Coach GP

Healthy or Not: Dates

This week I’d like to talk about dates, a lot of you have been asking, “Are Dates Good For You?” Let’s dig deeper into this question and get some answers. As we all know, dates are a whole food that contains sugar, fiber, vitamins, minerals and is generally nutrient rich.

But did you know that dates have up to 80% of sugar content? Masha Allah, that’s a lot! In fact, that’s a higher sugar content than most chemical filled junk food that you can find in your local supermarket.

I’m sure that the next question you’re going to ask is “So does that make them bad for us?”. That’s what I’d like to address in this article.

There is a lot of research going on, considering the health benefits and possible harm that may be caused by eating lots of dates.

It’s been assumed upfront that due to their high sugar content, dates would naturally increase our blood sugar and cholesterol levels (triglyceride to be specific – this is a type of cholesterol), in turn putting a lot of oxidative stress on our bodies.

Hence the assumption that eating a lot of dates could potentially lead to diabetes, high cholesterol levels and early aging due to oxidative stress, among other health issues.

However, it turns out that dates are really, really good for you! In fact, according to an article published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, titled “The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future”,

“In many ways, dates may be considered as an ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.”

So, it seems there’s proof that dates are actually good for you.

A set of Israeli researches in 2009, went on to test whether dates are bad, neutral or good for us. They gave 100 grams of dates per day (about 10-20 dates depending on size) to the research participants who were healthy individuals, over a period of 4 weeks.

The results they got were fully supportive of the theory that dates are very, very good for us!

They found that eating dates for a whole month:

Did not have a negative impact on blood sugar
Did not impact the participant’s weight
Actually, improved their cholesterol and anti-oxidative stress levels
The BMI (body mass index) also wasn’t significantly affected, despite the high number of calories they’ve been consuming by eating an extra 10-20 dates per month.

The researchers concluded that eating dates (mainly the Hallawi kind), doesn’t negatively impact healthy adults. Despite their high sugar content, they positively affect cholesterol and oxidative stress levels, and doesn’t have a negative effect on blood sugar levels.

They’ve also concluded that dates can be considered a heart healthy food, since they contribute to preventing fatty tissue deposits to form on artery walls.

That is such a powerful conclusion for me! Just like many of you, I’ve been under the impression that dates could potentially be bad for me, with their high sugar content that should cause blood sugar spikes and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

With the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, since we break our fast with dates and water, it got me thinking, “how many dates should I eat?” and especially “how many dates is too many?”.

They’re so sweet and tasty, even more so after a day’s fast – it’s hard to eat just a few.

I hope that armed with this information, you’ll also begin to see dates in a different, more positive light. I invite you to start including more dates in your diet, mainly as a whole, fresh food in your cooking and smoothies. It makes for a very healthy sweetener and a good addition to the “Healthier You” strategy.