Dates (Phoenix dactylifera L.): Health benefits and Side effects

Dates benefits

Edited By Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati
Dates are sugary delicious fruits of date palm scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera L. It is a fruit with many health-improving properties around the world for many centuries. The date fruit is native of arid and semi-arid regions in the World. The popularity of date fruits can be estimated by its wide varieties available in the market like Medjool, Amir Hajj, Saidy, Khadrawy, and Deglet Noor.
Based on their texture, three main types of date fruits are soft, semi-dry and dry. It is also classified into four stages. ‘Kimiri’ stage, ‘Khalal’ stage, ‘Rutab’ stage and ‘Tamer’ stage. The tamer stage is the final stage of maturation when the date has dried to a fairly firm consistency, less moisture with a darker golden color and increase aroma. Date palm fruits possess high nutritional and therapeutic value with significant antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-proliferative properties. Various date fruit-based products are available in the market such as date syrup, date paste, date juice (1).

Nutritional value of dates

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the consumption of 100 g of dates can provide a high amount of energy, dietary fiber, vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium and other components as follows (2).

Compound Amounts per 100 g
Water 21.32 g
Energy 277 kcal
Protein 1.81 g
Total lipid ( Fat)s 0.15 g
Carbohydrates 74.97 g
Dietary Fiber 6.7 g
Sugar 66.47 g
Minerals
Calcium 64 mg
Iron 0.90 mg
Magnesium 54 mg
Phosphorous 62 mg
Potassium 696 mg
Sodium 1 mg
Zinc 0.44 mg
Vitamins
Folates 15 µg
Niacin 1.61 mg
Riboflavin 0.06 mg
Thiamin 0.05 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.24 mg
Vitamin A 149 IU
Vitamin C 0 mg
Vitamin K 2.7 µg

Health benefits of dates

1. Dates are rich in nutrients

The flesh and seeds of dates contain low fat and protein but rich in nutrients such as sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, dietary fibers, selenium, copper, potassium, and magnesium content. It also contains vitamin B complex. Research shows that intake of 100 g of dates provides over 15% of essential minerals (3).

2. Manage diabetes

Dates have a low glycemic index, contain dietary fiber and antioxidants which regulate blood sugar level, therefore, consumption of 7-10 dates (max.) by the diabetic patient without the risk of postprandial glucose excursions (4).

3. Eating dates helps in keeping colon healthy

Dates are rich in dietary fiber and polyphenols, therefore, may enhance colon health by increasing beneficial bacterial growth. Further, produce short-chain fatty acid and inhibiting the proliferation of colon cancer cells (5). Thus consumption of dates acts as antiproliferative agents for cancer cells development and enhances colonic health (6).

4. Dates are rich in antioxidants hence protects organ damage

Dates contain high amounts of polyphenolic compounds such as caffeic, ferulic, protocatechuic, catechin, gallic, p-coumaric, resorcinol, chlorogenic and syringic acids. Moreover, it also contains flavonoids like luteolin, quercetin, and apigenin which are helpful in neutralizing free radicals and protecting organs from damage (7).

5. Dates help in keeping heart healthy

Phenolic and flavonoids compounds in dates reduce necrosis, edema. It also restored the cardiomyocytes architecture and preserved cardiac muscle fiber morphology. Therefore eating dates reduces the risk of ischemic heart disease and promote tissue repair by ischemic injury (8).

6. Dates lower the cholesterol level

Anti-atherogenic compounds in dates like flavonol, polyphenol, unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin C and vitamin E helps in reducing total cholesterol (TC) and LDL. It also helps in increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level called good cholesterol (9).

7. Reduces Hypertension

Presence of high potassium and low sodium contents of dates may be helpful in lowering blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke in people with hypertension (10).

8. Eating dates helps in having natural labor in pregnant women

Consumption of dates during pregnancy is not only useful for nutritional requirement but also beneficial for decreasing labor time. It helps in promote cervical dilatation and reduce the need of prostin/oxytocin (labor induce drug). Because dates are a good source of calories which save energy and treat fatigue and hunger (11). Furthermore, it also contains tannin which helps in facilitates contractions of smooth muscles of the cervix (12).

