For many of us, kickstarting the day with the right food is always a dilemma. While few people believe that intermittent fasting (which involves skipping breakfast) is a proven method to lose weight and stay active, for others a cup of coffee followed either by piping hot dosas, fluffy idlis or aromatic poha is good enough to keep them fuelled for rest of the day.
But if you ask a well-trained nutritionist or a medical expert for a piece of advice, chances are high that you might receive a similar answer from one and all. Eating a fistful of dry fruits and then guzzling down a half glass of dry dates water is a top-rated, highly recommended suggestion and agreed in unison for its innumerable health benefits. It is no secret that dry fruits including cashews, almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, etc often serve as a healthy mid-day snack for keeping hunger pangs at a bay, but dates available both in dry and ripe form can be consumed at any time of the day. Also Read: Eating Dates Provides Powerful Health Benefits
Date or Date Palm that goes with the botanical name Phoenix dactylifera is a native to Iraq and archaeologists believe the cultivation of this succulent, nutrition loaded fruit has been in practice since 7000BCE, a Neolithic civilization and was used by ancient Egyptians for preparing wine and as for the Jewish, it was a staple of sorts that went into making wine, incorporated into bread and cakes.
Widely grown in the tropical and subtropical regions across the world, mainly in the Northern Africa and Middle Eastern countries, dates trees grow up to 69 to 75 feet in height with several stems forming into a clump at the top – all emerging out of a single root. Date fruits that are oval-cylindrical shape can grow up to 2.8 inches long and about 2.5 centimetres in diameter. Available in bright maroon, red and yellow colours these stone-fruits grow in huge clusters weighing up to 8 kilograms with around 1000 fruits and get ripened in four stages – unripe, crunchy, soft and sun-dried.
Though the fruits can remain on the trees till the last stage - the sun-dried, commercial cultivators harvest it for better control over the process of drying.
These super-sweet fruits besides being the powerhouse of nutrition also carry high religious significance across the world. For Muslims, dates are a symbol of power, triumph, abundance and faith and Christians believe that those who welcomed Jesus Christ into Jerusalem were holding date palm branches. In India, Hindus relishing dates is permitted during Goddess Durga Navaratri fasting, while it is a practice among the Muslim community to break their fast with these succulent fruits during the month of Ramzan.
Dates in India are available in different avatars. It is not uncommon to find these oblong-shaped fruits being sold on carts in the busy markets and tightly packed under different brand names in the supermarkets. Dates syrup mixed in milk is considered a healthy substitute to the chocolate-based drinks, in the case of growing children. However, dried dates are a popular variety that is often bought by Indians, mostly owing to its longer shelf-life that would last up to 5 years and for its immense nutritional value. In some parts of the country, dry dates are exchanged as a part of ‘gifts’ during rituals.
Dry Dates are known as Sukhee Khajoor, Endu Kharjooram in Telugu, Ular Tetikal in Tamil, Varanta Tiyatikal in Malayalam, Suska Dinankagalu in Kannada and Sukano Kejura in Bengali.
Dry Dates In Ayurveda:
Sukhee Khajoor or dry dates are mentioned extensively in Ayurvedic scriptures like Bhojana Kutuhala for combating issues related to vata and pitta doshas. It describes kharjoor as a fruit that has Madhura Rasa (sweet to taste), Guru (heavy for digestion), and Snigdha Guna (slimy to touch), with a Shita Virya (cold potency). Also Read: Introduction To Ayurveda: Learn About Vata, Pitta And Kapha Doshas
Dates exude natural cooling effect and pacify the body besides boosting immunity. Traditional medical practitioners recommend soaking 4 to 6 dry dates overnight and consuming it daily in the morning, along with water for boosting immunity.
Ayurveda describes that the phytohormones present in these tasty fruits mimic the functioning of oxytocin often touted as a cuddle or love hormone. If you are on a weight-gain regimen, bring home dry dates to expedite the process.
Researchers believe that the sugars in this fruit are complex carbohydrates, heavy to digest and aid in slow release of energy into the bloodstream by keeping you satiated for a long time and that’s why Ayurveda strongly recommends eating soaked dry dates before eating lunch or dinner to feel food and cut down on food.
Health Benefits of Dry Dates:
Dry dates are as nutritious as ripe ones and these fruits do not contain moisture, look hard and shrivelled to touch. The dried version of dates is an excellent source of protein, fibre and a powerhouse of calcium and vitamin C.
