From the date palm tree, Medjool dates are not only powerfully nutritious fruits, but can also be used as a natural, sugar-free sweetener. What sets Medjool dates apart and how can they benefit your health? We have the answers.
Nutrition Facts and History
While there are many varieties of dates in the world, the Medjool date is the most commercially available, right alongside the Deglet Noor date (though Medjool varieties are softer, bigger, and sweeter). A deep brown color, they're often consumed dried and are described as tasting caramel-like. Firm and wrinkly on the outside, they are moist and have a chewy texture within, and the larger they get, the more likely they are to be labeled as super- or jumbo-sized. Easy to snack on and delicious in recipes, Medjool dates will hook you with the first bite.
- 66 calories
- 15.95 grams of sugar
- 6.7 grams of fiber
- 696 milligrams of potassium
- 62 milligrams of phosphorus
- 54 milligrams of magnesium
- 149 IU of vitamin A
- 0.25 milligrams of vitamin B6
- 1.61 milligrams of niacin
- 64 milligrams of calcium
- 0.06 milligrams of riboflavin
- 2.7 µg of vitamin K
- 0.44 milligrams of zinc
Dates have a long history. Derived from the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), which is found throughout northern Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, the Canary Islands, and California, dates have been a staple in Middle Eastern food for thousands of years, and may have even been cultivated in ancient Egypt. It's the Medjool date palm that produces Medjool dates, and that variation originated in the Bou Denib oasis of Morocco.
The Top 4 Health Benefits of Medjool Dates
Whether you get your hands on fresh dates, dried, or are using date sugar or syrup, the health benefits are miles better than the damage that comes from white table sugar.
1. Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Thanks to their dietary fiber, Medjool dates help naturally lower your cholesterol levels, including the dangerous LDL cholesterol that contributes to adverse cardiovascular events. High-fiber foods are recommended for those with high cholesterol numbers to help clear out these particles before they become plaque, and Medjool dates in particular have been found to be anti-atherogenic and help stimulate cholesterol removal from macrophages.
Likewise, Medjool dates can help reduce blood triglyceride levels by up to 8% in healthy adults. Triglycerides are fats (lipids) in your bloodstream that can also increase your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure if levels get too high.
2. Boost Your Energy
The natural sugars in dates (including sucrose, glucose, and fructose) can help perk up your energy levels. If you're trying to cut back on coffee or give up caffeine, fresh fruit like organic Medjool dates can help put some pep in your step without spiking your blood sugar levels (like the refined sugar in candies does). Because Medjool dates are so high in fiber, which helps slow digestion, they have a low-to-medium glycemic index score and are a healthy sweet treat for diabetics.
Rather than have too much coffee or resort to an energy drink, try whipping up an energy-boosting smoothie with dates to put some pep in your step and fuel you for the rest of the day.
3. Prevent and Remedy Constipation
Constipation can be painful and even dangerous to your health. High-fiber foods like dates help relieve constipation by giving your body enough bulk material to move your stools regularly. Most adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber per day to experience healthy, comfortable digestion, and dates are high specifically in soluble fiber, which is beneficial because it draws in water, making stools softer and easier for your intestines to grasp onto and move along gently.
4. A Natural Sugar Substitute
Refined white table sugar and additives like corn syrup contribute to the modern world's epidemic of metabolic disorders, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. By using natural sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit sweetener, you can satisfy your sweet tooth guilt-free, and without having to suffer the health consequences of refined sugar that's been stripped of all the benefits in blackstrap molasses.
How to Use Medjool Dates (3 Tasty Recipes)
Easily found at your local grocery store, whole Medjool dates have a pit inside them that can be quickly removed from the soft fruit. They're sticky enough to be used to make homemade granola bars, they're perfect for a sweet, portable snack, and they can be turned into date paste by softening and blending them at home, then using that paste as a sugar replacement in baking recipes such as the following.
- Banana-Date-Carrot Muffin Recipe: This recipe from Natalie at Super Healthy Kids is sugar and gluten free. She uses almond flour, cinnamon, bananas, dates, coconut oil, and chopped carrots to make a tasty, nutritious treat for the whole family.
- Pecan Coconut Balls: Dr. Axe has a recipe for pecan coconut balls that's paleo, vegan, and gluten free, with hemp seeds, coconut flakes, vanilla extract, pecans, and, of course, dates for sweetness.
- No-Bake Vegan Brownies: Minimalist Baker combines almonds, walnuts, dates, cacao powder (and nibs), and sea salt to make this simple and fast no-bake healthy treat.
Potential Side Effects
Just some quick safety tips here. First of all, the pits of dates are a choking hazard if not removed, so be sure to pit them before eating, and don't give them to small children. Second, just because dates are full of natural sugar content doesn't mean they won't affect your blood sugar levels adversely if you eat too many of them, so be sure to check the recommended serving size on the packaging. Also, be aware that it's possible to have an allergic reaction to dates, so if you start experiencing itching, redness, or swelling after trying them for the first time, consult a medical professional ASAP.
The Jewel That Is Medjool Dates
Medjool dates are super-sweet dried fruits that taste more like candy than fruit. If you have yet to experience their flavor, treat yourself now, and if you've only ever snacked on them before, consider all the creative uses they can have when it comes to replacing sugar in healthy recipes.