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Health Food of the month - Dates

December 2016

dates

NEVER TOO LATE TO HAVE A DATE
Previous Health Foods of the Month...

Partridge

Milk

Celeriac


 

Diet & Supplements Index

Waitrose Recipes

In the 1950s, dates were only generally available at Christmas time when they came into the shops along with all the other special treats for this festive season. But they had been around in the UK for many years before that, arriving here in the late medieval period for the privileged few.

In those days they were imported dried from north Africa via Arab and Venetian traders and were a sweet luxury during a period when sugar was expensive and out of reach of many. Around the late 1600s, Arab, Persian and Byzantine cookery was influencing Europe, and dates began to be used in cookery at royal courts across the continent.

In our childhood days, dates were the dried variety, tending to be hard and sticky and fibrous. Today dried dates are still available of course but they also come in other varieties including soft and semi soft. Most of these are still that lovely dark brown colour; true fresh dates with their yellow skins are still quite rare here. Some people prefer the half sweet half crunchy taste of fresh dates that are still yellowy orange and only just starting to turn brown, but most of us in the UK are used to fully developed soft brown dates. If you want to know more about fresh dates, watch this useful video.

Dates are of course from the palm tree family and are actually some of the oldest cultivated plants known in history. They are grown in hot climates including in America now and there are an amazing variety of dates. Many of us will have heard of Medjool dates, a semisoft dates that comes mainly from areas of Jordan. It is sweet, moisty and firm textured and a top favourite, but other types can include:

Halawy and Khadrawy dates – soft, caramel flavoured, with soft amber colouring.
Barhi dates – medium sized with a thin skin and very soft inside.
Thoory dates – a dry date with a firm skin and chewy inside.
Deglet Noor dates – produced in large quantities in America, with a firm flesh and a slightly reddish tone.
Zahidi dates – this has a crunch fibrous flesh and large seed inside.

Whatever type of date you choose, they all contain useful nutrition. In fact, if it were not for the very high sugar levels (which make them so tasty!) dates would really be very good for us. The good news is they contain no fat and no cholesterol but instead are packed with a range of good minerals and vitamins.

First, they are easy to digest and contain good levels of fibre, always useful. Albeit in small quantities, dates contain iron, potassium and B vitamins including carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin, so good for eyesight. Vitamin A and K are also found in dates, along with small levels of copper, magnesium, manganese and vitamin B6. Other health benefits from dates include niacin, folate and riboflavin. All in all, these little fruits do pack a good punch for their size.

Of course the bad news is their levels of sugar...one pitted medjool date will contain around 66 calories which include perhaps 16g of sugar. One medium apple will contain around 19g of sugar as a comparison.

So overall the general advice is to eat dates in moderation and you can gain some definite health benefits, but don’t overdo them because of the sugar content.

 

 


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