You might think of Medjool dates as nature's candy — after all, they're sweet and sticky like caramel and delicious. But it turns out, they also provide energy and contain many vitamins and minerals needed to maintain your overall health.
While parts of the world have enjoyed Medjool dates for thousands of years, they've recently become more widespread, so there's a good chance you'll find them — in both fresh and dried varieties — at your local grocery store.
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Read on to learn more about the nutrition content of Medjool dates, whether you should eat dates if you're tracking your sugar intake (for diabetes management or weight loss, for example) and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
Medjool dates are healthy: They're packed with complex carbohydrates and fiber, and they have more vitamins and minerals than many other fruits.
First, What Are Dates?
Dates are sweet, tropical stone fruits harvested from date palm trees, and they can be eaten fresh or dried.
Dates were first grown in Northern Africa and the Middle East and then brought to California by Spanish missionaries in the late 17th century, per the University of California.
Medjool dates, originally from Morocco, are one of the most popular date varieties, along with semisweet Deglet Noor dates, which are the type most likely to be eaten by Americans, per the USDA.
There are some variations among the Medjool dates grown in California, though it is unclear whether this is because of genetics or style of cultivation, per the University of California.
Dates are best stored in an airtight container, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Keep them in the fridge for up to six months or the freezer for up to a year.
The Nutrition Content of Dates
Dates are considered a high-energy (that is, calorie-dense) food due to their sugar content. Just one Medjool date has 66 calories per piece, with most of those calories coming from its 16 grams of sugar, per the USDA.
But they're more than a naturally sweet snack: A March 2012 review in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition praised dates for being a richer source of dietary nutrients than any other fruit.
Here is a breakdown of the nutrition content in a 2/5-cup serving of Medjool dates (about four pitted dates), per the USDA:
Nutrition Content of Medjool Dates
Dates are also full of fiber and free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. In fact, just a quarter-cup (about two dates) delivers 8 percent of your daily needed potassium, 6 percent of your daily magnesium and plenty of calcium, zinc, copper, iron and selenium.
The only thing to keep in mind, however, is that dates are calorie-dense. This makes them a great source of quick energy for things like a workout or hike, but they may not always be the first choice for people trying to hit a calorie deficit each day.
This is true of most dried fruits — they are packed with nutrients, but they might also be higher in calories and natural sugar.
Still, dates are a fat-free food, making them a good alternative to high-fat desserts when trying to limit your daily fat intake.
And while dates are not optimal for muscle building (as they contain little protein), they could be a good pre-workout snack.
Dates have a high sugar content, so they may not always be the best choice for people with diabetes or those trying to regulate their high blood sugar. If this is the case for you, aim to eat them in moderation. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about the amount of sugar you should eat daily.
Carbohydrate Content of Dates
Dates are packed with carbohydrates (75 grams per serving), making them a great energizing snack. So it's understandable that if you're following a low-carb diet, you may feel wary about eating them.
That said, dates also provide lots fiber, which, when combined with carbohydrates, can actually be a helpful addition to your weight-loss diet, per the American Academy of Family Physicians. Not only does fiber help you feel full (preventing you from overeating), it also helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Plus, it's not always helpful to completely cut carbs from your diet. Carbohydrates can provide your body's cells with the proper fuel they need to function optimally, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
And dates in particular can provide an alternative to ultra-processed foods (which have been linked to weight gain and other health concerns). They can also be a great food source for those trying to gain weight.
Vitamins in Dates
Besides the healthy fiber content, dates are filled with vitamins. In fact, they're a great source of vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid, per the USDA.
Eating just two dates provides you with 6 percent of the daily value for B6 and 4 percent of your daily value for niacin and pantothenic acid. Here's what they do:
- Vitamin B6 helps make neurotransmitters, hemoglobin and DNA, and it's been known to help improve your mood, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- Niacin is a B vitamin that's good for your nervous and digestive system, per the Mayo Clinic.
