The Amazing Benefits of Dates: Why You Should Add Them to Your Diet

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Enjoy the benefits of datesIt seems the media is always talking about some superfood or another and how eating it will radically improve your life. Of course, these ideas usually aren’t wrong, but there are so many different foods that have amazing benefits for your body that you shouldn’t use the latest superfood craze as an excuse to ignore other beneficial foods. Although dates aren’t spoken about very often in dieting circles, their benefits are well known in the medical field. The benefits of dates can improve the health of every system in your body, help you avoid health problems, and assist your body in repair tasks, which is why they should be a regular part of your normal eating regime.

What Are Dates?

Dates are small brown fruit that originated in the Middle East and were brought to America in the early twentieth century. There are over 3 000 varieties of dates, but only two of these are easily found in America—the deglet noor and medjool. The former is small, dry, and mostly used in baked goods, whereas the latter is more plump and is the type most often bought in supermarkets. Dates are an important part of Ramadan, a major Muslim tradition involving a one month period of reflection. During this month, Muslims fast during the day only breaking their fast once a day when the sun goes down. Because dates are full of sugar and provide an immediate burst of energy, they are traditionally the first thing Muslims eat to break their daily fast.

Better Nutrition Through Dates

Dates are incredibly good for your body and can improve your overall health, and also help with more specific problems. They are easily digestible, full of fiber, and contain iron, potassium, and vitamin B, A, and K. They also contain tannins, magnesium, copper, manganese, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Unfortunately, due to their high sugar and calorie content, dates should be eaten in moderation, otherwise, they may increase your risk of gaining weight. However, eating a small number of dates on occasion can have excellent benefits for every system in your body.

One of the most important benefits of dates is that they are rich in nutrition. Whether you are healthy or unhealthy at the moment, to function at your best it’s important to eat a varied diet rich in a variety of nutrients. This is even more important if you are going through an unhealthy phase. People who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) often find that making improvements to their nutrition can alleviate some of their symptoms and has a positive effect on their overall health. Since AFS is often characterized by a lack of energy and general tiredness, increasing the nutritional content of your food may help to treat this frustrating condition.

Good nutrition is also essential for effective functioning of your adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands are under constant stress for too long and no longer function correctly, AFS—a stress-related disorder—may occur. If it does, your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response, which makes the necessary changes in your body to cope with stress, becomes less effective. This leads to a variety of negative symptoms and a general decrease in quality of life. Improving your nutrition and overall health can lower your stress levels and give your adrenal glands the nutrients they need to function at their peak efficiency.

Boosting Your Energy

Benefits of dates: Boost your energyOne of the biggest benefits of dates is that they contain natural sugars which can give you an energy boost helping you get through a long day. This can be useful if you’re the type of person who suffers from mid-afternoon slumps or needs regular snacks to make it through the day. Dates can also help with AFS recovery. People with this disorder often find themselves lacking in energy, even when seemingly getting enough sleeping, and may experience severe afternoon energy slumps. If you suffer from this symptom, a few dates at the right time of day may help reduce listlessness and return you to your usual more productive state.

Since dates contain so much sugar, eating them in excess can cause certain health problems you need to be aware of. People with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions can get into trouble if they eat too many dates, since the high sugar content can cause blood sugar levels to rise sharply and then drop. So if you have diabetes, or any problem with your blood sugar levels, make sure you consult your doctor before adding any high sugar foods like dates into your regular diet.

Improving Intestinal Health

Dates are full of fiber, which can alleviate constipation. Soluble fiber—found in a number of different foods including dates—provides more bulk for the intestines, making bowel movements more comfortable and smoother. For people with AFS, this can be one of the most important health benefits of dates. In conjunction with other symptoms, people with AFS often suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This disorder often acts in tandem with AFS and is characterized by a collection of symptoms including constipation, diarrhea, and pain. People with advanced AFS complain of constipation in particular, and dates can be a safe and natural way to alleviate this symptom.

The benefits of dates for your intestines don’t stop there. Dates can also help with diarrhea. Dates contain soluble fiber, which soaks up the water in diarrhea and adds bulk to your stool, thereby helping you to produce more solid bowel movements. Potassium, found in dates, can effectively control diarrhea and restore intestinal health, since it plays a key role in muscle contraction—essential for good bowel movements—and potassium is, therefore, often found in diarrhea medications.

The Health of Your Heart

Benefits of dates: Improve your heart healthThe high soluble fiber content of dates means they are also really good for your heart. Soluble fiber is a bulky substance that can makes you feel full, and therefore, help you cut down on the amount of food you eat so you can lose weight easily and naturally. Losing even a small amount of weight can have important benefits for your heart health as it often lowers your blood pressure at the same time. High blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, overweight people are much more likely to struggle with high blood pressure.

