Energy value (calories per serving): High
Saturated fat: Low Cholesterol: None Carbohydrates: High Fiber: Very high
Sodium: Low (fresh or dried fruit)
High (dried fruit treated with sodium sulfur compounds)
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins
Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium
About the Nutrients in This Food
Dates are a high-carbohydrate food, rich in fiber and packed with sugar (as much as 70 percent of the total weight of the fruit). Dates are also a good source of nonheme iron, the inorganic iron found in plant foods, plus potassium, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, but they are an unusual fruit because they have no vitamin C at all.
A serving of 10 whole pitted Medjool dates has 16 g dietary fiber and 2.2 mg iron (12 percent of the R DA for a woman, 27 percent of the R DA for a man).
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve This Food
With meat or with a vitamin C- rich food. Both enhance your body’s ability to use the nonheme iron in plants (which is ordinarily much less useful than heme iron, the organic iron in foods of animal origin).
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food
Low-carbohydrate diet Low-fiber/low-residue diet Low-potassium diet
Low-sodium diet (dried dates, if treated with sodium sulfite)
Buying This Food
Look for: Soft, shiny brown dates in tightly sealed packages.
Storing This Food
Store opened packages of dates in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped to keep the fruit from drying out. (The dates sold in American markets are partly dried; they retain sufficient mois- ture to keep them soft and tasty.) Properly stored dates will stay fresh for several weeks.
Preparing This Food
To slice dates neatly, chill them in the refrigerator or freezer for an hour. The colder they are, the easier it will be to slice them.
If you’re adding dates to a cake or bread batter, coat them first with flour to keep them from dropping through the batter.
What Happens When You Cook This Food
The dates will absorb moisture from a cake or bread batter and soften.
Medical Uses and/or Benefits
Potassium benefits. Because potassium is excreted in urine, potassium-rich foods are often recommended for people taking diuretics. In addition, a diet rich in potassium (from food) is associated with a lower risk of stroke. A 1998 Harvard School of Public Health analysis of data from the long-running Health Professionals Study shows 38 percent fewer strokes among men who ate nine servings of high potassium foods a day vs. those who ate less than four servings. Among men with high blood pressure, taking a daily 1,000 mg potassium supplement—about the amount of potassium in ¾ cup pitted dates—reduced the incidence of stroke 60 percent.
Adverse Effects Associated with This Food
Sulfite sensitivity. Dates contain polyphenoloxidase, an enzyme that oxidizes phenols in the fruit to brown compounds that turn its flesh dark in the presence of air. To keep dates from darkening when they are dried, they may be treated with sulfur compounds called sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, or sodium metabisulfite). Treated dates may trigger serious allergic reactions, including potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, in people sensitive to sulfites.