When picked, they resemble a large shrivelled raisin. Despite their appearance they still contain some moisture. Whole dates have a stone in the middle that should be removed before eating, or you can buy pitted dates.
Dried and fresh dates are available year round, but the fresh type are best between November and January.
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There are lots of different varieties of the fruit, but the medjool date is one of the best known, as it has a sweeter and stickier taste and texture than others.
Health benefits of dates may include:
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in fibre, so supports gut health
- Contains magnesium and calcium
- Help facilitate a natural birth
- Date syrup is a lower-GI sweetener
Discover our full range of health benefit guides or check out some of our best date recipes. Start your day with our date and tahini porridge, and finish with our mackerel, date, aubergine & preserved lemon relish.
Nutritional profile of dates
A 30g serving of dates (dried) provides:
- 81 kcals / 345KJ
- 1g Protein
- 0.1g Fat
- 20.4g Carbohydrates
- 20.4g Sugar
- 1.6g Fibre
- 210mg Potassium
A serving of 30g of dates counts as one of your five-a-day. Discover more in our five-a-day infographic.
Are dates good for you?
1. Rich in protective antioxidants
Dates are a rich source of protective plant compounds which have antioxidant properties. These include polyphenols, carotenoids and lignans, which have been shown to help manage the risk of chronic disease.
2. May support gut health
Research into fibre continues to support its important role in health, from helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome to reducing the risk of certain long-term health conditions.
3. May support bone health
4. May facilitate a natural birth
Including dates in the diet when in the final few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and reduce the need for an induced birth. They are also thought to be helpful in reducing the length of labour. Compounds in the fruit are believed to mimic the effects of oxytocin, a hormone involved in labour contractions.
5. May be a useful sugar replacement
Are dates safe for everyone?
Some people may be allergic to dates and, in addition to this, compounds called sulphites may, for some sensitive individuals, cause allergic symptoms.
A mild reaction may include symptoms such as an itching mouth or tongue, sneezing or a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms after eating dates, speak to your GP. If a more serious anaphylactic reaction occurs, call for an ambulance immediately.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
Overall, are dates good for you?
There are plenty of reasons to add dates to your diet. They’re a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamin K, contributing to healthy bones. They’re also high in fibre, which we need for good digestion and gut health. Not to mention, they are lower-GI than most sweeteners, making them a good healthy snacking choice.
This article was last reviewed on 7 February 2024.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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