Can I survive just eating dates?

Dates and their healthy effects

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Dates - the fruits of the Orient or the "bread of the desert"! It is not without good reason that Arabic dates have been given this name. High in calories and high in sugar, they are often referred to as "fattening foods". But apart from the high but not unhealthy sugar and calorie content, the desert fruits have a very high natural dose of minerals, fiber, trace elements and vitamins! In addition, not all sugar is created equal. But more on that later.

What are dates?

As the fruit of the real date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), the date is a truly ancient oriental cultivated plant that can be traced back to the times of Mesopotamia. Of course, there isn't just this one type of date palm. A total of 14 species are known that are native to arid regions of the Old World, i.e. in Europe, Asia and Africa. However, almost exclusively the fruits of the real date palm are used economically. The other species are not poisonous, but have an inedible taste, which is why they are only used as fodder dates for livestock. For example, the Canary Island date palm is known for its sweet palm honey in addition to the symbol of the Spanish Islands.

In our supermarkets you can usually only buy two types, namely “Medjool” and “Deglet Nour”. The stone fruit has many more varieties to offer than is known in this country. There are more than a thousand of them, whereby a distinction is made here as a single "variety" also in the degree of hardness and thus the degree of ripeness of the fruit.

But it is not the large variety of varieties that is impressive in this oriental delicacy. It's their versatility in the kitchen and their far-reaching health benefits! There are many myths about the date fruit, which, insofar as they are true, are explained and proven on this page as facts. One often hears that the high amount of sugar in the fruit is unhealthy. Others say that three dates a day add many healthy aspects to the diet. Why dates are so healthy is explained in the following section on each positive aspect of dried dates.

That's why dates are so healthy

It is simply not possible to determine an order of priority for the health effect. All the properties of the dates are of great importance for the human body, which is why the listed order does not imply any weighting of the effect.

Lots of vitamins and minerals

Let's start with the many minerals and vitamins that dates contain. Comparison / example: 100 grams of dates contain more vitamins than 100 grams of apples. Although an apple contains more vitamins C and E, the dried date is richer in vitamin A and the very important B vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B9.
The provitamin A, beta-carotene, not only ensures the orange-reddish color of the dates, but also regulates cell growth in the body, controls the reactions of the immune system and reduces oxidation processes. With approx. 40 μg per 100 grams, the daily requirement for vitamin A cannot be covered on its own, but as a supplementary delicacy, the date is perfect for replenishing the household. The health effects of the important B vitamins are different. Especially vitamins B3, B5 and B6 stand out in a particularly concentrated form. It should be mentioned here that vitamin B3 is considered an outdated term in the literature and is now known as vitamin PP or niacin. Niacin or nicotinic acid is an essential supporter of the metabolism, as it can be converted by the body into NAD or NADP, which as a hydride ion-transferring coenzyme is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the body. With over 5000 μg (including 3000 μg niacin equivalent) per 100 grams, the date is an excellent stimulator of the metabolism and is therefore also eaten daily by athletes as a sweet source of energy.

When it comes to minerals, the extensive “3 dates a day” guideline isn't all that wrong. Because even if the Arabic dates contain many minerals, the high potassium content stands out above all. With approx. 660 mg per 100 grams, the daily requirement of almost 2000 mg is perfectly covered with three dates. There is also a lot of magnesium in the dried stone fruit. With approx. 51 mg, the daily requirement of 300 mg is optimally covered with just a few dates.
To go back to the apple comparison: With only 119 mg of potassium and 5 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, it is far behind and no longer competitive. The banana, known as a source of potassium, also has fewer milligrams per 100 grams of this mineral than the date. But that's not all. The minerals calcium (66 mg), chloride (183 mg) and phosphorus (61 mg) are also above average. And one last time: the tried and tested apple is less than 10 mg per 100 grams with all these values.

