Origin of Fruit Dates
Everyone has seen the fleshy, golden-brown, sticky fruit in the grocery stores, but few know much about them. Date fruit, or simply dates, grow on date palm trees that are believed to originated in the lands that bordered the Nile and Euphrates Rivers of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ancient Egyptians had cultivated dates since 6000BC and had even used the fruit to make wine. Dates had been one of the most important staple foods for many of the people in the Middle East and in the Indus Valley for over a thousand years. Even today the biggest contributors to the date fruit supply are Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. There are a huge variety of fruit dates, and their classification depends on the type of tree the fruit came from as well as how much glucose, fructose, and sucrose that the fruit contains. Dates didn’t find their way into North America until 1765 when the Spaniards made their voyage across the ocean and since its arrival, dates have become a very popular ingredient.
Health Benefits of Fruit Dates
Modern date palm trees are grown primarily in warmer clients for its edible fruit. The date palm trees only bear fruit after it has aged 4-8 years and can then produce 68-176kg of date fruit per harvest. Not all date fruit ripen at the same rate and so the fruit can be harvested on several different occasions, to protect the remaining fruit they are covered. The date fruit is considered a drupe since they contain a single pit or seed. The fruit is usually 3-7cm long and 2-3cm in diameter with the colour of its flesh ranging from golden- yellow to amber to a deep rich brown. The tasty fruit is enjoyed in many forms, soft, semi-dry, and dry. It is enjoyed as is, in baked goods, and a variety of other forms. The high sugar content is usually why most people indulge in date fruits, but there are many health benefits that are contained within the golden brown fruit. There are quite a few vital nutrients that can be found in dates, including fibre, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. In a single 100g serving of date fruit, it can supply a person with 6.7g of fibre, 696mg of potassium, 0.3mg of manganese, and 54mg of magnesium, but it will also contain 66.5g of sugar. Since there is a high sugar content it can be used in baking without having to add a lot of additional sugar, but it also means that when consuming dates other sugars should be monitored.
Not only do date fruits contain nutrients they also have numerous health benefits that make them a powerhouse in health food especially since they are both tasty and nutritious. On top of the minerals and vitamins that are contained in dates also contain the health benefiting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidant, which is more commonly called tannin. Tannins possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-haemorrhagic properties. The insoluble and soluble fibres that are found in the date fruits not only promote digestive health and relieving constipation they also play a part in boosting the health of the heart. The levels of magnesium in the fruit can act as an anti-inflammatory, in addition to the tannin’s, that has many health benefits that include reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some other related health issues. Magnesium even has the added ability to reduce blood pressure on top of its anti-inflammatory benefits. Date fruits also contain 0.2mg of vitamin B (in a 100g serving), which is proven to improve brain performance. There are a variety of other benefits to the fruit dates, which include: weight loss or gain, promoting respiratory and digestive health, reducing colitis risk, and increasing sexual stamina. The combination of vitamin K, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin that are found in date fruits are able to help the body to metabolise carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Dates also contain a rather abundant amount of iron, about 0.9mg for a 100g serving, this makes it an ideal snack for people suffering from anaemia, and it results in an increase both their energy level and strength. Studies have even shown that the organic sulphur, which is rare to find in food, that is found in date fruits can reduce the symptoms, and therefore the suffering, of seasonal allergy. Since the date fruit is a high-calorie fruit, containing about 277/100g serving with only 1 calorie coming from fat, it is the best ingredient to aid in muscle development. In the Muslim culture after their fasting has ended the first thing they eat is dates and water since they are high in nutrition and calories, they have the ability to pacify the feeling of hunger without eating a lot. Date fruits are also becoming a popular ingredient in energy and protein bars. There is no denying the health benefits of these incredible fruits.
Uses of Fruit Dates
The uses of the date fruit are actually rather extensive since they can be eaten in many different forms. In some areas of the Middle East uses a syrup derived from dates in which to marinate their meat in, and they also create a vinegar from the fruit. There are also a variety of cultures around the world that make alcohol from both the date fruits, as well as the sap from the tree. They can be stuffed with a variety of things like almonds, marzipan, cream cheese, and even candied lemon or orange peels. Many date gardens claim their second best seller behind selling dates is heir date rolls. Usually rolled with almond or coconut as well as many other combinations. Dates are not limited to sweet dishes; they can also be applied to some more savoury dishes like stews and salads. Since the fruit is so sticky it works great as an adhesive agent when making raw baking. For an extra treat, dates can be soaked in tea or a variety of alcohol to boost flavour and moisture. A more modern use of the date fruit is in health/protein smoothies since it is an incredible source of vitamins and minerals it adds a lot of impact to the smoothy, both in flavour and nutrition. The best part about the date fruit is that it is available all year round with the best time to purchase fresh dates being in November thru January. These tiny little nutrition bombs can be kept for up to one year in an airtight container in a refrigerator. There are so many different recipes available for dates that there is no limit to the uses this super fruit has. It is also an essential item for vegetarians, vegans, and even people on the paleo diet, as it is packed with a ton of essential vitamins and minerals. This should be an item that everyone has stocked in their homes if they are looking for a healthy, and delicious snack that even kids would like.