Botanically dates are the fruits grow on the palm tree belonging to the family of Arecaceae of the genus: Phoenix and scientifically named as Phoenix dactylifera. The tree is believed to have originated in the lands around the banks of Nile and Euphrates rivers. Date palm is now extensively cultivated for its edible fruit in warmer climates across all the continents.
The date fruit is a “drupe” in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp and mesocarp) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. The fruit is oval to cylindrical in shape, 3–7 cm long, and 2–3 cm diameter, and when unripe, range from bright red to bright yellow in color, depending on the variety.
Date fruit pulp taste very sweet, described as reminiscent of sugar syrup and honey mix. It contains single, brown colored, hard seed about 2–2.5 cm long and 6–8 mm thick. The seeds vary in size depending on cultivar type. In any case, they are generally inedible and discarded.
There are many varieties of date palm cultivated and some important varieties that are popular for their high quality are ‘Amir Hajj’, ‘Saidy’, ‘Khadrawy’ and ‘Medjool’.
Health benefits of dates
Wonderfully delicious, dates are one of the most popular fruits with an impressive list of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, required for normal growth, development and overall well-being.
Fresh date is made of soft, easily digestible flesh with simple sugars like fructose and dextrose that when eaten replenishes energy and revitalizes the body instantly; thus, for these qualities, dates are being used to breakfast during Ramadan months.
The fruit is rich in dietary fiber, which prevents dietary LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. It is also a good bulk laxative. The fiber content helps to protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time and as well as binding to cancer causing chemicals in the colon.
They contain many health benefitting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
They are a good source of Vitamin-A (contains 149 IU per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. Vitamin A also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
The fruit is very rich in antioxidant flavonoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen free radicals and thereby found to be protective against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus it offers protection against age related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.
Dates are an excellent source of iron, contains 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits (about 11% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.
In addition, They are good in potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help controlling heart rate and blood pressure; thus offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.
They are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse conduction. Manganese is used by the body as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Magnesium is essential for bone growth.
Further, the fruit has adequate levels of B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These vitamins are acting as co-factors help body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Vitamin K is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood as well as in bone metabolism.
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