How To Eat Dry Dates:
Dry dates are hard to touch and need to be soaked in water for up to 5 hours to turn soft. Remove the seed and consume the pulp. Do not throw away the water yet as it gets infused with various nutrients and drinks it to ease digestion and constipation.
Improves Heart Function:
Dry dates contain cholesterol in very negligible amounts and can regulate the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. Blood pressure patients should make it a habit to consume at least three dry dates daily as it is high on potassium, but low on sodium making it an ideal diet for regulating blood pressure.
Regulates Digestive Issues:
Digestive issues like acidity, constipation can be dealt with effectively by including dry dates in the daily diet. Constipation is caused due to lack of fibre in the food, dehydration or can be an indication of some underlying condition. Dry dates are loaded with huge amounts of dietary fibre and serve as a natural laxative and regulates bowel movements. The cooling effect of these fruits brings down acidity and soothes the tummy.
Facilitates Nutrient Absorption:
The antioxidant properties in dry dates trigger metabolic activity while the soluble and insoluble fibre, release good amount of digestive juices for better absorption of nutrients. If you are on the heavier side, limit it to 2 dry dates as it may add to your calorie count.
Dry dates are an ultimate source of energy. Being a natural source of sugars including both fructose and sucrose it aids in fighting sudden tiredness and severe fatigue. If you suffer from loss of energy at regular intervals, always keep a couple of soaked dates handy for gaining energy back in a jiffy.
The good amounts of calcium, vitamin C, iron and vitamin B-6 help in making the bones stronger. Nutritionists recommend including at least 3 dry dates per day for at least twice in a week, to prevent and beat osteoporosis and other bone-related disorders at a later stage. Also Read: 5 Effective Ways To Build Healthy Bones – Infographic
Dry Dates For Children:
Owing to its wide range of nutritional profile, dry dates can be consumed by all age groups and if you are wondering on how to include this in your child’s diet plan – ground into a powder. A natural sweetener, it can be added to the milk, desserts and can be incorporated in various sweet dishes.
While the process is a little laborious, the amount of nutrition this powder offers is unmatchable.
3 cups of good quality dry dates
Wash dry dates in water, drain it and wipe it clean without any dust
With a sharp knife, slowly cut the dry dates into small pieces. Alternatively, each fruit can be pounded with a mortar and pestle, deseed before cutting it into tiny bits
Place it on a plate and sundry till it becomes completely dry and brittle
Grind the powder into fine powder in smaller batches
Sieve the entire content and remove lumps if any
Store in an air-tight container
How To Use:
Mix it in milk, to sweeten desserts like payasam.
Being a good source of fibre dry dates powder is an excellent natural laxative that can ease constipation. Dry dates being rich in iron aid in fighting anaemia, while calcium, magnesium, vitamin A helps in boosting immunity.
Dry Dates Vs Fresh Dates:
Dates or Kharjoor are available in hundreds of varieties and are cultivated across the world. In India, we find fresh, packed and dried varieties in ample amounts mostly during the winter. Dates cultivation is picking up in recent years and it is interesting to learn how this sweet fruit is harvested. Also Read: Stay Healthy With Dried Fruits, Health Bars
It is the first stage and also known as Chimri stage, it is harvested almost 17 weeks after pollination when the fruit is green, hard and bitter. This contains 80% moisture and 50% sugars including glucose and fructose.
The harvest after 6 months is known as Khalal stage and the fruit at this stage turns yellow or bright red. These fruits are carefully preserved with the string they grow on before sending it to the market. If preserved under proper conditions, these fruits ripen naturally and move on to the next stage.
Rutab stage happens 4 weeks after Khalal and at this point of time, the fruit becomes juicy and soft.
After the next two weeks, these fruits enter Tamar stage turn into blackish-brown colour. At this stage, the fruit is fully ripened with lower moisture content.
Hababauk is the last and final stage if they dates have to be turned into dried ones. They are carefully sundried, and the process is monitored. These fruits look shrivelled without any moisture.
How Different Are Dry Dates From The Fresh Ones:
Well, these fruits differ in 6 major ways as they age including calories, nutrients, macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber content and shelf life.
Fresh dates contains 145 calories for every 100 grams, while the calorie count increases in dry dates up to 280 calories for each serving.
Dry dates can be preserved up to 5 years while packed fresh dates can stay up to 8 months.
There is not much difference in the nutritional content of both dry and fresh dates. Both these varieties are super rich in iron that aids in combating heart-related issues, boosting immunity and the presence of magnesium prevents the risk of diabetes and the rich concentration of vitamin A improves vision.