9. Dates are a must for healthy brain

Dates contain phenolic acid which protects against inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. It also contains natural antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ferulic acid, protocatechuic acid and caffeic acid which protect neurons from Aβ-induced toxicity and decrease stress-induced depression-like behavior by promoting neural progenitor cell proliferation (13).
Therefore, intake of dates in diet can act as a neuroprotective agent and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (14).

10. Anti-cancer properties of Dates

β-glucans and polyphenol found in dates may be helpful in inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis. Thus consumption of dates possess anti tumor properties against different cancer cells and reduce cell damage (15).

11. Eating dates cure constipation

A research study suggested that dates contain the accurate amount of minerals and sugars, especially potassium and reduced sugars which is important to cure constipation disorders and intestinal transit.
Furthermore, dates are also rich in dietary fibers especially insoluble fibers which accelerate gastrointestinal transit (GIT) activity and reducing the risk of constipation. Hence consumption of dates pulp and palm sap may be very beneficial for the treatment of digestive system disorders as constipation (16).

12. Dates are directly proportional to a healthy liver

Important flavonoids such as luteolin, apigenin, quercetin and proanthocyanidins as well as β-sitosterol, vitamins and polyphenolic compounds found in dates are used for adjuvant therapy for liver damage. Therefore, intake of date may be helpful for hepatoprotective activity (17).

13. Pollen of Date palm improves fertility

A research study suggested that date palm pollen acts as a fertility agent because it contains steroids, flavonoids, saponins, and lipid which may enhance sexual behavior and sperm quality. Moreover, consumption of date palm pollen also increases the concentrations of testosterone and estradiol. Thus, dates improve fertility parameter like sperm count and motility, LH, testosterone and estradiol levels, the diameter of seminiferous tubules (18).

14. Healthy glowing teeth

Presence of elemental fluorine in dates is beneficial for protecting teeth against decay. Thus dates may be considered as a beneficial food, providing important nutrients and potential health benefits (19).

The side effect of Dates

1. Hereditary fructose intolerance

Dates are a rich source of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, sugar and carbohydrates (CHOs), which are required for improvement of health.
However, sometimes intake of too many dates cause hypoglycemia also called hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) with symptoms like bloating, nausea, sleepiness, sweating, and shivering. Therefore if you face these problems you should avoid consumption of dates, may lead to disastrous complications and even death (20).

2. Risk of contamination

Although dates pose tremendous nutritional values, it also contains a high amount of moisture which leads to bacterial growth. Not only this the dried dates gets affected by molds. Therefore, proper precautions like only buy well processed and packaged dates and wash with food grade sanitizers before consumption is needed (21).

3. Risk of Human Nipah virus (NiV) infection

Date palm sap is fed by humans because of its nutritional value but it also a source of Human Nipah virus (NiV) infection which is transmitted by Pteropus bats. Bats lick the sap stream that flows from the shaved part of the tree to the collection pot. Infected people show symptoms milder illness like diarrhea, vomiting or indigestion. Thus, we should take precautions like reducing consumption of fresh date palm sap and prevent bat access to the sap during collection (22).

Healthy Recipes of Dates

1. Date yogurt Pomace

Date palm powder fibrous yogurt was consumed because not only does it contain a good source of dietary fiber, phenolic, and antioxidant activity but also can be used as a functional food. It is more liked by children because of its delicious taste and vibrant color.

Method

  1. Seed removed dates blend with yogurt and almonds (soaked overnight)
  2. Garnish with honey and dry fruits (as per choice).
  3. Serve fresh or refrigerated for 15 min. and served chilled.

2. Dates shake

Overnight soaked dates with little water blend in a blender until smooth consistency and drink in the morning may relieve from constipation. You can also add milk and drink at night but before consumption consults your doctor first.

3. Date salad

Seed removed dates can be consumed as a salad with carrots, lemon juice, lettuce, and salt and consume freshly.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23553505
  2. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/09421
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22214443
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3112406/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26101614
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473134/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26225946
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5591459/
  9. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/172/1/012046/pdf
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658365514000703#bib0110
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21280989
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23587027
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4484046/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4994443/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691153/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4098977/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4994443/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248157/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12850886
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859097/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6136486/
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK114490/

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