Dates – fruit of life
Dates have been a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years; the wood of the date palm also provides an important source of building material, while leaves and fronds are used to make baskets, ropes and medicines – a remarkable variety of uses which has led to the date palm’s popular description as the “tree of life”.
The date palm is one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world. They are believed to have been grown since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 BC – one of the first human efforts at systematic agricultural cultivation. The date palm is mentioned in both the Bible and the Qur’an. Mohammed urged his followers to “cherish your father’s sister, the palm tree”, and Muslims still traditionally break their Ramadan fast each night by eating a date.
Dates also underpinned the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Omani interior, providing a small, light, concentrated and long-lasting source of nutrition which was perfectly adapted for the Bedu’s itinerant lifestyle. Dates are something of a self-contained nutritional super-fruit, and an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Their high sugar content (40–80 percent) also protects them against bacterial contamination and makes them extremely durable – dried dates can last for years. They can also be pressed for their juice, used to make wine, syrup and vinegar; in earlier times, boiling date syrup was used as an offensive weapon poured onto attackers below fort walls.
According to a traditional saying, the date palm “needs its feet in water and its head in fire”, a combination provided in Oman by intensive falaj irrigation and the country’s burning summer temperatures. Date palms grow rapidly, up to 40cm per year, reaching heights of up to around 30m. Trees can live for around 150 years, producing over 100kg of dates annually. Over forty varieties of date are grown in Oman, with over 150,000 tonnes of fruit produced annually – easily the largest crop in the country, and, until the discovery of oil, far and away the most economically important.
Dates take around seven months to mature. Unripe dates range in colour from green through to red or yellow, becoming darker and sweeter as they ripen. There are hundreds of different varieties, ranging widely in size and colour — the best are highly prized by local connoisseurs, much as fine wines are in France. There are three basic types: soft (such as the popular Medjool variety), semi-dry (such as Deglet Noor) and dry. Only the female date palm produces fruit, however. In the wild, trees are entirely wind-pollinated, and yield little fruit. Cultivated date palms are pollinated by hand, with flowers from male date palms being sold in local souks and then strategically placed in the branches of female trees (although wind machines to blow pollen onto the female flowers are also sometimes used). Most fruits are harvested between August and December. In many places, dates are still handpicked, although mechanical shakers may be used in larger plantations.
Wonderfully delicious, dates are one of the most popular fruits with an impressive list of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, required for normal growth, development and overall well-being. Dates are fruits that have a sweet taste and are good for your health.
All of these confer huge health benefits upon this fruit:
• Diabetes Control
• Liver, kidney Protection
• Constipation Treatment
• Cardiovascular Health
• Antibiotic Properties
• Gastric Protection
• Vegetarian Protein Source
More investigations in these areas would validate its beneficial effects, mechanisms of actions, and fully appreciate as a potential medicinal food for humans all around the world.
Health benefits of eating dates
The laxative property of dates is made use in treating constipation. Soak dates in water overnight and then have the soaked dates in the morning. This helps you to prevent constipation.
Presence of minerals like selenium, magnesium, copper and manganese in dates make them good for the proper development of bones and for healthy bones, especially when one gets old. Dates are beneficial in treating osteoporosis and other bone problems.
The nicotine present in dates cures may intestinal problems. By consuming dates daily, you can decrease the growth of pathological organisms and increase the growth of bacteria that are good for the proper functioning of the intestine. Dates contain soluble as well as insoluble fibers and they are good for the proper functioning of the digestive system. They stimulate digestion and also enhance the absorption of nutrients by the body.
Dates are rich sources of minerals, especially iron. Therefore they are very beneficial for those suffering from anaemia. Anaemia is caused when there is a deficiency of iron in the body, and dates provide the iron that the body lacks. Having dates regularly removes fatigue and makes you energetic and strong.
Natural sugars like fructose, glucose and glucose are found in abundance in dates. So they provide you with instant energy. If you are feeling low, have some dates, and after a few minutes you will feel energetic. If you are feeling sluggish or lethargic late in the afternoon, just have some dates instead of other snacks. You will see how it makes you fresh and energetic.
Dates are also good for your heart and help to keep your heart healthy. Soak dates overnight, crush them in the morning and have them in the morning. This is found to be very effective for weak hearts. The high content of potassium in dates helps in preventing the risk of stroke and other problems of the heart. Dates also help the body to reduce the level of LDL(Low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol. LDL is one of the main reasons for heart attacks, stroke and heart diseases. So keep your heart healthy by consuming dates at least twice a week.
Dates are good in treating allergies also. Sulphur, which is not very common in foods, is found in dates. Sulfur has a lot of health benefits and one of them is that it is good for treating allergies.
Dates are good for sexual weakness as well. Soak dates in goat’s milk overnight and then grind the soaked dates with the milk in which they were soaked. Add cardamom powder and honey to the paste and have them regularly. This reduces sterility and treats may sexual problems. So dates are natural aphrodisiac and having them regularly enhances your sexual stamina.
They have more calories than any other fruits, and they help you in controlling your weight and lose your weight naturally.
Dates are a storehouse of all essential nutrients that you need for a healthy body. Minerals, vitamins, soluble fiber, calories and all other nutrients are present in abundance in dates. The fibers present in dates provide you a feeling of fullness and prevent overeating of food. It also provides you energy that you need for all activities. So, by reducing the craving for food, you will be able to lose weight.
How to Include Dates into Your Eating Lifestyle
One of the ways to consume dates is to take out the seeds from them and add some walnut pieces and almond pieces to them. You can also add any other dry fruits to the dates. You may also have only dates without adding any other fruits and nuts. They taste good .
Another way to include dates in your daily diet is to cut them into pieces and add them to the fruit salads or dessert that you consume.
You may also add dates with vegetables or dishes that you make with rice, couscous and so on. Mixing them with milk is also an excellent way to consume them.