The micronutrients though in smaller amounts play a pivotal role in our health. Fresh dates provide vitamin C in considerable amounts while dried dates are an excellent source of iron and calcium.
Macronutrients are those important components like fat, protein and carbohydrates which the body would require in greater quantities. The carb content in dry dates is much higher compared to fresh dates but the presence of fat and protein is almost the same.
Dates are loaded with dietary fibre making it at a natural laxative and an important part of diet that can regulate the digestive system. Dry dates are super rich in dietary fibre in comparison to the fresh ones.
Is Dry Dates Good For Weight loss?
Well, based on the above facts both fresh and dry dates compete equally in nutrition but if you want to lose weight include fresh dates as it can keep you satiated for longer hours.
If you are looking for putting on weight, dry dates are the best bet thanks to its high-calorie content.
Dry Dates Recipes:
And if you thought, the only way you can consume these super hard sweet fruits by only soaking in water, think again. While the primary step is to soften it in the water this instant energy provider can be made an integral part of various yummy, healthy recipes. Here are two healthy recipes, which you can try in a jiffy.
Dry Dates Juice:
10 dry dates
1 tsp honey
Pinch of cardamom powder
Soak dry dates in water overnight.
Open the softened dates and discard the seed. Mash the pulp in to paste and mix with water and honey.
Add cardamom powder. Serve chilled.
Dry dates are rich in iron, calcium and are an ample source of vitamin C and A. Honey is a great source of antioxidants that can offer a wide range of healing properties, ease digestive issues and purify the blood. Cardamom freshens breath and boosts immunity. Also Read: Benefits Of Different Flavours Of Honey
Dry Dates Halwa:
250 gms dry dates
1 litre milk
50 gms ghee
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 tbsp jaggery
Fistful of fried cashews, almonds and other dry fruits
Soak dry dates in water for at least 6 hours. Remove the seeds, chop the dry dates into small pieces and grind it to a coarse powder in a blender.
Mix the paste in milk and refrigerate it for 2 hours.
In a pan, add ghee and add dates and milk mixture. Keep stirring till it turns golden brown. Add ghee if required.
Add milk and stir it till the mixture thickens and evaporates completely. If you want more sweetness, add jaggery powder and give it a good stir.
Top it with dry fruits. Serve hot or chilled.
Dry dates are natural sweeteners that can ease digestive issues, constipation and serve as energy boosters at any point. Ghee is a major source of good fats, nutrients and a plethora of vitamins while jaggery is an amazing source of iron. Adding dry fruits not only gives a crunchy texture to this halwa but provide ample amounts of Omega-6, Omega-3 besides a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Dry dates are hugely recommended for pregnant women. While doctors restrict consuming ripen variety of this fruit owing to high sugar content, dry dates can be included in the daily diet sans any guilt.
Dry dates high on dietary fibre aid in better digestion and relieve constipation in pregnant women. In addition to that, dry dates can induce natural labour in the last stages of pregnancy. Just soak few dry dates (4 to 6) overnight in hot drinking water. In the morning, squeeze all the pulp, throw away the seeds and gulp down the water. This not only helps in combating morning sickness but also keeps you fuelled for rest of the day.
Side Effects of Dry Dates:
While consuming dates regularly is one of the healthiest food choices that often get the nod from mindful eaters and nutritionists, it can also lead to certain side effects. Just like in the case of any other food item, moderation is the key. If taken in excess, the rich fibre content might play havoc with digestive issues that can cause diarrhoea. Dried dates in few people can cause skin rashes and asthmatic patients are often advised to stay away from dates owing to its allergic properties. Senior adults should exercise caution while eating too many dates as it can trigger the amount of potassium in the blood and if you are giving to the babies for the first time, give it in minimal amounts for the first few days to make sure it goes well with their tummy.
Dry dates that are native Middle Eastern countries are cultivated across the world especially in tropical and subtropical regions. Loaded with nutrition, vitamins and minerals, this super sweet fruit can be relished as both in fresh and dry forms. Since dry dates can be stored up to 5 years it is highly in demand. Drinking water infused with the goodness of dry dates on empty stomach addresses major digestive issues including acidity and constipation, thanks to its cooling effects.
Dry dates also play a significant part in rituals irrespective of the religion. Chewing on a few soaked dry dates is an ideal way to break the fast and gain instant energy. If you are diabetic, talk to your doctor or nutritionist if this fruit can be included in your diet plan.