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Medjool Dates: The Healthiest Natural Sweetener?

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Medjool dates - Dr. Axe

We already know that eating fruits provides many health benefits, so when something is referred as “nature’s power fruit” — as Medjool dates are — it must be the real deal, right?

Well, Medjool dates do not disappoint. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, the health benefits are remarkable.

These edible sweet fruits of the date palm tree make great natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes, but they’re not just delicious. They’ve also been proven to decrease cholesterol and boost bone health — and these are just a couple of the many reasons to add dried or fresh Medjool dates to your diet.

What exactly are Medjool dates, and what makes them so beneficial? Read on to find out and get ready for some delicious Medjool dates recipes.

What Are Medjool Dates?

Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. 

What are dates? They’re a type of fruit derived from the date palm, (Phoenix dactylifera), a tree of the palm family, found in northern Africa, the Canary Islands, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and California.

The date fruit is one-seeded and typically oblong, and dates often vary in shape, size, color, quality and consistency of flesh.

There are hundreds of varieties of Phoenix dactylifera date palms, but one of the most famous is the large, soft Medjool date palm, which produces Medjool dates.

Dates are a fruit commonly consumed as a part of the Mediterranean diet. Medjool dates can be eaten fresh or dried, and it’s common for them to be dried, which lengthens their life span and prevents early spoilage.

If you’re going to consume them fresh, look for them in season between September and November.

Medjool dates have a deep brown skin color with a flavor that can be described as caramel-like. When holding a dried Medjool date in your hand, you first feel its firm yet wrinkled textured, but don’t make any quick judgments upon biting into a Medjool date, you will see that the inside is actually moist and meaty.

Medjool dates vary greatly in size, and at present there are no industry standards for size. You will sometimes see Medjool dates described as “large,” “jumbo” or “super,” which is a general reference to their length as well as their circumference.

Health Benefits

Are dates good for you? There are many health benefits of dates. Below are some of the top ways adding dates  to your diet may boost your health!

1. Decrease Cholesterol

One of the top potential Medjool dates benefits is a decrease in unhealthy cholesterol levels. When you eat dates, you increase your insoluble and soluble fiber intake, which in turn can significantly lower cholesterol naturally — particularly LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. 

As we know, LDL cholesterol is a major contributing factor to heart attacks, heart disease and stroke, making these tasty dates a great heart-healthy option.

When there is too much cholesterol circulating in the blood, it can create sticky deposits called plaque along the artery walls. Plaque can eventually narrow or block the flow of blood to the brain, heart and other organs.

Blood cells that get caught on the plaque form clots, which can break loose and completely block blood flow through an artery, causing heart attack or stroke. If you suffer from high cholesterol, experts recommend a diet that includes high-fiber foods, such as dates. 

In fact, research out of Israel found that Medjool dates, along with a variety of other dates, “inhibited LDL oxidation, and most extracts also stimulated cholesterol removal from macrophages.”

2. Prevent and Relieve Constipation

If you’re reading a list of top foods for constipation relief, don’t be surprised if you see dates on the list. The high fiber content of Medjool dates make them a smart choice when it comes to keeping yourself regular.

If there is no pain or bleeding, constipation is often a sign that your diet simply needs more fiber.

Depending upon age and gender, the Institute of Medicine recommends 19 grams to 38 grams of fiber per day. However, most Americans do not meet these recommendations, often only getting half of what they should on a daily basis.

Dates have high soluble fiber foods, which keep bowel movements regular by adding bulk to stool and helping it move faster through the intestines. Next time you’re looking for a natural constipation relief remedy, try having a few Medjool dates.  

3. Natural Energy Booster

Need a new go-to for your pre-workout snack or a healthy post-workout option? Try Medjool dates for a natural energy boost.

Once you try a Medjool date, you won’t be surprised to learn that dates are higher in sugar than many other fruits. However, dates contain natural sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose.

These sugars are easily processed and utilized by the body for energy.

Consuming a few Medjool dates or including them in a snack is an excellent idea when you’re looking for a healthy surge of energy. Worldwide, dates are used for an afternoon pick-me-up to ward off tiredness.

Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, try a green smoothie recipe that includes some Medjool dates.

