Both diet and exercise are an unavoidable part of a weight loss journey. Missing out any of the two will not provide you with the desired weight loss result. But you have to be very particular about what you eat while trying to shed those extra kilos. The food items should be nutritious, fiber-rich and low in calories and dates are excellent fruits which fit in this category.
Dates, a sweet fruit has numerous proven health benefits and weight loss is one of those. Read on to know more.
Dates Nutrition Facts
The date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) has been around for thousands of years. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties are recognized by the medical community. Rich in flavonoids, ferulic acid, quercetin and other bioactive compounds, dates have numerous therapeutic uses. Several varieties exist, including Dayri, Amber, Khadrawi, Medjool, Barhi and Zahidi dates.
Despite its high sugar content, this fruit doesn’t increase the risk of diabetes or worsen its symptoms. A 2018 research paper published in the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found no association between dates and this condition (1). According to researchers, this functional food has a negligible impact on blood glucose levels and can be safely consumed by diabetics.
One Medjool date provides about 66.5 calories and 18 grams of carbs, including 1.6 grams of fiber and 16 grams of sugars – fructose and glucose. It has less than 1 gram of protein but offers more than 5 percent of the daily value (DV) of potassium, 4 percent of the DV of manganese and 3 percent of the DV of magnesium. This naturally sweet fruit is also a good source of calcium, copper, vitamin B6 and niacin. What makes it stand out is its high antioxidant content.
What Makes Dates A Superfood for Weight Loss?
High Fiber Content
Fiber content is extremely important to gut health and is a crucial part of any weight loss plan. When we don’t get enough fiber, our bodies can’t eliminate waste properly, causing us to pack on pounds and store bad bacteria in the gut which can wreak havoc on our overall health. Fiber benefits our entire digestive system by promoting healthy elimination and bowel movements (2).
In one study, 21 people who consumed seven dates a day for 21 days experienced a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they didn’t eat dates (3). So if you’ve ever felt backed up, including dates in your diet is a great way to get more regular.
The fiber in dates can make it easier to stick to your diet and downsize your portions. This nutrient facilitates weight loss in several ways. First of all, it fills you up quickly and keeps you full. It also regulates the hormones that influence your appetite, leading to reduced hunger (4).
According to a 2018 review in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fiber slows nutrient absorption, which in turn, increases satiety and helps decrease the total amount of food consumed throughout the day (5). Another study, which was published in the journal Nutrients in 2016, states clearly that fruits exhibit anti-obesity effects despite being high in fructose, glucose and other simple sugars (6).
Researchers attribute these potential benefits to dietary fiber. Additionally, fruits contain essential vitamins and minerals that play a key role in obesity prevention and weight management.
High in Unsaturated Fatty Acid
Dates contain high unsaturated fatty acid content, which helps in reducing inflammation. Inflammation has long been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, et al. Unhealthy food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle can up the risk of increased inflammation, thereby, increasing the chances of weight gain.
Rich in Protein
Dates are also a rich source of protein. Proteins are tough to digest, and the transition time in the large intestine is longer, which makes you feel fuller for longer.
Dates can help satiate your sweet tooth cravings. They are naturally sweet; therefore, you can enjoy a few dates and toss away sugary foods to lose weight efficiently.
Other Health Benefits of Dates
Aside from weight loss, dates offer several other health benefits:
Regulates Blood Sugar Level
What’s more, the fiber in dates may also help to regulate blood sugar. When fiber is present in the digestive tract, it slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream which would normally cause blood sugar to spike. Because of this, dates have a low glycemic index and are considered safe for consumption by those watching their sugar intake (7). In fact, the fiber content in dates actually helps to prevent blood sugar from spiking, and so they’re an ideal option for those struggling with prediabetes or diabetes despite their sugar content.
