Summer - The season of dates and its health benefits

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Dr. Judith Lobo, Muscat

Muscat, 24 June 2010: Date is an edible, sweet dry fruit rich in minerals and vitamins. A staple food of Middle Eastern countries, dates have been cultivated since ancient times, probably as early as 4000 BC. The Date Palm, whose scientific name is Phoenix dactylifera, produces bunch of oval drupes that are at least 3 cm long and 2 cm in diameter. These drupes, called dates are incorporated in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines and are often eaten whole.

The earliest evidence of date palm cultivation was 4000 BC in Ur, lower Mesopotamia (Iraq) where the date palm trunks were used for the construction of the Temple of Moon God. In the Nile Valley, date palm cultivation goes back to 3000 BC. In the old temples the trunk of the date palm represents one year and the fruit bunch represents one month. In Christianity, date palms are used on the so called Palm Sunday, prior to the Easter Sunday. The Jews conside the date as one of the seven holy seeds, the others being, barely, wheat, lentil, beans, garlic and onion, while in Islam date palm is mentioned in 20 verses out of 114.

The date palm is the most enduring symbol of the Sultanate of Oman’s rich heritage, alongside the trusty camel, the vitalizing falaj and other long-cherished aspects of traditional Omani life. It has been the main wealth of people in past generations, the fruit serving as a source of daily nourishment, with the branches and the tree trunk proving valuable in the creation of a great many things that have been an integral part of the Omani households.

Date palms thrive in hot and arid climate. They require temperatures of around 40°C but quite some water, which is provided by irrigation systems, some of which are millennia old. The palm is the primary crop of the Sultanate of Oman where it represents 82% of all fruit trees.

Usually, during the first week of June, the first dates become ripe enough for eating. Locally, there are several dozen different varieties dates are grown. Some are red before they ripen while others are yellow. Some varieties do not dry well and are best eaten when ripe. The fleshy part of the fruit contains about 58 per cent sugar and 2 per cent each of fat, protein, and minerals. Leaf stalks are used for making baskets and wickerwork. Palm leaves are woven into bags and mats, and fiber from both is made into cordage.

The people of the Middle East have been consuming dates as a part of their staple diet since centuries, mainly owing to its high nutritional value. Apart from being rich in natural fibers, dates also comprise of a lot of other nutrients like oil, calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, magnesium, etc. In fact, it is said that one date is a minimum one can have for a balanced and healthy diet.

Health and Nutrition Benefits of Eating Dates
• Since dates get digested very easily, they are used for supplying quick energy and repairing waste.
• Milk, when boiled with dates, becomes a very nutritious and invigorating drink for children and adults, especially during the recovery period from any illness.
• Regular consumption of dates has been found to check the growth of pathological organisms and help in the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines.
• Being a laxative food, dates have been found to be beneficial for those suffering from constipation.
• For alcoholic intoxication, drinking water in which fresh dates have been rubbed or soaked is said to be quite effective.
• Being rich source of calcium, dates are good for strengthening bones

• Research has revealed that dates are effective in preventing abdominal cancer.

• Dieticians also recommend dates as the best food for women in confinement and those who are breast-feeding. Dates contain elements that assist in alleviating depression in mothers and enriching the breast-milk to make the child healthy and resistant to disease.

Caution: As dates are rich in sugar, diabetic people are advised to consume dates in limits.


Comments on this Article
malita martis, saudi/belle Mon, January-10-2011, 3:49
good article dear,,,i m in saudi,,n do consume it frequently,,good to know its othr benifits too,,,thnx
recover data, Tue, July-27-2010, 8:33
Excited to see that date is such a famous dry fruit in Qatar too although it s universal but amazing to see that people know it s importance. We used take date in milk.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Fri, July-9-2010, 10:24
Victor, one my neighbors here in Qatar makes one of the best date pickles I have ever had. I will ask her to gift me a bottle if she returns from vacation before date season is over for this year, and I will gift it to Bellevision, Qatar...:D
Victor DSouza, Moodubelle / Doha Fri, July-9-2010, 12:39
An Indian restaurant in Doha is currently serving dates pickle everyday with meals. I never tasted or even heard of dates pickle before. It tastes really delicious. Every one must try this. I think this could be easily prepared at home like any other pickle.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Sat, June-26-2010, 7:02
Thanks, Judith, for the caution at the end, which I will try to comply with..Just wanted to tell you, when your dad and I were kids, kazur was a delicacy we never missed buying from the firgajichea festachi saanth...
Victor DSouza, Moodubelle / Doha Thu, June-24-2010, 1:18
Nice article by Dr. Judith Lobo, which gives all the details of dates. The date is one of the most nourishing fruits. It is a food of great importance and is called the bread of the desert. But its use is now universal. It is included in the categories of both dry and fresh fruit.
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