4. Reduce Triglyceride Levels

Medjool dates can give your heart a healthy boost. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that Medjool dates are rich in antioxidative properties in vitro.

Ten healthy subjects consumed 100 grams daily of either Medjool or Hallawi dates for four weeks. According to the study, the consumption of Medjool dates reduced blood triglyceride levels by 8 percent among the participants. 

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. Having a high triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease so it’s important to keep your triglycerides at a normal level (less than 150 milligrams per deciliter).

5. Alternative Natural Sweetener

If nature had an actual candy store, Medjool dates would be front and center. When you eat a Medjool date, it can be hard to process that it really is a piece of fruit because it has such a candy-like quality to it.

Medjool dates are undeniably sweet but in a completely unprocessed sort of way — so as long as you don’t overdo it, there is no guilt associated with these caramel-like dried fruits.

Research shows that there is a direct link between increased sugar consumption in food and increased diabetes rates. We all should aim to keep our sugar intake down and be mindful of our sources of sugar.

A delicious fruit, like a Medjool date, provides a truly satisfying alternative to eating a candy bar or brownie loaded with refined sugar.

6. Boost Bone Health

The significant amounts of key minerals found in Medjool dates make them superstars when it comes to strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating bone diseases like osteoporosis.

First off, dates are rich in calcium, which is essential for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones. Calcium also keeps the heart, nerves, muscles and other body systems working properly, and it’s probably best known for helping prevent osteoporosis.  

Dates also a food high in phosphorus, which in combination with calcium helps optimize bone-strengthening benefits. Phosphorus is also required to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium and zinc. 

As people begin to age and their bones start to become weaker, maintaining a diet high in both calcium and phosphorus can ward off unpleasant bone degradation. Eating Medjool dates regularly is one way that you can up your intake of calcium and phosphorus.

7. Rich Source of Beneficial Phytochemicals

A scientific review published in the journal Food Research International reveals the impressive phytochemical profile of dates, which includes anthocyanins, phenolics, sterols, carotenoids, procyanidins and flavonoids. These biologically active compounds found in plants are all known to have numerous beneficial effects on human health.

In fact, the American Institute of Cancer Research highlights the following potential benefits of phytonutrients based on laboratory studies:

  • Immune system stimulation
  • Prevention of substances we eat, drink and breathe from becoming carcinogens
  • Reduction in the type of inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely
  • Prevention of DNA damage
  • Decreased growth rate of cancer cells
  • Improved hormone regulation

Nutrition Facts

What exactly does Medjool dates nutrition look like? One serving (100 grams) contains about:

  • 277 calorie
  • 75 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.8 grams protein
  • 0.2 grams fat
  • 6.7 grams fiber
  • 696 milligrams potassium (20 percent DV)
  • 0.4 milligrams copper (18 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligrams manganese (15 percent DV)
  • 54 milligrams magnesium (14 percent DV)
  • 0.2 milligrams vitamin B6 (12 percent DV)
  • 1.6 milligrams niacin (8 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams pantothenic acid (8 percent DV)
  • 64 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
  • 62 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
  • 0.9 milligrams iron (5 percent DV)

In addition, Medjool dates nutrition contains some vitamin A, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, choline and zinc.

Similar to nuts, dried fruit like dates are not meant to be eaten in extremely large quantities. As a healthy snack, one or two dates are typically consumed.

One Medjool date (about 24 grams) contains approximately 66.5 calories, 16 grams of sugar and 0 trans fats.

Medjool vs. Regular Dates

There are many varieties of dates available worldwide, but the Medjool date is one of two of the most commercially produced varieties within the United States. The other most commonly produced is the Deglet Noor (or Nour) date, which is what many people consider a “regular date.”

Medjool and regular dates come from different varieties of the same plant.

Compared to regular dates, Medjools are larger, softer and sweeter. Unlike Medjool dates, it’s possible to purchase Deglet Noor dates without their pits inside.

Medjool dates nutrition is very similar to regular dates. Both are rich sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

They also both contain significant amounts of natural sugar, but since they are low on the glycemic index they don’t affect blood sugar levels like refined sugars.