Full of Antioxidants
Dates are also extremely high in antioxidants namely flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid. These antioxidants have shown to help control inflammation in the body. Dates also protect against disease, because they are full of antioxidants that reduce disease-causing free radicals (8). What’s more, eating dates may even facilitate better brain health, as they’ve shown to reduce inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 (IL-6), which is linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (9). Findings from an animal study similarly suggest that dates may help boost memory, learning, and anxiety-related behaviors. All this in one fruit!
Regulates Sex Hormone Levels
Several studies cited in the review suggest that dates may improve sperm parameters by regulating testosterone and estradiol levels.
Rich in Iron
Apart from the fluorine that keeps your teeth healthy, dates also contain iron, which is highly recommended for those who suffer from iron deficiency. Severe iron-deficiency anemia may cause fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Plus it’s great for blood purification as well.
Promotes Female Health
In other studies, this fruit has been found to increase cervical dilatation and help women relax during childbirth.
Another review, which was published in the International Journal of Recent Advances in Multidisciplinary Research in 2016, confirms the benefits of dates on female health (10). These fruits reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage, which in turn, may help increase fertility. Rich in iron and calcium, they can improve breast milk quality and prevent anemia during pregnancy.
Rich in Vitamins
Dates contain vitamins such as B1, B2, B3 and B5, as well as A1 and C. If you have a few dates every day, you won’t have to take vitamin supplements. Not only will it keep you healthy, there will be a noticeable change in your energy levels as well because dates contain natural sugars such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose, too. So it works really well as a quick snack.
Did you know that dates are free from cholesterol, and contain very little fat? Including them in smaller quantities in your daily diet can help you keep a check on cholesterol level, and even assist in weight loss. So start loading up on dates today.
Improves Bone Health
Dates could do wonders for your bone health too. Yes, you heard us. Dates are rich in selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, and all of these are required when it comes to keeping our bones healthy, and preventing conditions such as osteoporosis.
Strengthens the Nervous System
Dates are loaded with potassium, and yet contain little sodium, and that goes a long way in keeping your nervous system in order. The potassium helps to reduce cholesterol, and keeps the risk of a stroke in check.
Promotes Skin and Hair Health
Dates are an excellent source of Vitamin C and D, which boost collagen production leading to increased elasticity. Dates are also extremely rich in antioxidants, especially tannins, which prevent cell damage and oxidation and help reduce inflammation. They contain nutrients that enhance the strength of the subcutaneous tissues, which results in softer and smoother skin. The antioxidants present in dates keep the effects of free radicals in check and delay the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Dates contain pantothenic acid, which improves the skin from within and gives it a radiant glow. Another benefit of dates is treating skin allergies that usually break out all over the body.
And good hair days are just a few dates away too! Consuming dates, at least two to three per day, can give you results for stronger hair in a short amount of time. Being rich in iron, dates improve blood circulation to the scalp which helps in faster hair growth. This happens as oxygen is properly dispersed to your entire body, ultimately preventing hair loss and stimulating new hair growth. It strengthens the hair follicles and hair roots, preventing breakage and hair loss too.
While we haven’t exactly tried it out, it’s said that dates are an excellent way to control inebriation. And similarly, it also helps to cure hangovers. But for best results, you have to rub the skin a bit, and soak it in water overnight and then eat it.
When is the Best Time to Eat Dates?
These fruits are quite high in sugar and provide immediate energy. Therefore, the best time to eat dates is in the morning or before or after hitting the gym. That way, they will fuel your body rather than adding inches to your waist.
If you eat dates before working out, you’ll feel energized and focused. Consuming them post-workout will speed up muscle growth and repair while replenishing your glycogen stores. As experts point out, carbs are essential for both pre- and post-workout nutrition. After exercise, your body needs a quick source of fuel to repair damaged tissues and recover from training; add protein to the mix to get the most out of your workout.
In fact, the ability to replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores is one of the key benefits of dates for men who lift heavy in the gym or anyone who engages in regular exercise. Experts recommend ingesting at least 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs per hour of gym time, during and/or after training. Fast digesting carbs are ideal because they’re quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, which may help accelerate recovery.
