D for Dates (& other dried fruit)

reading time: ca. 3 min

hey there food friends 
Okay, i have a confession to make: i think i'm addicted to dates. Over the last two months i have consumed - no lie - 3.5 kilograms of dates. That's 7.7 lbs or half a stone. Oh yeh. It was crazy. Especially since there is a controversial "date discussion" floating around the internet concerning whether dates are helpful, harmless or even harmful.
So let's take a look at the benefits and possible dis-benefits of dates and dried fruit in general.

You might not remember the previous articles, but this is actually part of a little trivia series on the ABC of healthy food essentials that i started last year. In this series i share my knowledge of food and nutrition*. Click here for the previous episode.

Episode 4: D for Dates (& other dried fruit)

What you see in this image is 2 kilograms of delicious Deglet Nour, the "Queen of all dates", and 1 kg of majestic Medjool dates. Not only are they extremely rich in flavour - super sweet and gooey -, but also low in fat and high in carbohydrates and fiber, making it the perfect raw vegan snack!

For example: 100 grams of Deglet Nour dates contain approximately 300 calories, 0.5g fat and 8g fiber. 100 grams of Medjool dates contain approx. 280 calories, 0.2g fat and 7g fiber. 

Whereas most fruits are high in vitamin C and get the majority of their weight from water, dates provide little or no vitamin C and as much as 70 percent of their weight comes from sugar. The sugar content of ripe dates is about 80% - and no, this is not necessarily a negative aspect because it means they replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly.

Having heart problems? Maybe you need more dates in your life ; )
No, seriously. 100g of dates can - depending on the cultivar - contain up to 650mg or even 700mg of potassium! (For comparison: 100g of bananas, the perhaps most common source of potassium, provide "only" around 360mg per 100g!)

Dates are also high in Magnesium, which is vital for our muscle and nerve cells and essential for bone growth. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle spasms, and has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction.

Being high in digestive fiber, dates promote digestive system and fill the stomach, making it less likely to overeat (though i have to say, this doesn't really seem to work on me - i have definitely overeaten on dates, lol). 

Medjool dates supply 18% of the daily value for copper in a 3.5-ounce serving. This essential trace mineral helps your body both absorb and use iron to form red blood cells. It’s needed to maintain healthy nerves and is also used to form collagen, a fundamental component of skin, bone, cartilage and connective tissue. Above that it's a critical element of an important antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, which is manufactured by the body to prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. (source)

Stored at room temperature in an airtight container, dates will last for several months, or for up to a year when refrigerated.


- perfect travelling snack: dense in calories and easy to take along**. They can be carried around in a little bag and eaten out-of-hand. Dates can be eaten soft or dry.

- caramel apples: freeze your dates (preferably a cultivar like the Barhee/Barhi, which are one of the moistest dates) and then eat them with apples. Tastes like caramel apples!

- easy dessert snack: probably the fastest way to make "truffles" is by pitting a date and replacing the pit with an almond or a cacao bean (see below). So easy and yummy! You can even roll them in coconut shreds or cacao powder.

- real truffles: can be made by processing or blending up some dates with nuts or oats or buckwheat, and optionally coat it in cacao powder, chopped nuts or shredded coconut.

- raw brownie dessert: 1 cup dates + 1 cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans...) + 1/4 cup unsweetened cacao (or to taste) + 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Put all of this in a high-powered blender or food processor and blend to desired consistency. I like mine with chunks of nuts still intact, but you could also blend them perfectly smooth.

- caramel sauce: pitted dates and water. and perhaps some sweetener. that's all you need to make a sweet, thick caramel cream like the one i poured over my toffee ice cream here!


- wintery breakfast "porridge": i love to start my day by mashing some bananas and tossing in some date chunks and shredded coconut (recipe). This will keep you full for hours, and taste super sweet without added sugar! 

- wrapped in lettuce, dates make a convenient yummy afternoon snack.

- chopped dates also make a great add-on to a nice fruit salad - or even savoury salads!

Also, a 2008 study suggests that consumption of dates by women in the final four weeks of pregnancy has positive effects regarding labor. Women who had six dates daily were compared to women who did not eat dates. The date-consuming group had greater mean cervical dilation, higher proportion of intact membranes, higher proportion of spontaneous labor, lower use of prostin/oxytocin, and shorter latent phase of labor. (source)

On the downside:

- Being dehydrated, dried dates (dried fruit in general) are also dehydrating, causing bloating and stomach aches when eaten in bulks. While dried fruit are very effective in the treatment of gastrointestinal complaints, most people who also tend to get a lot of gas when eating them. Now don't panic. One or two dates a day will not be harmful - on the contrary: they are very beneficial to health as we established further above! - but when consumed in larger amounts they can cause digestive and dental problems. Which leads me to the next point:

- Being very concentrated in sugar (especially due to the dehydration) and also being very sticky, eating tons of dried fruit like dates can (a) lead to a sugar crush and (b) create cavities. As for dental health, dried fruits won't do anything to your enamel, but they will stick to your teeth and provide perfect nourishment to the bacteria that cause cavities. The best way to avoid this is by drinking lots of water when eating dried fruits and also flossing directly after. 
The same applies to all dried fruits. They are undoubtedly a great source of nutrients and dietary fiber, but sould only be consumed occasionally - as all "superfoods" should! On a long trip for example.

I am definitely not an enemy of dates. As a matter of fact, there is a pack of dried dates right next to me as i'm typing this, ready to be chopped up for the recipe i'm making this Saturday :) will be on the blog by Sunday.

cacao coated Easter Egg truffles using dates and buckwheat
cacao date "porridge"
date stuffed with cacao bean
source: thesweetlifeonline
source: barefootandfrolicking

Other common dried fruits and their benefits:

potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B1,...

vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, iron, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, manganese,...

manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus,...

vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, potassium, manganese, vitamin B3, magnesium,... 

a bunch of dried (unsulfured!) apricots

* note: i am not a nutritionist nor dietician. however i did spend three years reading up on nutrients, dietary needs, various forms of nutrition and eating disorders, and do consider myself quite an educated food friend. if there's anything i misrepresented or missed out, feel free to correct me.

** To limit my intake of dehydrated and therefore dehydrating dried fruits, i try to only eat them when incorporated in cakes or when travelling! (same goes for nuts) 

Phew. That was a lot of trivia for today. 

Next up we got E for… eating-like-an-elephant!


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