Medjools and regular dates can be used interchangeably in recipes, but Medjools do have a sweeter, richer flavor so keep that in mind. Deglet Noor dates also tend to have a firmer consistency.

If you’re making date paste (more info on this below) using Medjool dates, they’ll only need around 15 minutes to soak in hot water, but Deglet Noor dates are drier and tougher so they can require soaking for up to one hour.

Uses

Wondering where to buy Medjool dates? They can be found in your local grocery store in the fresh and/or dried fruit aisle.

Medjool dates are also likely to be found at your nearest health store, often in the bulk section, which will give you the greatest amount of dried dates for the lowest price. You may even find them in your local pharmacy in the food aisle.

Medjool dates come with the pit inside of them because the fruit is too soft to put in a mechanical pitter. While having to deal with pits is not ideal, the pit can be removed very easily.

Simply make a small, lengthwise slice into the date with a knife, pull out the pit and that’s it you have a delicious Medjool date ready for consumption. It’s also extremely easy to remove the pit with your fingers.

The sticky texture of Medjool dates makes them excellent for binding ingredients together whether you’re making a granola bar or tart crust. Need a kick of natural sweetness in your next smoothie or energy drink? Forget the agave nectar and toss a couple of Medjool dates into the mix.

Medjool dates can also make a delicious appetizer or snack when stuffed with various ingredients like goat cheese. Since they don’t need to be refrigerated, they make a perfect tasty and healthy addition to a gift basket alongside some nuts, dark chocolate and other dried fruit.

Last but not least, when Medjool dates are made into a paste, they become an awesome, nutrient-dense sugar substitute. Date paste can be used one-to-one in most recipes, unlike stevia, and it adds bulk for baking.

How to make date paste:

  1. Soak Medjool dates in hot water until soft. If the water reaches room temperature and the dates aren’t soft enough, soak in hot water again.
  2. Reserve the soaking liquid, as it’s integral to making a good paste!
  3. Add the soaked dates to your food processor, along with one tablespoon of the soaking liquid. Blend until smooth. Add more water as needed to create a thick rich paste.

You’re looking for the consistency of peanut butter. Use the paste in your favorite cookie or cake recipe to cut out processed sugar and boost the nutrients.

You can also use date paste to sweeten your favorite muffins and pies.

Recipes

Want a snack or dessert that is both seriously delicious and seriously healthy? You have to try this quick and easy recipe for Raw Brownie Bites.

Not only do they contain Medjool dates, but they also walnuts, almonds and sea salt — making for a tasty treat.

You can try these other delicious and naturally sweet Medjool dates recipes as well:

Risks and Side Effects

First and foremost, always remove the pit of a Medjool date before consumption. If you try to consume one with the pit still inside of it, there is a risk of choking. 

As with any fruit, it’s important not to overdo it when consuming Medjool dates due to their high natural sugar content. Pay attention to serving sizes, and monitor your blood sugar if you are a diabetic.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a half cup of dried fruit like Medjool dates equals one serving of fruit. A half cup of dates is a very satisfying serving whether you consume them alone or within Medjool dates recipes. 

If you have constipation more than occasionally or have severe pain and/or bleeding, it’s important to check with your doctor because these symptoms can be a sign of a more serious digestive disorder.

It’s possible to have a food allergy to dates. If you experience any food allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, tongue swelling, itchy eyes or facial redness, then discontinue consumption of and seek medical attention.

Final Thoughts

  • If you’re comparing Medjool dates vs. dates, Medjools are larger, softer and sweeter than regular dates (Deglet Noor dates). Regular dates are available already pitted.
  • Medjool dates calories and sugar content are not low, relatively speaking, but it only takes a date or two to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthier way. Dates also are low on the glycemic index.
  • It’s easier to find dried dates in stores, but you can also look for fresh dates when they are in season (September through November).
  • Dates are high in calcium and a phosphorus, which work closely together to build strong bones and teeth.
  • They are also a source of numerous phytochemicals that can benefit health in major ways, including cancer prevention. 
  • Other potential health benefits of dates include reduced cholesterol, improved digestion and lowered triglyceride levels.
  • Medjool dates nutrition also makes them perfect natural energy boosters. 
  • Date sugar is often used in recipes as a healthier alternative to processed sugar.
Josh Axe

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