Oddly wrinkled, with a single pit in the center, dates (Phoenix dactylifera) have been a sweet treat for more than 5,000 years. A modern day favorite, the Medjool date made its way from Mesopotamia and, in the 1920’s, was introduced into the U.S. when 11 roots were quarantined in Nevada for seven years. Nine plants survived, were relocated, and grown in Southern California in 1935. Medjool dates, which come in three sizes (jumbo, large and fancy/small), can be picked and eaten fresh.
The health benefits of dates are plentiful. A rich source of carbohydrates, mostly from natural sugars (66 g per 100g / 3.5 oz. serving), they contain vitamins A and K, as well as many of the B vitamins. The minerals copper, selenium, magnesium and manganese contribute to their preventive health benefits. Just one serving provides seven grams of dietary fiber, which supports healthy gut function. Eating dates in moderation can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, and that’s good for the whole body.
Dates are used in vinegars, chutneys, butters, paste, and as a natural sweetener. Dates satisfy a sweet tooth without adding fat to your diet. When eating raw dates, mix them with raw nuts and seeds or add to a raw cream cheese – spread it on brown rice cakes for a yummy, nutritious snack. They’re the perfect snack to take on a long hike or for one of those days when you’re on the run and might need a quick pick-me-up.