Dates aid digestion

When it comes to fiber, Arabic dates even stand out from whole grain bread and some vegetables. The oriental treasures not only stimulate digestion, but also prevent diarrhea and constipation. They can also be used as a laxative in the event of deliberate overconsumption. Generally speaking, when it comes to digestion, ballast doesn't sound really good. However, the associated dietary fiber is very important for the human digestive system. 30 grams a day is enough to support the system with fiber. That is actually not much: a slice of wholemeal bread in the morning, the apple mentioned at work, three potatoes at noon, 200 grams of cauliflower, a carrot, a serving of lettuce and 150 grams of berries for dessert, and another two slices of whole wheat bread in the evening and you're done the 30 grams ingested. Well, do you really have to pay attention to which food contains how much fiber all day long?
"Those who eat a balanced diet do not need any additional fiber," writes Joachim Bernd Vollmer, alternative practitioner and author of the book "Healthy Gut, Healthy Life". But what does a balanced diet mean? Many of them can only eat something for a short time at lunchtime and during stress, possibly even fast food or just a self-made bread. This is where dates can help! A few dates provide the missing fiber supplement and allow your digestion to work at the perfect temperature. In addition, dates are able to lower the cholesterol level, because their water-soluble fiber binds bile acids in the intestine and thus increases their excretion, it then comes to a lowering of the total cholesterol level, since cholesterol is required for the new synthesis of these bile acids. Constipation and diarrhea are prevented. For example, as already mentioned, a deliberate overconsumption of the fruit can have a laxative effect, which counteracts constipation.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects

A term that is mostly reluctant to hear in connection with physical health is "oxidative stress". This is understood to mean a metabolic situation that is characterized by a high concentration of reactive oxygen species. So far there is probably little to do with this explanation. The consequences of this oxidative stress, however, are that the radicals released want to fill their electron gaps and pull them out of the molecules of the cell membrane, the proteins or the enzymes. This changes these, which can cause physical damage. This accelerates the aging process and should a free radical make use of unsaturated fatty acids, this contributes to the development of arteriosclerosis. To prevent or counteract this, medicine has long recommended and administered antioxidants. Today, however, due to numerous controversial results of clinical studies, a balanced diet is more of a preventive approach. A little fruit and vegetables every day will help.
And this is where the link is drawn to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory healing properties of dates. The vitamins already mentioned and their high concentration in dates protect against oxidative stress. In addition, the high magnesium content is important against inflammation. 51 mg per 100 grams are a real stunner for such a small fruit! The mineral is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The “School of Public Health” from Los Angeles published a study in 2010 that showed that magnesium inhibits inflammation on the vessel walls and can effectively reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis or Alzheimer's disease.

Dates are good for the eyes

Dates contain a lot of vitamin A. This vitamin helps the cornea to regenerate and thus better protect the eye. It also contains the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. These substances help the eye to filter UV rays better and eyesight can be kept at a high level for longer. Vitamin A cares for the mucous membranes, so it ensures a constant production of healthy mucous membranes and protects against dehydration.

Dates provide quick energy to the brain and muscles

The keyword related to the brain is pantothenic acid. Put more simply: vitamin B5. In order to understand what pantothenic acid does in the brain, it is important to understand the biochemical processes first. In order to send signals back and forth between neurons, the brain needs the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. To produce this, in turn, choline is required, the metabolism of which is stimulated by pantothenic acid. If the production of acetylcholine is sufficiently stimulated, the brain not only works more adequately, it also stimulates the memory. Connections within the brain can be bridged more quickly and this makes it easier to remember things that have long been believed to be forgotten.

When it comes to building muscle, the approach is completely different. In sport, more and more athletes are turning to the small powerhouses. They contain no fat, but about 70 percent sugar, which is evenly divided into glucose and fructose. The fiber-rich fruits have the highest energy and crude fiber content among the fruits.

The main source of energy for the body are carbohydrates. Glucose provides the chemical energy for muscle work, anabolic processes and also brain performance. If the body is undersupplied with carbohydrates, it breaks down protein from the muscles in order to gain energy. Carbohydrates should always be consumed in conjunction with fiber. The reason for this is that it affects the functioning of the intestines and promotes faster excretion of metabolic end products. In addition, the feeling of satiety is increased and the carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood more slowly. As a result, the blood sugar level does not increase rapidly. Thus, the glucose content in the dates is optimal for a quick power boost and provides the important energy for the muscles.
The fructose in dates, on the other hand, is absorbed more slowly, i.e. it is absorbed and transported more slowly in the blood and does not interfere with the insulin metabolism. The sugar not only supports muscle strength, but endurance athletes also have a long, even supply of energy to the muscles. By balancing fructose and glucose, the date is the perfect fruit for sport! As already mentioned in the introduction: Sugar is not just sugar.
Incidentally, the mineral potassium is also very important for energy production, and dates are also found in abundance.

