liver cancer (6).

2. Manage diabetes

Ingestion of Ajwa seed is an effective decrease in blood glucose level (7). Moreover, ajwa flesh contains fructose (39.06%) and fiber, which reduce blood glucose levels and manage diabetes (8).

3. Improve gut health

Ajwa date contains polyphenols and insoluble fibers that enhance colonic health and promote good digestion. Intake of these dates increases the growth of beneficial bacteria. It also inhibits the growth of pathogens and maintains bowel health (9).

4. Treat anemia

Iron and calcium found in Ajwa date increase blood formation and keep bone marrow healthy. Daily intake of Ajwa dates increases the hemoglobin level in growing age and replaces iron lost during menstruation (10).

5. Antimicrobial properties

Intake of Ajwa date fight against bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella flexneri, and Serratia marcescens, preventing infections (11).

6. Good for pregnant women

Preeclampsia is a syndrome characterized by the elevation of blood pressure that results in complications for maternal and fetal lives. Ajwa contains flavonoids that reduce blood pressure. Therefore, a daily intake of seven Ajwa dates can prevent heart disease and the development of preeclampsia (12).

7. Prevent cesarean section

Ajwa date contains enough calories that help pregnant women during labor, and prevent physical weakness in the last four weeks before labor and delivery. It also contains fatty acids that produce energy and hormones that accelerate the delivery progress, increase uterine contractions, and induce labor.  (13).

8. Good for mother and baby

Ajwa date is an excellent source of nutrients that enrich breast milk and is good for lactating women. Furthermore, daily intake of Ajwa protects against diseases and infections of mothers (14).

9. Keep the heart-healthy

Ajwa date contains anthocyanins, phenolics, sterols, carotenoids, flavonoids, and dietary fiber (15). These compounds enhance the good cholesterol level and antioxidant defense system while reducing the bad cholesterol level in the blood. Thus, the consumption of Ajwa reduces the risk of heart disease (16).

10. Treat drug toxicity

Diclofenac is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other diseases However, an overdose of this drug may affect the heart, liver, stomach, and lungs. Intake of Ajwa date reverses the damages and protects against tissue damage induced by many other toxins (17).

11. Improve fertility

Polyphenolic and flavonoid compounds present in the Ajwa date treats sexual impairment and male infertility. It prevents testicular damage and improves sperm count, sperm motility, and sperm morphology (18).

The side effect of Ajwa dates 

Ajwa date is an expensive fruit carrying three times the price of the next best variety. It is delicious, popular, and found to be safe in moderate amounts. Furthermore, it contains some anti-nutritional compounds such as oxalate, phytate, and tannin. These compounds in large doses may affect the liver, kidney, and other serious hazards (19).

Hence, Ajwa date is considered to be safe in moderate amounts in the regular diet without any hazards (20).

Difference between Ajwa and Medjool and Barhi

All varieties of dates are varying in size and physical appearance. They also differ in aroma, taste, and biochemical properties (21).

Ajwa

Medjool

Barhi

Origin Saudi Arabia Morocco Iraq
Size Medium to small-sized. Large to very large. Small to medium round fruit
Ripening Early Early Medium-Late
Color Dark brown to almost black color Amber to reddish-brown Amber to golden   brown color
Shape Ovoid elongated Oblong-oval to ovate Broadly ovate to rounded
Skin Thick flexible wrinkles Slightly soft wrinkly skin, sticky to touch Soft very fragile
Flesh Juicy flesh with a meaty and chewy texture Moderately soft, white flesh and fibrous texture Crunchy in yellow form. Soft, creamy, and translucent when they are brown.
Flavors Not too sweet like cinnamon and feels smooth in the mouth. Mildly sweet caramel-like taste Rich and delicate

Very similar to caramel, brown sugar, butterscotch, or syrup.

Price Most expensive Expensive Less expensive
Use Fresh, dried, and preserved form  Eaten fresh and dried form Fresh form
Shelf life Long shelf life   12-15 days at room temperature This type of date is best eaten fresh and it spoils very quickly (22).

Q&A

1. What is the difference between Ajwa dates and other dates?

  • Ajwa dates are the smallest, shortest in length, and darkest colored dates than other varieties (23).
  • These dates are the richest source of energy, sugar, dietary minerals, and polyphenols. These compounds show the highest antioxidant activity among all other date varieties (1).
  • It suppresses inflammation, and lipid peroxidation and prevents cell damage (17).
  • This date also improves good bacteria in stomach and cancer therapeutics. Thus, reducing side effects caused by conventional chemotherapy (9)

2. What are the best dates in the world?

There are various important date varieties grown around the world. Some varieties like Ajwah, Anbara, and Hayany Deglet Noor, Dayri Halawi,  Khadrawy, Khlas, Medjool, Rotab, Rotbin, Sukkari, Safawi, Zahidi and many more (24).

1. Ajwa or super date- Ajwa dates are a combination of the dry and soft variety, and mildly sweet. It has a prune-like texture and is black with very fine wrinkled lines. 

2. Medjool or queen of dates – Medjool dates are fleshy, soft, large, and sweet with an attractive appearance, consumed soft or dry. 

3. Deglet Noor or Date of the light- Deglet Noor is the more popular date that turns from amber to deep brown. It is a delicate and distinctive semi-dry date with soft, reddish-white pulp and a medium level of fiber (25)

4. Barhi Barhi is small, sweet, soft, and the most fragile of dates. It has a caramel and brown sugar taste, crunchy and smooth in texture with an amber to golden brown color. This date is best to consume fresh due to its firm flesh (26).

5. Sukkari- These are crispy in texture and sweet like caramel in taste. Sukkari dates are golden, soft, and can be consumed fresh as well as in dry form.

6. Safawi- Safawi is semi-dry, has a soft texture, and has black color dates. 

7. Zahidi- Zahidi is oval-shaped, semi-dry, has yellow to brown dates, and has a firm texture.  It has meaty flesh with a nutty and buttery taste. This date is medium-sized and sweet, with thick glossy skin as well as smooth consistency.

8. Khudri- Khudri has dark brown wrinkled skin with a dry & sweet taste.

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