Dates are the super sweet fruit of the palm tree. They are a healthy alternative to sugar and are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Eating a date in the afternoon can help to boost energy levels. It is believed the first dates were cultivated 8,000 years ago in what is now Iraq.
The word “date” comes from the Greek word daktylos, meaning finger. Because the tree and its fruit have so many uses — from food to building materials — the date palm is known as the “tree of life” in the Middle East, and it’s the national symbol of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Due to availability and longevity, people used them for longer boat trips, crossing deserts and they even stocked them in fortresses to use for survival when they were besieged. Correctly stocked date fruits can last for several years.
They are used to help relieve constipation, develop muscles, strengthen bones, and have been studied for the treatment of abdominal cancer. Due to their high mineral content, dates are used to treat anemia. The presence of organic sulfur helps to reduce allergies.
Date palm trees need at least 100 days of 100ºF heat and plenty of water to produce the best quality fruit. There are more than 200 varieties of dates. Medjool, large and caramel-like, is the hardest to grow and therefore one of the most expensive to buy.
A date contains essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They also contain vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.