Date fruits, also called date palms because they are the fruit of the palm tree, come in a range of colors, from golden brown to black. Medjool is the most common variety of black dates. This type is prized for its rich taste, large size and velvety black-brown color. Sold dried, black dates can be eaten as is or can be made into syrups or used as an addition to salads and other dishes. Their rich antioxidant and nutritional content makes them a healthy addition to a diet.
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Fruit Intake and Fiber
Dates can help you meet your recommended intake for fruit per day, which is 1 1/2 to 2 cups per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A single serving of the dried variety, or 1/2 cup, is approximately five dates. While dates are high in calories, at 332 per 1/2-cup serving, they are also rich in fiber, with 8 grams per serving. Fiber reduces your chances of constipation and diarrhea and can help you feel fuller for longer. Most Americans do not consume the 20 to 35 grams recommended. A single serving of dates can provide you with 23 percent to 40 percent of the recommendation.
Dates are naturally rich in antioxidants, containing anthocyanins, carotenoids and phenols, although the amounts depend on the variety of date. But all dates, both fresh and dried, are rich in antioxidants according to a study published in a 2005 issue of the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." The same study also found that fresh dates had a higher antioxidant content than dried dates. Antioxidants protect your body's cells from damage caused by exposure to toxins and free radicals.
Rich in Potassium
A 1/2-cup serving of dried dates has 835 milligrams of potassium, which provides almost 18 percent of the recommended dietary intake of the mineral per day. Potassium is an essential nutrient that aids your body in the consumption of carbohydrates, as well as the creation of proteins and muscles. It is also needed for healthy body development, and it maintains regular electrical activity in your heart. According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps relax your blood vessels and can encourage the release of excess sodium from your system, helping to keep your body's sodium levels in check.
Rich in Niacin
A 1/2-cup serving of dried dates has 1.9 milligrams of niacin, or 10.5 percent to 13.6 percent of the recommended dietary allowance. Niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, is an essential nutrient and, as a member of the B vitamin group, aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, which provides energy for your body. It also helps to keep your hair, skin, eyes, liver and nervous system healthy. In addition, niacin is used to make certain hormones in your body and is necessary for blood circulation.
- Joy of Cooking; Irma S. Rombauer et al.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Dates, Medjool
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts as a Cup of Fruit?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Fruit Is Needed Daily?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Comparison of Antioxidant Activity, Anthocyanins, Carotenoids, and Phenolics of Three Native Fresh and Sun-Dried Date (Phoenix Dactylifera L.) Varieties Grown in Oman
- Institute of Food Technologies: What Are Antioxidants?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- American Heart Association: Striking a Balance - Less Sodium (Salt), More Potassium