It's a Date: Everything You Need to Know about this Super Fruit
Here at Traidcraft, we’re big on dates (and not just the candlelit dinner for two kind…). We’re talking plump, juicy, flavoursome, bursting with goodness, Fairtrade kind of dates. So, without further ado, let us tell you everything you need to know about dates, including a trip to source, health benefits, recipes, fun facts and why we love them quite so much!
Name: Date (phoenix dactylifera)
Age: The stone fruit dates 50 million years back, according to fossils
Origins: From the date palm tree, which is typically native to the Middle East
Most Common Variations: Ajwa, Khidri, Kholas, Medjool, Segai, Sokari, Wanan
Typical Uses: Cooking, snacking
Five-a-Day?: 80g of dates provides one of your five-a-day, which is about three dates.
Are Dates Good for You?
In a word, yes! Dates are packed full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants, helping to keep our bodies functioning properly. From improved digestion, to a reduced risk of disease, studies have shown that dates have a plethora of health benefits.
Whilst they can be enjoyed fresh, many people prefer the rich flavour of their dried form; perfect for adding to breakfasts, cooking with and of course, eaten alone as a wholesome and filling snack. Here are just some of the components of dried dates and their most well-known benefits:
- Antioxidants - can protect your cells from oxidative damage that can lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease and aid brain health.
- Carbohydrates – Medjool dates in particular have high levels of carbohydrates, the body’s main source of energy.
- Fibre – can help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and reduce the risk of certain long-term health conditions.
- Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium – these minerals have been studied for their potential to prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis.
- Natural Sugar - because dates are whole, unprocessed fruit, their sugar content is 100% naturally occurring. Added sugar (opposed to natural) is the type we should limit in our daily intake, due to its association with an increased risk of heart disease and obesity.
Nutritional value per 100g serving (approx.):
Potassium: 20% of the RDI
Magnesium: 14% of the RDI
Copper: 18% of the RDI
Manganese: 15% of the RDI
Iron: 5% of the RDI
Vitamin B6: 12% of the RDI
Whilst the sugar content may sound like a lot, dates are also high in fibre, which helps to slow down digestion and may prevent blood sugar level spikes. Eating dates with some protein, such as nuts, will slow this increase in blood sugar levels further.
Date Sales During Ramadan – What’s the Link?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide. The period involves a month of prayer, reflection, community and fasting.
In the months leading up to Ramadan, we see our sales of dates hit their peak. In 2020, Ramadan lasted from 23rd April to 23rd May. We compared sales data of our most popular dates, the Zaytoun Medjoul Date 250g box between 1st January and 31st March (quarter one) and 1st July to 30th September (quarter three). We found sales were over 39% higher in quarter one, compared to quarter three of 2020.
Why is this? Well, Muslims do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset during Ramadan, in order to devote themselves to their faith and come closer to Allah, or God. As you can imagine, when fasting, the body can develop mild health conditions such as headaches, low blood sugar and lethargy. Eating dates after sunset and before sunrise, is a great way to avoid these health problems; dates are a source of fibre, sugar, magnesium, potassium, and have carbohydrates which will aid the body’s health. The carbohydrates in dates mean they’re a slower digesting food, meaning you’ll be fuller for longer. Dates are mentioned within the Quran, referenced as a way to break the fast for Ramadan; Prophet Muhammad advised to open fast with a date and dates are recorded as being the food he ate when he broke his own fast. Muslims usually strive to live by Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, as everything he said had scientific evidence to back it.
Best Fair Trade Date Recipes
Not just great for wholesome snacking, dates are ideal store cupboard essentials when it comes to cooking up a storm in your own kitchen. Here are some of our favourite date recipes.
Medjool Dates: Join us as we journey to the source
The growth of the Medjool date sector over the last decade has become a vital source of income for Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley, as they strive to grow trade opportunities in order to retain their own land, against the daily struggles of living under military occupation and the threat of expanding Israeli settlements.
Israeli settlement dates are often cheaper because they are grown predominantly on illegal settlements that usually operate on a mass scale of production, whereas Palestinian farmers don’t receive state subsidies and face restrictions on movement, resources and access to water.
Meet Ruba Halaiqa, Quality Manager and read her full story here.
9 Facts You Didn’t Know About Dates
- 1. In Oman, it is tradition to plant a date tree for every son born. His date tree will as he grows and symbolise that his family will never suffer hunger.
- 2. Due to their elongated, finger-like shape, the word ‘date’ is derived from the Greek word for finger, dáktulos.
- 3. The Medjool date variety is often referred to as the “king of dates”. This was because historically, it was reserved only for Moroccan royalty and their guests.
- 4. The United Arab Emirates is among the top 10 date-growing countries in the world, producing 900,000 tonnes of dates per year.
- 5. There are more than 1,000 different variations of date fruits. Medjool is notoriously the hardest to grow and therefore one of the most expensive to buy.
- 6. A single, mature date tree can produce up to 10,000 dates in just one season!
- 7. Date palms account for 3% of the earth’s cultivated surface.
- 8. Israel and Saudi Arabia’s national symbol is the date palm, as it represents vitality and growth.
- 9. Israeli researchers have recently sprouted growth from a date seed dating back almost 2,000 years! It is thought that they have managed to resurrect an ancient variety thought to be extinct.