Good for the cardiovascular system

The benefits for the heart have already been touched upon indirectly in the previous topics. For example, the high potassium content in Arabic fruits helps lower blood pressure. It is beneficial for preventing atherosclerosis. In this vascular disease, fats build up on the artery walls and increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack. The magnesium contained also ensures elastic blood vessels. Anyone who normally reaches for a banana to prevent potassium deficiency is also well advised with a few dates. Calf cramps or palpitations are the result.

Another important factor in the cardiovascular system is the aforementioned LDL cholesterol. Although this type of cholesterol is essential for life, if the concentration is too high it promotes arteriosclerosis. Accordingly, various ingredients of the date, such as polyphenols, can ensure that the “bad” LDL cholesterol is lowered and the “good” HDL cholesterol is increased.

The date also has an iron content of 1,950 μg, a very important trace element. Iron supports the cardiovascular system to a great extent, and a deficiency can lead to palpitations and other cardiac arrhythmias.

Dates improve blood formation and stimulate the metabolism

With the keyword iron we come to blood formation. The trace element in hemoglobin not only ensures the transport of oxygen, but also the formation of this red blood pigment, hemoglobin. It consists to a large extent of iron. The body needs approx. 10-15 mg of the trace element per day in order to guarantee the optimal transport of oxygen in the blood. What seems very little at first glance, however, has to be consumed in food throughout the day. As a small snack after a meal, the date is therefore a perfect supplement for the iron balance in the body.

The metabolism is also stimulated by dates and oxidative stress is counteracted. The antioxidant healing effect not only has an effect, as already explained, on the free radicals in the body and binds them, but also allows the body to operate a cleaner, better metabolism.

Dates can help you sleep better (as a sleep aid) and make you feel happy

The dried dates not only actively promote health. They also ensure that a healthy sleep is initiated after an evening intake. In the Arab countries, the date has long been used as a natural sleep aid for people who have problems falling asleep. Because the date fruits contain the amino acid tryptophan. The body converts this amino acid into serotonin, a mood-enhancing messenger substance.

A Swedish study recently confirmed that three to four dates before bed resulted in healthier and deeper sleep. This process is not only stimulated by the production of serotonin, but also by the resulting melatonin, one of the most important hormones that controls the day-night rhythm of humans and has the task of initiating sleep and maintaining it during the night.
As already mentioned above, the rich B vitamins also calm the nerves and lower high blood pressure, which also promotes calmer sleep.

As already mentioned, the tryptophan from the dates not only ensures better sleep, serotonin is also responsible for the feeling of happiness in the body. Depressive moods or winter depression are a thing of the past. By stimulating certain parts of the cerebral cortex, which are responsible for the emotional situation, it essentially leads to an inhibition of impulsivity and aggressive behavior. Accordingly, feelings of serenity, inner calm and relaxation are promoted. So it can be said without a doubt: Dates promote happiness and make us fall asleep better!

Dates strengthen bones and the immune system

When it comes to bones, the trace elements contained in dates need to be discussed in more detail. For the health of the bones and the immune system, it is important that the food contains trace elements such as manganese, copper and selenium, as well as minerals such as iron and magnesium. Here, too, the comparative example with the apple is taken up. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," it always says. But whether he really keeps the orthopedic surgeon in matters of osteoporosis remains questionable in view of his trace element values. In comparison, the date is a real miracle fruit. With 340 μg zinc per 100 grams (apple: 38 μg) and 300 μg copper (apple: 52 μg), the date is a real treat for the bones. This is supported by the high proportion of manganese with 150 μg (apple: 43 μg). The trace elements increase the bone density and thus prevent it from becoming brittle.

The connection between bones and the immune system doesn't come from anywhere. Because the mineral substances (trace elements are also mineral substances) of the dates are not only important for the health of the bones, but also for that of the immune system. Manganese, zinc and copper in combination are part of the antioxidant enzyme system. The trace elements are of great importance for the containment of free radicals.In combination with the many vitamins and the great absorption into the blood via the balance between fructose and glucose-sugar molecules, the immune system is enormously strengthened by a few dates a day. And not to forget the trace element iron, which plays a very important role for the immune system. It should be more like "A few dates a day keep the doctor away"!