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is good for your metabolism and building/breaking down fatty acids, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Minerals in Dates
Medjool dates contain trace amounts of many different essential minerals, including potassium, manganese and cooper — accounting for about 8 to 10 percent of your daily value per serving, per the USDA. Here's what these minerals do:
- Potassium helps to regulate your electrolytes (to prevent dehydration), heart rate, blood pressure and nerve impulses, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Copper is used for the synthesis of connective tissues and helps maintain proper brain and red blood cell function, per Mount Sinai.
- Manganese plays a part in forming bones, blood clotting factors and sex hormones, regulating energy metabolism, calcium absorption and blood sugar level and maintaining brain and nerve function, per Mount Sinai.
Can You Lose Weight While Eating Dates?
Yes! You can absolutely incorporate these high-fiber, vitamin-packed fruits into your weight-loss diet plan. Fruit in general can and should be a crucial part of this plan.
In fact, an October 2016 review in Nutrients noted that although fruit contains simple sugars, fruit is typically successful in efforts to fight obesity, possibly due to the high fiber and phytochemical content. More studies need to be done, but the review emphasized that including more fruit in your diet is conducive to losing weight.
A March 2012 review in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition also noted that dates have a low glycemic index, meaning they produce gradual rises in blood sugar for a steady stream of energy. Plus, following a low-glycemic index diet could help you lose weight, per the Mayo Clinic.
Lastly, the minerals found in dates play an essential role in glucose metabolism, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes and help maintain weight, per a January 2021 review in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine.
All that said, dates are a calorie-dense food, so pay attention to portion size: Two to four Medjool dates is enough to reap the benefits of this fruit.
Other Health Benefits of Dates
Dates have been a staple for generations in Middle Eastern and African cuisines. Turns out, the sweet fruits are full of antioxidant phytochemicals, which can help protect the body against various diseases. In particular, as part of a healthy diet, dates may help guard against high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, per UCLA Health.
There are some claims that dates can help prevent and treat cancer, but there is not enough evidence to support these claims. More research needs to be done to determine whether dates can specifically ward off certain diseases.
How to Eat Dates
If you want to start incorporating dates into you diet, there are plenty of ways. Of course, dates can be enjoyed on their own, but you can also get creative with a few tips from the Produce for Better Health Foundation:
- Fill pitted dates with nut butter
- Add dates to smoothies
- Dice dates and add them to cereal or salad
- Put dates in wraps or sandwiches
- Add dates to trail mix
- Blend dates with a little milk to make a syrup alternative for pancakes
- Add dates to parfaits, ice cream sundaes and other desserts
And if you're in a pinch, pack a few whole dates in a baggie and enjoy while on a hiking trail, on the way to the gym or anywhere on-the-go.
Medjool dates can be a healthy, sweet addition to your diet, especially if you're looking for a carb-dense, energizing snack. The fruit has plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber to offer several health benefits.
If you're watching your sugar content, however, you may want to consider eating dates (and other high-sugar fruits) in moderation.
If you are unsure of the amount of sugar you can eat — due to diabetes, high blood sugar or another underlying illness — talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “Date Fruits (Phoenix dactylifera Linn): An Emerging Medicinal Food”
- International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine: “Therapeutic Effects of Date Fruits in the Prevention of Diseases”
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: “Dates”
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: “Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Dates”
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: “Why Is It Important to Eat Fruit?”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet”
- Nutrients: "Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity"
- USDA: "Medjool dates"
- USDA: "Dates To Remember ARS-Egypt study to preserve and cultivate prized date palm trees"
- Mayo Clinic: "Low-glycemic index diet: What's behind the claims?"
- Korean Journal of Family Medicine: "Fruit Intake to Prevent and Control Hypertension and Diabetes"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Top 7 Benefits of Vitamin B6"
- Mayo Clinic: "Niacin"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Pantothenic Acid — Vitamin B5"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Potassium"
- Mount Sinai: "Copper"
- Mount Sinai: "Manganese"
- UCLA Health: "What are phytochemicals? (And why should you eat more of them?)"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Carbohydrates"