Weight gain is another symptom of AFS and many sufferers have trouble losing excess weight no matter how hard they try. Eating a small quantity of dates every day can help AFS sufferers feel fuller, and dates will still provide the nutrition and sugar needed to replenish their energy reserves. However, people with AFS need to be aware that dates are quite high in sugar and calories so eating too many dates can actually hinder weight loss. As with everything, the key is in moderation.

Soluble fiber can also help lower the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood. A number of studies have shown that eating psyllium, which is made up of 71 percent soluble fiber, can lower the bad cholesterol levels in your system by up to 10 percent. This applies equally to patients with mild to moderate elevations in cholesterol levels. There is still some debate surrounding how soluble fiber affects cholesterol levels, but the overall effects can make a vital difference to your heart health. And because dates have a lot of soluble fiber in them, similar effects can be achieved by eating them regularly.

As mentioned previously, dates contain potassium, which is also an essential element for heart health and wellbeing. Potassium helps trigger our heartbeat, which maintains the flow of blood throughout the body. If your potassium levels are too low, you are at risk of a life-threatening heart attack. One of the most unexpected, and essential, benefits of dates is in helping you maintain normal potassium levels, and therefore, protecting your heart.

The Health of Your Nervous System

Benefits of dates including keeping your nervous system healthyMany of the vitamins in dates are beneficial to your central nervous system. Potassium in particular is a vital element that keeping your nervous system healthy and reactive, and also improves brain health, cognitive speed, and alertness. This means that dates are a great food for older people who want to maintain their mental sharpness as they age. Dates can also help younger patients who suffer from AFS symptoms such as brain fog.

Brain fog is one of the more frustrating symptoms of AFS. It’s a kind of mental clouding that can make everyday tasks difficult and frustrating, and may affect cognitive functions including your long and short term memory. Eating dates regularly can help to alleviate this problem, which can lower your stress levels thus taking some pressure off your adrenal glands. Reducing the stress on your adrenals is an important step towards achieving full recovery from the debilitating effects of AFS. Although there is little evidence that dates help eliminate brain fog, it’s certainly a good natural remedy to try based on the positive benefits of dates for your brain and nervous system.

Eating Dates for Stronger Bones

Your bone health is absolutely essential, particularly as you age. Too often, people suffer as they get older because of weak or thinning bones. This can result in breaks or fractures, and may have negative effects on your quality of life as well as your health. Dates are filled with a variety of minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, and selenium. These minerals are vital for the growth and development of healthy bones and can also help keep your bones strong as you age. This is clearly important for older people, however, young people also require additional minerals and nutrition for their growing bones and may benefit from eating dates.

Treating Anemia with Dates

Dates are a great natural remedy for anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin. To make red blood cells, your body needs iron. People with anemia are usually extremely iron deficient, which results in extreme pallor and a lack of energy. Anemia can be caused by a variety of factors and if you have it, you will need to see your doctor to find out the cause before trying to treat it yourself. Once you’ve done that, you can take advantage of the benefits of dates in helping to naturally improve your condition. Dates are extremely high in iron, which can increase the iron levels in your blood helping your body to create more red blood cells. At the same time, this will have a positive effect on your energy levels.

Reaping the Benefits of Dates

A glass of smoothie containing benefits of datesDates are an easy food to eat. They’re small, easy to transport, and can be eaten whole, without any need for peeling or cutting. However, because of the high sugar content of dates they should be eaten in moderation to avoid weight gain. They also contain a lot of fiber, so they can cause intestinal distress if you eat too many. But if you limit yourself to around 3 dates a day, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of dates without any negative consequences.

Some of the most popular ways to prepare dates include:

  • Eating them just as they are.
  • Soaking them overnight in water, which turns them into a thick syrup.
  • Blending them into a smoothie.
  • Combining them with nuts for even more health benefits.
  • Adding them to your favorite dessert for a healthy treat!

Final Thoughts

Dates really are one of life’s superfoods and can help improve your heart health, give your nervous system a boost, improve the strength of your bones, and alleviate troublesome digestive problems. These are just a few of the amazing health benefits of dates. In addition, they can alleviate some of the symptoms of chronic disorders and illnesses such as IBS and AFS. For all these reasons, adding dates to your life is a simple and effective step you can take towards improving your overall health and wellbeing.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

The health benefits of dates are varied and impressive. They can boost your overall health, improve your heart and brain function, and alleviate symptoms of chronic illnesses such as AFS and anemia. That’s why adding a few dates to your daily diet is a great idea.

Benefits of dates