Dates are a healthy alternative to sweets

Known as "fat maker", dates are supposed to make you fat. But dates contain 0.0 grams of fat. Anyone who believes that it is not fat that is responsible for weight gain, but sugar, is not entirely wrong. However, it always depends on the type of sugar. Dates are made up of up to 70 percent sugar. But since this is divided equally between fructose and glucose, the supposed "fattening foods" contain very easily digestible sugars. In addition, the Orient fruits still contain far fewer calories than normal sweets such as chocolate (around half). In addition, there is the direct onset of the formation of serotonin, which is responsible for the feeling of happiness. At the same time, many vitamins and minerals ensure many healthy effects and, in contrast to chocolate, the fiber quickly makes you feel full and maintains it. There are no new hunger attacks. Anyone who has tried dates as a candy substitute will definitely get a taste for it and recognize the benefits.

Dates are good for healthy skin

Dates not only have a dampening effect on skin problems, they also promote healthy skin! So just eat a few dates in the evening when you get hungry. A good side effect: dates prevent cravings for real, unhealthy fattening foods such as chocolate or chips, which actually have a negative impact on the skin. But back to the positive effects of dates on the skin. These have long been known in many oriental cultures, so even acne scars and stretch marks are treated with a mixture of mashed dates and honey. They are also used to accelerate the healing of wounds and injuries.

The B vitamins it contains, along with vitamins A and E, as well as minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium are very popular "food for the skin".

Dates are rich in B vitamins. Studies have proven that this group of vitamins is essential for alleviating various skin conditions. Vitamin B3 also helps repair sun damage. Pantothenic acid (also belongs to the group of B vitamins) also helps to heal damaged skin cells.

Free radicals, which trigger oxidative stress on the cells and thus pave the way for premature aging, are combated.

Dates and Diabetes

Now there was often talk of sugar in dates. In the case of diabetes in particular, it is important to know what exactly you can and cannot eat. The benefits of dates as an alternative to sugar in this case are enormous. On the one hand, the high content of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) stimulates the energy metabolism in the body's cells and burns heavy substances faster. On the other hand, they quickly provide energy and can satisfy a small hunger in between, and dates do not raise the blood sugar level as quickly as normal sweets with industrial sugar. This makes them suitable for diabetics, both as a sweetener in dishes and in between . However, if you have diabetes you shouldn't eat more than three to five dates a day. The advantage over normal sugar is also the level of calories it contains. The energy density of dates is around 282 calories per 100 grams - stately, but still half less than in normal sweets. There the calorie content is often over 600 calories per 100 grams.

Integrate dates into your daily diet with delicious recipes

Up until now it has always been said that dishes can be sweetened with the help of dates or that a few raw dates a day improve health. But the health value of the dates is not the only advantage that the "bread of the desert" can boast. They're extremely tasty too. In countless dishes, beyond the classic dates wrapped in bacon, the sweet powerhouses from the Orient can be used, from sweet to savory.

So it is very easy to incorporate the healthy fruits into your daily diet. And all of the delicious dishes that are possible can easily be found on our recipe page. Whether just for inspiration or for precise cooking, the recipes have something to offer for every taste!

Are dates basic?

