Medjool dates are popular all over the world thanks to their sweet flavor, soft texture, and impressive size. But do you know that these caramel-colored fruits provide an impressive list of health benefits as well.
Medjool dates lower cholesterol, and blood pressure, increase metabolism and improve bone mineral density. These sweet and delicious fruits contain calcium, iron, sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Read on to learn more about Medjool dates and their health benefits.
What are Medjool dates?
Medjool dates are the fruits of the Medjool cultivar of the date palm tree, scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera (1). Date palm is one of the most important food crops of the arid regions of the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East. Medjool date is also one of the most commercially produced varieties in the US.
The name of date palm – Phoenix dactylifera comes from the Greek word ‘Phoenix’ which means purple or red and ‘dactylifera’ which refers to the finger-like appearance of a bunch of dates.
The date palm is dioecious, which means it has separate male and female trees. You can consume Medjool dates, both fresh and dried. Drying them increase their life span and prevents spoilage. A dried date may appear wrinkled on the outside, but it is moist and meaty on the inside. These dates have dark brown skin and have a caramel-like flavor.
History of Medjool dates
Dates are the world’s oldest cultivated fruit. It is believed to have originated in what it is now Iraq. People have been growing them for at least 6,000 years. The date palm was referred to as the tree of life by the ancient cultures. Dates were a staple food in the Middle East and the Indus valley for thousands of years.
Medjool dates originated in the Bou Denib oasis in Saharan Morocco. These palms were imported to the US in 1927. Now California is a major producer of dates in the US. The Medjool date palms are also grown in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas.
The nutritional profile of Medjool dates
Medjool dates are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It is also a good source of sugar, fiber, and energy. Many people use dates as an instant source of energy and nutrition. One 100-gram serving of Medjool dates contains (2) –
- Calories: 66
- Sugar: 15.95 grams
- Fiber: 6.7 grams (26.8 % DV)
- Potassium: 696 mg (19.9 % DV)
- Magnesium: 54 mg (13.5 % DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.25 mg (12.5 % DV)
- Niacin: 1.61 mg (8 % DV)
- Calcium: 64 mg (6.4 % DV)
- Phosphorus: 62 mg (6.2 % DV)
- Riboflavin: .06 mg (3.5 % DV)
- Vitamin K: 2.7µg (3.4 % DV)
- Vitamin A: 149 IU (3 % DV)
Health benefits of Medjool dates
1. Improves digestive health
Medjool dates are a rich source of fiber. A 100-gram serving of dates contains 6.7 grams of fiber. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it to move faster through the intestines.
During a 2015 study from the UK, 22 people ate seven dates per day for 21 days. They showed significant increases in bowel movements and stool frequency and significant reductions in stool ammonia concentrations (3).
2. Reduces cholesterol levels
The high fiber content of dates can lower LDL cholesterol levels in the body. LDL cholesterol is a major contributing factor to heart disease and stroke.
When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can cause plaque deposits on the artery walls, which blocks the flow of blood to other organs.
Dates also possess antiatherogenic properties, which means they can reduce the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries.
According to a study from Israel, Medjool dates contain phenolics like hydroxybenzoates, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonols. Their extracts inhibited LDL oxidation and stimulate cholesterol removal from macrophages (4).
3. Improves brain health
Dates are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which is required for the proper production of neurotransmitters like GABA, dopamine, and serotonin.
Dates also help reduce inflammation in the brain. Inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 are associated with a high risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (5).
Dates also help reduce the activity of amyloid beta proteins which form plaques in the brain. Plaque accumulation in the brain can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a 2015 study, a diet rich in dates improves memory, learning, and reduces beta-amyloid in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (6).
4. Boosts energy
Medjool dates are rich in carbohydrates. They contain simple sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose, which are quickly processed and used by the body as energy.
This makes dates an excellent snack when you need an extra source of energy. You can also use them as a pre-workout snack.
5. Substitute for sweets
The sweet caramel-like taste makes dates a healthy substitute for unhealthy white sugar. You can eat it directly as a snack or use it in recipes as a substitute for sugar. Since it contains antioxidants and fiber, it also adds to the nutrient content of the dish.
To make a paste of dates, mix dates, and water in a blender. For one spoon of sugar, you can substitute one spoon of paste.
6. Reduces triglyceride levels
Medjool dates can reduce triglyceride levels in the blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. When there is a high level of triglycerides in the blood, it increases the risk of heart disease.
According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, when ten healthy subjects ate 100 grams of dates per day for four weeks, it reduced their blood triglyceride levels by eight percent (7).
7. Promotes natural labor
Dates also help promote late-term labor in pregnant women. They promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labor. They also help reduce labor time.
According to a 2017 study from Iran, consuming dates in late pregnancy is effective in decreasing the length of labor processes and reduce the need for oxytocin in labor acceleration (8).
Another study from the Jordan Institute of Science and Technology, 69 women consumed six dates per day for 4 weeks before their due date.
The researchers found that these women were 20 percent more likely to go into labor naturally than those women who did not consume dates (9).
8. Boosts bone health
Medjool dates contain nutrients that strengthen bones and fight painful conditions like osteoporosis. Dates are rich in calcium and phosphorus, which help build strong teeth and bones. Almost 85 percent of the body’s phosphorus is in bones and teeth.
Phosphorus also helps in the growth and repair of tissues and cells and for the production of DNA and RNA. Calcium is also needed by the body to keep the heart, nerves, muscles, and other body systems working properly.
So, eating Medjool dates daily is an effective method to keep the bones healthy.
Ways to use Medjool dates
You can find both fresh and dried Medjool dates at your local grocery store. They come with their pit inside them, but these pits are easy to remove.
- Eat them directly like a snack.
- Use pureed Medjoolcookies to make healthy cookies and cakes.
- Combine them with dried fruit in a food processor and turn them into energy bars.
- Add dates to smoothies to increase their nutrition content.
- You can also add them to curries and salads.
- You can also freeze leftover dates and use them later. They do not lose their texture.
Side effects of Medjool dates
Though dates are healthy and high in nutrition, having too much can lead to some side effects. The high fiber and calories content can cause weight gain and digestive issues.
Dates get their sweetness from their high fructose content. Some people find it challenging to digest fructose. When fructose passes through the digestive system without breaking down, it can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Medjool dates have high sugar content because of which they are considered high glycemic index foods. Overconsumption of high GI foods can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Some people may also experience an allergy to Medjool dates. The symptoms of this allergy include runny nose, watery eyes, runny nose, and redness in the face.
Medjool dates originated in the remote Bou Denib oasis in Saharan Morocco. This one seeded oblong fruit is high in nutrition and provides a variety of health benefits.
These dates, which can be consumed both fresh and dried, improve digestive health, boosts brain health, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, promote natural labor, and boost bone health.
Dates are an excellent substitute for regular sugar and can be incorporated in various dishes like cakes, curries, and even smoothies.
However, you must not overeat dates as they can lead to some side effects. Their high fructose content can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain in some people.
Some people can develop an allergic reaction to dates. The high GI content of these foods can also lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.