Have you had a date lately?

February 23, 2012

Diet, Food, Health

They are incredibly tasty and, better yet, have almost no fat or cholesterol.

by Rima Mehta — 

By now, we all know that we should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. They are great sources of vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function well. If you follow a diet plan, no matter what kind, there is always the possibility of craving something sweet. Here is what you need for those sweet-tooth attacks — dates. They are incredibly tasty and, better yet, have almost no fat or cholesterol.

Dates are among the world’s most ancient fruits, having grown along the Nile as early as 500 B.C. Perhaps the Egyptians knew the date’s sweetness hid a bounty of nutrients. Dates are nuggets of nutrition that satisfy a sweet tooth, making them ideal snacks to stave off hunger. True, dates provide more calories than most fruits, but they make a great substitute for processed sweets like candy to help you stick to your weight-loss routine.

Health benefits of dates

Loaded with fiber, both soluble and insoluble — With 3 grams of dietary fiber, dates will fill you up and keep your digestion running smoothly. According to the American Cancer Society, consuming 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber every day is optimal for staying healthy.

Rich in nutrients — Dates are an excellent source of potassium and provide numerous other important vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of protein and are rich in vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B5 and A1.

Great energy booster — Dates are considered to be one of the best energy-boosting snacks, as they are power-packed with 29 grams of natural sugars, such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. They also contain 31 grams of carbohydrates.

Low in calories — A single date fruit contains approximately 23 calories. This is why they are also suitable for weight-conscious people.

Dates are rich in potassium and low in sodium — One of the key health benefits of dates is their ability to regulate a healthy nervous system, thanks to the rich potassium content. Research has found that a higher intake of potassium (about 400 mg) can cut the risk of stroke by 40 percent. Dates also have a dense concentration of phenol antioxidants and other nutrients. Another key health benefit is their ability to lower undesirable LDL cholesterol.

Fresh dates are available August through December. Dried dates are available year-round. Eat them alone, or chop and add to breakfast cereal, pastries or meat stews.

Look for plump dates with smooth, glossy skins. Avoid those that are cracked, dry or shriveled (they may be slightly wrinkled). Fresh dates should not smell sour or have crystallized sugar on the surface. Dried dates should not be rock hard.

Store dates in the refrigerator for up to six months. Place in airtight plastic bags or containers to prevent them from absorbing the odors of other foods.

Diabetics, in particular, need to stay within their dietary requirements, and people with hypoglycemia need to be careful that they do not binge on any foods containing large amounts of sugar. Moderation is the rule.

Dates can easily become a part of your daily diet. They are good for your muscles, stomach and colon health, provide immunity and strengthen the heart muscles. This is reason enough to eat these delicious fruits every day.

Rima Mehta is a nutrition educator and registered yoga teacher. She is also a freelance writer specializing in nutrition and wellness, yoga and fitness. 480-326-0138, rima@theeasynutrition.com or www.theeasynutrition.com.

 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 5, Oct/Nov 2011.

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