The difference between alkaline and acidic is perhaps still known from chemistry class. This is about the pH value, the "potentia Hydrogenii" value. It is important not only in solutions to experiments at school, but also in the human body. It is crucial for countless, vital metabolic processes. For example, for the sugar metabolism (glycolysis), muscle activity, the spread of excitation in the heart, vascular resistance and oxygen binding of the blood. When it comes to the health of the human body, the pH value of 7.4 is defined as optimal. The pH scale ranges from one to 14, with under seven being acidic and over seven being basic. The seven themselves are considered neutral.
If the body is too acidic, the acid-base balance is disturbed. This means that those areas of the body that should be basic in a healthy state are threatened by excess acids. Those areas of the body that should be acidic in a healthy state suddenly tend to have a pathologically increased pH value. In healthy people, many areas are always basic, for example the pH value in the blood, the lymph, the bile, the connective tissue and a large part of the small intestine. Only the large intestine and stomach have an acidic pH value. Nevertheless, an alkaline diet mainly ensures a balanced base-acid ratio throughout the body. It deacidifies all areas of the body where an alkaline value should prevail and at the same time ensures that gastric acid production levels off optimally in the stomach.
In order to be able to explain the effect of the basic dates in more detail, we assume that a salami pizza was eaten in the evening. The main ingredients of this dish are flour, cheese, sausage and tomato sauce. In addition, there is a not exactly small number of flavor enhancers, stabilizers and strengthening agents. All of these ingredients are highly acidic. The body cannot simply excrete such a large number of acids; they must first be neutralized. This is regulated with the help of so-called buffer systems, i.e. the body's own basic buffer substances such as calcium, potassium or magnesium. Many valuable minerals and trace elements are sacrificed for metabolism alone. In today's diet, acidification is not uncommon, which is why so-called waste products form in organs such as the kidneys, skin, intestines or uterus. The excretory organs are simply overloaded. It is therefore of great importance to ensure a balanced pH value in the body every day and not to ignore the alkaline diet.

Dates are low in acid-forming amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. The sweet delicacy of the dried dates means that no slagging is stimulated in the body and the body's own base formation is also stimulated. The intestinal flora is kept healthy and the other substances such as antioxidants and vitamins vitalize the body and strengthen the detoxification organs. In general, dried fruit is very suitable for this healing effect.

Dates in the diet - can you lose weight with dates?

As already mentioned, dates are often referred to as "fattening up". Thanks to their high calorie and sugar content, you can't deny that right away. However, there is a big but here! Desert dwellers are said to be able to survive for months only on dates and milk. This already says that the nutrients in dates are so numerous that the body receives many important substances that it needs. So they offer many health benefits for the body at the same time. They make it healthier by, for example, preventing inflammation or transporting away toxins, thanks to the high fiber content. It is precisely this fiber that ensures a long-lasting feeling of satiety.

But many still worry about the high sugar content. It goes without saying, however, that the natural sugar in the dates is always preferable to the unhealthy industrial sugar, because this is inflammatory and is (partly) responsible for a whole range of diseases. So the next time you feel the need for something sweet, it's better to use a handful of dates. They fill you up for a long time and help to control cravings again.

Another advantage is that, unlike chocolate or similar sweets, dates contain next to no fat. And so they have a lot fewer calories overall, often only half of them.

So to finally answer the initial question: Yes, you can actually lose weight with dates. A generally healthy lifestyle naturally supports this endeavor and is a prerequisite for losing weight in the long term. By the way, if you also want to do sport on the side, you will also have the right meal ready to hand with the small energy suppliers.

Historical background / dates and arabic culture

As already described with the topic of losing weight, desert dwellers manage to bridge a long dry phase with dates. For thousands of years nomads and residents of the Orient have been feeding on the "bread of the desert". Due to the high sugar content, the small miracle fruits keep extremely long and can be easily transported due to the compressed size. Many minerals are lost through sweating, such as potassium or magnesium. That can be delivered quickly and in sufficient quantities.
Only the dates of the real date palm can be enjoyed without any problems and used as a source of energy. This was already cultivated by farmers in Mesopotamia 5000 years before Christ and used as a source of nutrients. Geographically, Mesopotamia extended from what is now the Persian Gulf along the Euphrates to the borders of Turkey. That is why the date was a very popular, but also very exclusive fruit from the far East until the 19th century. Today you can buy them in many supermarkets.

The date is also of great importance in Ramadan, i.e. in the month of fasting. Many Muslims break their fast with it, following the example of the Prophet Mohammed. You can also drink water or milk.

Conclusion: small power packs with a positive effect on health

All of the above points make Arabic dates stand out as a true gift of nature. And this is not only said for marketing purposes in the supermarket. The small powerhouses have been helping the desert nomads to survive for thousands of years and they are also very popular in the countries where they are imported today. And rightly so! The small energy suppliers also have a lot of health effects and provide the body with everything it needs. They also strengthen the bones, the immune system, the cardiovascular system and also help athletes to regain their strength as a quick source of energy!


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