Health benefits of Dates

Long before we started to read about the health benefits of datesPhoenix dactylifera (the palm tree), was extensively cultivated in many countries and used as a staple food for thousands of years. In some countries as Egypt, dates have been of great economic and social importance to the people [9], being the most abundant crop in the United Arab Emirates [10].

There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation  inMehrgarh, a Neolithic civilization in western Pakistan,around 7000 BCE, as well as in eastern Arabia in 6000 BCE [6,7], having found further evidence of its cultivation throughout later civilizations in South Asia, as for example in the Harappan period extending from 2600 to 1900 BCE [6,8]. Palm fruit lipids were detected in vessels from the Nubian site of Qasr Ibrim, being the first direct evidence of the exploitation of palm fruit in antiquity and the use of pottery vessels in its processing [9]. Image left: GENESIS 1-11 – Fruit (Dates) by zeeweez under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).

In spite it wasn’t clearly known at that time what the  the nutritional and functional constituents of dates were, many populations, specially in the Middle East, knew dates were their main and most dominant source of nutrients, forming the basis of their tradional diet. Let’s have a look at some of the health benefits of dates.


Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Phoenix
Common name: Palm tree, date.

Before we continue, it is worth mentioning that in spite dates have many health benefits they are not the only product used from date palm. Date palm wood is used as fuel and construction material by some regional tribes, where it is highly appreciated.

Dates contain a high percentage of carbohydrate (total sugars, 44-88%), fat (0.2-0.5%), 15 salts and mineralsprotein (2.3-5.6%),vitamins and a high percentage of dietary fibre(6.4-11.5%) [12].


Among the several alleged health benefits of dates we can mentioned the most important ones and the scientific evidence supporting them as follows:


datesIn folk medicine dates have been traditionally recommended as a natural remedy for constipation. Other dried fruits as figs, raisins, apricots share with dates this quality as natural remedy for constipation.

Among some of the scientific and medical evidence supporting these claims we can mention some medical studies done on the nutritional and functional properties of dates, where it was found that dates are high in dietary fiber (8.0 g/100 g), being insoluble dietary fiber the major fraction of dietary fiber in dates [2]. Image left: Dates by Aleksandar Cocek under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0).


Dates are also a rich source of potassium [2], a mineral that is often lost during diarrhea. Some sitesabout cancer recommend the intake of  fruit juices, sports drinks, potatoes without the skin and some other sources of potassium as a way to ease the recovery process that involves suffering from this ailment.


Due to the high content of sugars present in dates, they are believed to be a good source of calories for those needing to gain weight. Of course this seems not to be a priority nowadays in western countries but still many underdeveloped countries can use dates as a primary source of energy and staple food and to fight starvation.


Dates are a rich source of natural antioxidants. As we know antioxidants are fighting naturally free radicals, the main reason for most of the 21st century illnesses as cancer, accelerated ageing…etc. A diet rich in antioxidants prevents or at least delays the occurrence of those illnesses and can, therefore, help to delay ageing.


Dates are a rich source of vitamins, among those vitamins found in dates the most important group is the group of B vitamins. B vitamins are known to help you keep a healthy skin, hair and muscle tone [11] and therefore dates are a natural way to achieve this.


Among the different compounds and active constituents found in dates we can mention:

  • Thirteen flavonoid glycosides of luteolin, quercetin, and apigenin, 19 when considering isomeric forms, were also identified. apigenin is present as only the diglycoside. Quercetin and luteolin formed primarily O-glycosidic linkages whereas apigenin is present as the C-glycoside [4].
  • A significant amount of antioxidants and carotenoids was lost after sun-drying of dates, whereas the total content of phenolics and free and bound phenolic acids increased significantly (p < 0.05). Anthocyanins were detected only in fresh dates [5].
  • Dates contain also certain macro-elements as calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium and magnesium, and some essential micro-elements as iron, zinc, copper, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, lead, strontium and vanadium [1].


But dates are not only a rich source of energy, they also provide important minerals to our diets. Among the minerals found on dates we can mention seleniumcopperpotassium, and magnesium as the top ones, being the consumption of 100 grams enough to provide up to 15% of the daily recommended allowance from these minerals [2].


Several vitamins are found in dates. Among the most important vitamins found in dates we can mention the B-complex vitamins and C vitamins [2].


Dates are low in proteins. Proteins in dates are mainly found in date flesh, which is known to be low in fat and protein but rich in sugars, from which  fructose and glucose are the main ones. Date seeds contain higher protein (5.1 g/100 g) and fat (9.0 g/100 g) as compared to the flesh [2].


As you may already know, dates are a rich source of energy, providing up to 314 Kcal per 100 grams of date flesh [2].


Some of the archaeological evidence gathered during recent times

date palmshows how ancient cultures made already used of dates in the past. Some of these archeological evidence includes date seeds, preserved until nowadays in good conditions to even be able to germinate.

Date seeds are extremely resistant to time. Ancient date seeds excavated from Masada and radiocarbon-dated to the first century Common Era were germinated after 26 months of seedling propagation, something that didn’t differ from normal date seedlings [3], showing how resistant date seeds can be to the past of time.

The above-mentioned seeds produced a different genetic variation of date palm in comparison to modern, elite date cultivars currently growing in Israel [3].  Image right: Date palm tree by Dennis Jarvisunder Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0).


[1] Nutritional quality of 18 date fruit varieties.
Habib HM, Ibrahim WH.
Department of Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Food and Agriculture, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.
[2] Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review.
Al-Farsi MA, Lee CY.
Department of Food Science and Technology, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456, USA.
[3] Germination, genetics, and growth of an ancient date seed.
Sallon S, Solowey E, Cohen Y, Korchinsky R, Egli M, Woodhatch I, Simchoni O, Kislev M.
Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center, Hadassah Medical Organization, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.
[4] The flavonoid glycosides and procyanidin composition of Deglet Noor dates (Phoenix dactylifera).
Hong YJ, Tomas-Barberan FA, Kader AA, Mitchell AE.
Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616, USA.
[5] Comparison of antioxidant activity, anthocyanins, carotenoids, and phenolics of three native fresh and sun-dried date (Phoenix dactylifera L.) varieties grown in Oman.
Al-Farsi M, Alasalvar C, Morris A, Baron M, Shahidi F.
Plant Research Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Al-Khoud, Muscat, Oman.
[6] Wikipedia article on Phoenix dactylifera
[7] Alvarez-Mon 2006
[8] Kenoyer 2005
[9] Detection of palm fruit lipids in archaeological pottery from Qasr Ibrim, Egyptian Nubia.
Copley MS, Rose PJ, Clapham A, Edwards DN, Horton MC, Evershed RP.
School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock’s Close, UK.
[10] Aerobiological studies and low allerginicity of date-palm pollen in the UAE.
Almehdi AM, Maraqa M, Abdulkhalik S.
United Arab Emirates University, Department of Chemistry, College of Science, Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates.
[11] Wikipedia article on B vitamins.
[12] The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future?
Al-Shahib W, Marshall RJ.
London Metropolitan University, Department of Health & Human Sciences, London, UK.


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