You can eat them whole or blend them in a smoothie for a quick-sugar fix. But during the holy month of Ramazan, dates hold a lot more significance than any usual day as Muslims all around the world break their fast with these and water.
Research suggests that having dates — that originate from date palm, one of the oldest known species of plant — at iftar has great nutritional benefits for our health.
As compiled from naturalsociety.com, orbitislam.com and khanapakana.com, the following eight nutrients will help you know how dates make up for the low energy levels, sugar and blood pressure related issues you may face.
1. Dietary fiber
Dietary fiber comes in the form of soluble and insoluble fibers and dates are a great source of both. They help to improve our digestive system and control constipation. While insoluble fiber increases the rate at which food moves through the digestive system, soluble fiber may help control diabetes by decreasing elevated blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber has also been found to help lower serum cholesterol levels.
According to researchers, dates have the highest concentration of polyphenols among dried fruits. Although, the health effects depend on the amount we consume, it is evident that they play a role in the prevention of degenerative diseases. Studies also suggest that a greater part of our diet should be based on dried fruits because they are dense in phenol antioxidants and nutrients, most notably fiber. These antioxidant compounds protect cells against damaging free-radicals.
Dates consist of 75 per cent carbohydrates and most of it comes from sugar, starch and fiber that make them a perfect energy-boosting snack. Carbohydrates include three grams of dietary fiber and 29 grams of naturally occurring sugars such as fructose, glucose and sucrose that acts as a source of quick energy to be readily consumed by the body during Iftar.
One of the essential minerals that maintains muscle contractions including the heart — is potassium. It is also needed to maintain a healthy nervous system and to balance the body’s metabolism. There isn’t a better natural source of potassium than a date. It should be constantly replenished as it isn’t restored in the body and much of it is lost in perspiration. Its consumption also leads to the excretion of sodium, which helps to keep blood pressure down. As people age, their kidneys become less efficient at eliminating sodium. About a 400mg increase in potassium intake has been associated with a 40 per cent reduction in the risk of stroke. This roughly amounts to one additional serving of dates on a daily basis.
5. B-complex vitamins
Dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins — thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid. These vitamins play an important role in your daily intake as they help maintain a healthy body. They metabolise carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels and fatty acids and also help to make hemoglobin.
Its deficiency has been linked to migraine, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis but you don’t need to worry about it anymore because dates contain magnesium. It is also essential for healthy bone development and for energy metabolism. According to naturalsociety.com, a study suggests that “inflammatory indicators in the body were all reduced when magnesium intake was increased”. It also reduces inflammation in the arterial walls.
Dates are also rich in iron which is essential to red blood cell production. Red blood cells carry all the nutrients to cells throughout the body. Not only the nutrients, iron also determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood as it is itself a component inside the red blood cells and it is also essential in treating anaemia.
8. Alkaline salts
The alkaline salts present in dates help to adjust the acidity of blood. That results from excessive eating of meat and carbohydrates that in turn causes a lot of hereditary diseases such as diabetes, gout, renal stones, gall bladder inflammations, high blood pressure and hemorrhoids. Above all, dates are fat and cholesterol free so it makes a perfect first choice for your empty stomach.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015.
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