How Many Dates Should You Consume?
Dates may help in weight loss only when you consume it in moderation. Excess of anything can lead to weight gain. Have 4 to 5 dates every day to satiate your sweet tooth and keep your hunger pangs at bay.
When you shouldn’t eat dates
- You have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Those with IBS may be sensitive to foods containing FODMAPs, which are small-chain carbs that some people have difficulty digesting. As a significant source of fructose, they can lead to bloating and stomach upset.
- After a large meal. Dates are high in fiber, which takes longer to digest. As a result, eating a large number of dates after a large meal may make you feel extremely full and uncomfortable.
- If you have an allergy. Though rare, some people can be sensitive or even have an allergy to dates. If you think this may apply to you, speak with a healthcare professional first.
- If you’re experiencing diarrhea or loose stools. Dates contain a sugar alcohol known as sorbitol, which may increase bowel movements in some people. Therefore it’s best to limit or avoid dates until your bowel movements have normalized.
Beyond these occasions, there are no “bad” times to eat dates. In fact, they’re highly nutritious and lend themselves well as a snack or part of a meal. Remember that your body is very capable of digesting food 24 hours a day.
How to Add Dates to Your Diet
Because of their inherent natural sweetness, dates are often used as a substitute to white sugar in confectionery. Use chopped dates to sweeten your salads or cereals, or have them as a midday snack.
Swap maple syrup, honey and agave for dates to sweeten up smoothies, or use date paste as a sweetener in desserts like cakes or pies. Dates also work great with cheeses or nuts, making stuffed goat cheese or chopped nuts on a pitted date an indulgent but nutritious appetizer.
Apart from this, dates also lend themselves as a great binding agent due to their stickiness, and can be mixed with nuts and nut butter to create energy balls and granola bars.
5 Healthy Dates Recipes You Can Try At Home
Even though dates are known to produce heat in the body and are consumed popularly during the winters they are packed with umpteen health nutrients that are required by our body. Since dates are rich in natural sugars, they provide an instantaneous energy boost, which is why they are significant during fasting. Besides that, dates are full of carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber gives the body a fuller feeling and prevents us from bingeing on fattening foods; moreover, fiber helps regulate the bowel movements. Try these healthy dates recipes at home for weight loss.
1. Dates Crumble Recipe
Looking for a healthy yet tasty treat that has a goodness of dates in it? If yes, then try this Dates Crumble recipe at home and satiate your taste buds. This dessert recipe is a crowd pleaser and can definitely be prepared within 15 minutes.
2. Dates and Nuts Ladoo Recipe
Healthy balls of nuts and dates; this ladoo recipe is the perfect snack to binge as a snack. Healthy, sugarless, full of nutrients and way too easy to make! With just three ingredients you can get these delicious ladoos that will keep you full for long. You can make and store these in airtight jars to relish for long.
3. Dates And Cashew Vegan Balls Recipe
This is for the ones who are watching their weight. This energy booster is the perfect snack to nibble on. Loaded with the goodness of dates, cashew nuts and coconut, you can also throw in some seeds of your choice.
4. Dates and Walnut Kheer Recipe
This is yet another hit from our recipe archive. This is a quick and easy dessert to curb your sweet cravings. Since dates impart natural sweetness to the kheer, nuts in this kheer recipe add a nice crunch to it.
5. Dates Milkshake Recipe
Bored of your regular milkshakes? We have a delicious Dates Milkshake Recipe that you can try at home. We bet your kids are going to love this. And the best part is that you can prepare this one in less than 10 minutes.
As you see, there’s no reason to avoid these delicious fruits. Use them as a substitute for your daily snacks, mix them into smoothies or add them to oatmeal, energy bars, homemade granola and baked goods and reap off all the health benefits!
Dates are naturally sweet, which eliminates the need to use sugar in your recipes. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.