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Dried Dates: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

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For 6000 years the dates are cultivated, and it is one of the oldest crops which have nutritional, economic and potential health value. The scientific name of dates is Phoenix dactylifera L. which has both aesthetic value and environmental benefit.1 The desert and hot regions are favourable for the growth of dates in large quantities. South-West Asia, North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran are the major producers of dates.1 The highest demand for date eating is during the holy month of Ramadan and these dates are used to break the fasting. Majorly they are consumed in dry form and the eating of dates decreases after the Ramadan month.2 

These dates are traditionally dried in the sun, which takes seven to ten days to complete. Due to the presence of nutrients, vitamins and minerals dates play a major role in health. The following information contains a detailed explanation of the properties and potential of the dates.2   

Nutritional Value of Dried Dates: 

The energy present in 100g of dates is 277 kcal. The nutrients present in dates are as follows: 

Nutrient  Percentage content 
Carbohydrates  75 g 
Protein  1.81 g 
Fats  0.15 g 
Sugars  66.5 g 
Fibre  6.7 g 
Calcium  64 mg 
Magnesium  54 mg 
Sodium  1 mg 
Zinc  0.44 mg 
Phosphorous  62 mg 
Iron  0.9 mg 
Copper  0.362 mg 
Manganese  54 mg 

Table 1: Depicting the nutrients present in 100g of dates3 

The following vitamins are also present on dates:  

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) 
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) 
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) 
  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) 
  • Folate  
  • Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)3 

Properties of Dried Dates: 

Dates might possess the following properties: 

  • It might be effective against various microorganisms (anti-microbial) 
  • It might help lower blood sugar levels (anti-diabetic) 
  • It might be effective against the growth of tumours (anti-tumour) 
  • It might help relieve unbalanced inflammation (anti-inflammatory) 
  • It might help protect the kidney (nephroprotective) 
  • It might be an antioxidant  
  • It might help protect the liver (hepato-protective)4 
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Potential Uses of Dried Dates for Overall Health: 

Foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition are known as functional foods. Dates might have the potential to act as functional foods due to the functional constituents present in them and might be of potential use to human health.2 Some of the potential uses of dates are as follows. 

1. Potential uses of dried dates for diabetes: 

 Several studies have shown that dried dates might have the potential to lower diabetes and its complications.   Dates might help in reducing the absorption of glucose or may help increase the production of insulin. This potential activity of dried dates might also be due to the presence of flavonoids and other bioactive compounds.  Dates may act as scavengers for free radicals, thus helping against the oxidative damage caused by diabetes. However, the exact mechanism of action is not yet known. Moreover, conditions like diabetes are serious and must be properly diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor, therefore, ensure that you visit a doctor.4  

2. Potential uses of dried dates for inflammation: 

Dates might have the potential in alleviating inflammation and one of the studies showed that dates might have the potential to inhibit the production of certain enzymes (cyclooxygenase enzymes COX-1 and COX-2) which play an important role in inflammation. In another study, it was seen that dates might play a role in reducing the swelling of the foot. However, more studies are required to prove these potential effects of dates.4  

3. Potential uses of dried dates for infections: 

Dates might possess an antimicrobial property, due to which it might have a potential effect against bacteria like Klebsiella pneumonia and Escherichia coli. It might also have a role in reducing the side effects caused due to the drug methylprednisolone (a steroid).  Ethanolic extract of dates might have a potential effect against E. fecalis and it might be helpful for enteric diseases. However, more studies are required to prove the potential uses of dried dates for infections.4 Consult the doctor in any case of infection and don’t self-medicate. 

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4. Potential uses of dried dates for oxidative stress:  

Dried dates might be a good natural source of phytochemicals, majorly they may have polyphenols, and carotenoids which act as a strong antioxidant. The antioxidants present in the dates may play an important role in absorbing and neutralising free radicals, thus helping reduce the oxidative stress which might lead to various diseases like diabetes, cancer, etc.4 However, more research is required to prove the antioxidant nature of dates.  

5. Potential uses of dried dates for tumours: 

Several studies have shown that dried dates might have potential activity against tumours, but the exact mechanism is not yet known. Some hypotheses state that the anti-tumour potentiality of dried dates might be due to the antioxidant components present in them. A study showed that a compound present in dates, called glucans might be the reason for its anti-tumour activity.  However, more research is required to prove these claims. Kindly note that a serious condition like cancer must be diagnosed and treated only by a doctor. Therefore, ensure that you consult a doctor.4 

6. Potential uses of dried dates for kidneys: 

In an animal study, it was seen that dried dates might have the potential to reduce the increase in plasma creatinine and urea concentrations. (The high levels of urea and creatinine concentration indicate that the kidneys are not functioning properly).  Therefore, dates might help protect the kidney and have a nephroprotective property.4 

Though there are studies that show the potential uses of dried dates in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of dried dates on human health.  

How to Use Dried Dates? 

Dried dates can be eaten as it is. They are commercially available on the market. They can also be used to make desserts, cakes, ice creams, milkshakes, etc. They are safe to consume in food quantities.   

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any dates in large quantity.  Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

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Side Effects of Dried Dates: 

Dried dates, when consumed in food quantities do not cause any specific side effects. However, if you notice any symptoms after eating dates, you must visit a doctor immediately. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor and confirm whether it is safe for you to eat dates specifically. 

Precautions to Take with Dried Dates:  

You should consult a doctor and eat dates only after confirming that it is safe for you to consume dates. Especially if you are pregnant breastfeeding or have any condition. There is no data regarding the effects that dates might have on children and infants. Kindly consult a doctor. 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

Dried dates might interact with some of the drugs. You should consult your doctor before eating dates, especially if you are undergoing ongoing treatment and are on medications. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) Does dry dates benefit our health? 

Yes, dried dates might be good for our health. It might have potential anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, liver-protective, kidney-protective, antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. However, more research is required to prove these potential uses of dried dates.4 

2) Is there any nutrition in dried dates? 

Yes, dried dates contain nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugars, minerals (calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorous, etc.) and vitamins (B1, B2, C, etc.). It also contains various bioactive compounds like tannins, carotenoids, polyphenols, etc. 3,4 

3) Are there any benefits of dried dates for skin? 

No valid reports are claiming any potential positive effects of dried dates on skin. There is a requirement for more studies. 

4) Can dried dates be eaten by diabetic patients? 

Dried dates might help lower the blood sugar level and may increase the insulin levels in the blood which might be helpful for people with diabetes. However, you should consult a doctor and confirm if it is safe for a diabetic patient to consume dried dates. Kindly do not self-medicate.4 

5) Are dried dates good for the eyes? 

No effects of dried dates on eyes have been reported. However, it might help reduce the ill effects of diabetes on the eyes (diabetic retinopathy). Kindly consult a doctor for your eye problems and do not self-medicate.4 

6) Does eating dried dates benefit our blood pressure? 

No reports or studies show any potentiality of dried dates for blood pressure. More research is required on this subject. 

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