By: Nadia Haris
The sticky, sweet fruit of the palm tree, dates are a traditional food and are eaten for their natural sugar, carbohydrates, protein and nutrient content. They are a healthy snack choice and are a rich source of energy, vitamins and minerals. Originally a fruit that was harvested in Middle Eastern desert regions, dates of several different types are now grown throughout the world, including in California.
Your body requires essential vitamins for healthy body function. Dates help to provide several of these nutrients, including the B vitamins, which are important in energy production. The website Sweet Energy notes dates are high in riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and pantothenic acid.
Dates are packed with several essential minerals that are necessary for oxygen transport, energy production, developing and maintaining bone health and boosting the immune system. The website California Dates lists several minerals found in dates; they include iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, potassium and zinc.
All types of dates are high in dietary fiber; the website CalorieLab says that just one date contains 0.7 grams of fiber, fulfilling 3 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. The Harvard School of Public Health advises that dietary fiber such as that found in dates binds to fats in the digestive tract and removes them from the body. This helps to reduce body fat and lower cholesterol levels. Dates and other fiber-dense foods also help to balance blood sugar levels, keeping energy levels more stable and helping you avoid excessive hunger pangs.
Calories and Sugar
Dates are a high calorie food; the website CalorieLab says that just one date, an 8.3-gram serving size, contains 23 calories. However, these are nutritious calories, and dates are still a healthy food. A date also contains about 5.3 grams of sugar. The American Diabetes Association says that dates should be eaten in moderation. Because of their high sugar content, dates have a medium glycemic index value, which means that they will raise blood sugar faster than other fruits.
Dates contain zero saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium or salt. This makes them a healthy choice to help maintain blood pressure and heart health, according to the website Sweet Energy. A diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
These fruits are also high in antioxidants, according to the website California Dates. Dates contain plant antioxidants called polyphenols, which help to remove free radical toxins from the body. This antioxidant activity may help to reduce the risk of some diseases.
One of the most significant sources of antioxidants in the human diet is onions, reports Cornell University Associate Professor Rui Hai Lui. These antioxidants provide this vegetable with its sweet flavors and distinct aroma. Consuming onions supplies your body with soluble fiber and flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that fight free radicals. These flavonoids assist in thinning your blood, decreasing inflammation and fighting cancer.
Onions may assist in thinning your blood, as they contain thiosulfinates — the agents that provide an onion with its pungent odor and cause teary eyes when you come in contact with this vegetable. Additionally, this sulfur compound prevents platelets in your blood from aggregating and operates as a natural blood thinner. When platelets cluster in your blood, your risk for experiencing a stroke or heart attack significantly increases. Thiosulfinate concentrations are more prevalent in onions with a dry consistency and high-carbohydrate content. Eat your onions raw for maximum thiosulfinate content, as cooking onions significantly decreases the quantity of this compound. If you take a prescription blood thinner, consult with your physician about consuming onions in conjunction with your medication, as you do not want your blood to become too thin.
Fiber is present in all plant-based foods, including onions. Consuming fiber in your diet assists in regulating your blood sugar, decreasing your bad cholesterol, promoting healthy intestinal functioning and maintaining an optimal body weight. Onions also contain a special form of soluble fiber known as fructan. When you consume fructan, this soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance in your colon and converts to fatty acids. These fatty acids act as a natural laxative, stimulating bowel movements. The fructan in onions, inulin fructan, promotes the growth of good bacteria in your intestines, which may combat any infections in your colon.
Onions may help reduce inflammation, as they contain organosulfurs — antioxidant compounds that assist in combating inflammation. Inflammation in your body can cause and exacerbate symptoms of asthma, arthritis and heart disease. According to a 2010 study published in “Molecular Aspects of Medicine,” regular consumption of organosulfur compounds from onions and garlic can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease. Organosulfurs decrease inflammation in the blood vessels, a sign of heart disease, by separating blood platelets and inhibiting the production of toxic substances.
Onions are packed full of anticancer compounds, such as flavonoids and phenolics. Shallots, Western Yellow, Northern Red and pungent yellow onions assist in inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, which may protect against the development of colon and liver cancer. Onions with higher antioxidant quantities offer greater protection against certain types of cancer than onions with fewer antioxidants. For example, the Western Yellow contains 11 times more antioxidants than the Western White and provides the strongest protection against the production of liver cancer cells. The Western Whites contain the least amount of antioxidants among onion varieties and offer the least protection against cancer cells.