Dates and All Their Benefits
A high fiber fruit
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN
Date palm fruits or dates (Phoenix dactylifera L.) are part of the palm family Arecaceae or Palmae. They are among the most historically significant and popular fruits, originating in the Middle East and North Africa and notable appearances in the Holy Quran.
Dates are considered healthy because they are packed with nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor plant compounds. In addition, they are low on the glycemic index and may promote natural labor and support bone and brain health.
This article will detail the benefits of eating dates fresh or dried, the nutritional value of a single serving of dates, and the side effects of eating too many dates. You’ll also learn how many dates you can eat in a day.
Dates: Benefits of Eating Them Fresh or Dried
The following are relevant health benefits of eating dates, whether fresh or dry.
Packed With Nutrients
Dates are known for being high in natural sugars. However, dates do contain more than 70% sugar. This means the majority of calories from dates come from sugar (glucose and fructose). Dates contain more calories per serving than many other fruits. This makes them great for road trips, hikes, and day outings. The sugars in dates are easily converted to energy, and the calories come with essential vitamins and minerals.
Dates are considered a significant source of fiber, with nearly 7 grams of fiber per 3.5-ounce or 100-gram serving. Generally speaking, getting enough fiber in your diet can help reduce belly fat and prevent chronic disease. The health benefits of dietary fiber are well-studied. Benefits include reducing the risk of developing hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, certain gastrointestinal disease, heart disease, and stroke.
Related:Foods With Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
Dates contain a wide range of antioxidant-rich plant compounds called phenolic compounds, including flavonoids. Phenolic compounds in dates, in addition to flavonoids, include p-coumaric, ferulic, and sinapic acids and procyanidins. Antioxidants from food sources like dates are said to prevent or delay cell damage (i.e., antioxidants protect cells from damage and promote strong cellular health).
Related:How to Use Antioxidants for Skin Health
The plant compounds that contribute to dates' antioxidant benefits are also known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Phenolic compounds and flavonoids in dates, according to one review of in vitro and animal studies, are said to provide excellent anti-inflammatory support and can also play a significant role in reducing inflammation associated with conditions like cancer, diabetes, and other conditions.
Further, the same review suggests dates may have ethyl acetate and methanolic, vital in reducing swelling symptoms.
Although the reasons why are still unclear, date nutrients have demonstrated anti-tumor activity in various studies. Researchers suggest the effect may come from phenols and flavonoids that play a significant role in preventing cancer due to how they regulate genetic pathways associated with cancer. They also note several animal studies have reported on the specific anti-tumor effects of the antioxidant nutrient found in dates known as beta D-glucan.
Related:Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
Heart and Vascular Health
Animal studies have shown various heart health and vascular health benefits of dates. Results have shown benefits include contributing to healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels and protecting heart tissue from oxidative and inflammatory damage. In these studies, concentrated date nutrient extracts are used on rats to determine the effect of these plant compounds on heart health.
Related:The 5 Best Calcium Supplements of 2023
Low on Glycemic Index
While high in natural sugars, dates are actually low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a rating system for foods based on how their carbohydrate content impacts blood sugar levels. It is an important tool for people working to manage their blood sugar levels. Dates are also high in potassium and low in sodium, adding to their health benefits for people with hypertension or type 2 diabetes.
Dates ranking low on the glycemic index means dates can be included in healthy diet even in people with type 2 diabetes.
Related:Type 2 Diabetes
May Promote Natural Labor
In pregnant people, eating dates in the later weeks of pregnancy may be beneficial for promoting natural rather than induced labor. Older studies have reported people who eat dates in the four weeks before their due date were less likely to require induced labor (i.e., they were more dilated upon arrival at the hospital, and they had a shorter delivery time).
A study from 2017 on over 150 pregnant people also suggests people who consume dates in the weeks leading to labor are less likely to need induction. However, larger clinical trial studies are necessary to confirm these findings.
Experts suggest the role of dates in inducing labor comes down to the role of oxytocin, which is found in dates. Oxytocin is known as a bonding hormone but is also responsible for causing childbirth labor contractions.
Supports Bone Health
Dates provide a good source of calcium and magnesium. These are two essential nutrients for healthy bone development. For example, getting adequate levels of calcium is associated with proper bone formation and lowering the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Related:Health Benefits of Calcium
Supports Brain Health
Dates are said to have neuroprotective benefits. Animal studies have shown the potential impact of eating dates and reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. Experts link the brain health benefits of dates to phenolic plant compounds and antioxidants such as anthocyanins, ferulic acid, protocatechuic acid, and caffeic acid.
It is hard to draw direct comparisons from animal studies. More research, and research involving human participants, is necessary to confirm date benefits on human memory and overall brain health.
Nutritional Value of a Single Serving of Dates
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) single serving of dates (Medjool variety) contains:
Carbs: 75 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Potassium: 15% of total daily recommended value (DV)
Magnesium: 13% DV
Copper: 40% DV
Manganese: 13% DV
Iron: 5% DV
Vitamin B6: 15% DV
Related:What to Eat When You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome
How Many Dates Can You Eat a Day?
Dates are often served to break a period of intermittent fasting or as a nutritious snack. You may be wondering how many dates you can eat a day for health and to prevent the side effects of too many dates. A lot of sources say you can eat around six dates. Remember, you can eat a serving of dates daily, roughly 3.5 ounces of dried fruit, or 100 grams.
The reason why moderation is required is that dates are considered calorie-dense and high in fiber and sugar, which means they may not fit into all diet or eating plans.
Side Effects of Too Many Dates
Eating too many dates can have side effects due to their high fiber content.
Eating too much fiber in one sitting or regularly can cause digestive symptoms, including:
Bloating and gas
Feeling uncomfortably full
Constipation or diarrhea
Upset stomach and cramps and pains
Weight changes over time (loss or gain)
If you experience digestive upset from consuming too many dates or too much fiber, consider giving your digestive system a break from too much fiber.
Read Next:Digestion Relief for Symptoms of Too Much Fiber
Dates are a popular low-glycemic index fruit from the palm tree family. They provide essential nutrients. Dates are high in natural sugars and are rich in fiber. They have antioxidants and other plant compounds that help promote healthy cell functioning and decrease the risk of diseases and health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Dates have been linked to promoting natural labor without the need for induction. Dates are beneficial for fighting inflammation but can cause bloating if you consume too many. In addition, too much fiber from dates can cause stomach upset.