Dates have a long and noble history. Some scholars even believe that dates were the first fruit cultivated in the world. All we know for sure is that dates were first farmed around 4,000 BC, in the modern Middle-East.1
Dates are still associated with Middle-Eastern and North African cuisine, where they’re eaten both fresh and dried. However, you can typically only find dried dates in Britain.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about dates, from their health benefits to their nutritional profile. Finally, we’ll advise on creative ways you can cook with dates, to enjoy all their health benefits.
What are dates?
Dates grow on the palm tree and hang together when they’re growing, like large grapes in a bunch below the palm fronds. Unlike grapes, dates are very high above the ground – as much as 15 metres.
Dates are dried to preserve them, and they become sweet, sticky, and tarry in the process.
When buying dates, look for whole dates that are purple-toned, with a bright, thin, shiny skin. Dates shouldn’t be stuck together.
Standard date varieties include Medjool, Deri and Deglet Nour.
Health benefits of dates
Dates are associated with health benefits, including:
Dates are jam-packed with antioxidants. One scientific study found that the antioxidants in dates have a positive impact on the brain, which is associated with better cognitive health in later life.2
A study of mice found that the mice performed better on memory tests after dates were added to their diet.3 However, this study has yet to be repeated in humans.
Promote natural labour
There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that women who eat dates in the last weeks of their pregnancy are more likely to experience natural delivery which is shorter in duration.4,5,6
Dates nutritional value
A 28g portion of dates includes7:
|% of RDA*||6%||4%||3%|
How to cook with dates
Dates are a versatile ingredient that you can enjoy in sweet and savoury dishes. Cookies filled with dates are loved in Arabic cuisine, as is honey and date cakes.
Suppose you want to enjoy dates in savoury dishes. In that case, you can bake them with meat or vegetables as part of a Moroccan tagine, or serve them alongside couscous in a salad.
Last updated: 2 April 2021