Your food choices are the biggest determinant of your risk of heart disease. Ample consumption of unprocessed plant foods coupled with limited intake of refined, nutrient-deficient foods is a major key to heart protection. Three of the top risk factors for heart disease are obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Dates are a sweet and chewy fruit that are not only delicious but are also packed with nutrition that can benefit your heart.
Dates, along with other fruits and vegetables, are excellent sources of fiber. Fiber is heart-healthy because it helps lower blood cholesterol levels and stabilizes blood sugar. Fiber is also satiating so that you feel full longer. This can reduce overeating and help prevent unwanted weight gain. Most health experts recommend at least 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams for men. One pitted medjool date supplies approximately 1.6 grams of dietary fiber.
Dates contain several minerals, including potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper and zinc. One medjool date provides approximately 167mg of potassium, which is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Research indicates that diets high in sodium and low in potassium increase risk for cardiovascular disease. There are 15mg of calcium and 13mg of magnesium in one medjool date. These minerals work alongside potassium to regulate proper blood pressure levels.
There are several vitamins found in dates, including vitamin A, vitamin C and several B vitamins. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins that helps manage homocysteine, high levels of which are linked to heart disease. Niacin, another B vitamin, helps raise HDL, otherwise known as good cholesterol. Dates contain small amounts of these vitamins and, thus, they do contribute to your overall daily nutrient intake, but you also need to consume additional vitamin-rich foods for maximum heart protection.
Dates have antioxidants such as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. A review article in the June 2006 "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" on carotenoids and cardiovascular health points out that antioxidants, such as those found in dates, may help prevent cholesterol from oxidizing in the arteries. Research remains inconclusive regarding a definitive connection between specific plant compounds and heart health but it is agreed upon that an increase in fruits and vegetables in general can help prevent heart disease.