The date palm tree is known as Phoenix dactylifera botanically. It is considered as one of the oldest and main staple and ancient crops in Southwest Asia and North Africa. Dates are the main fruit in the Arabian Peninsula. These are used as a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years.
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Dates act as a potent antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory action. It has medicinal value in various types of disease prevention. It has antioxidant activity due to the presence of a wide range of phenolic compounds including p-coumaric, ferulic, and sinapic acids, flavonoids, and procyanidins. It has thirteen flavonoid glycosides of luteolin, quercetin, and apigenin at different stages of maturity.
Dates belong to the family Arecaceae or Palmae. The name dactylifera (date-bearing) originates from two Greek words, dáktulos or date.
The date is a delicious fruit. It has a sweet taste. It is consumed in various ways:
- It is consumed in a fresh form (30-40%).
- It is also consumed in dried form (60-70%).
It is taken with Arabian coffee, milk, or yogurt. It is also consumed in a processed form where it is taken in form of paste, syrup, pickles, jams, and jellies. It is also used in various bakery items like chocolate, honey, and vinegar. Its consumption is maximum in months of “Ramadan” when dates are commonly taken to break the fast.
General Information of Date Tree
About the plant: It is 21-31 meters in height, which grows singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system.
The date is a staple food in the Arab world for centuries. It is considered an ideal food as it consists of various nutrients.
Botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera L.
Habitat: It is found in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
Other names: Tree of life, Bread of Desert
The date is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. This fruit was highly esteemed by the ancient civilizations more than 5000 years ago. The whole parts of the date palm are useful. It is widely grown in the hot arid regions.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Clade: Angiosperms
- Clade: Monocots
- Clade: Commelinids
- Order: Arecales
- Family: Arecaceae
- Genus: Phoenix
- Species: P. dactylifera
- It is commonly known as date or date palm.
Date undergoes a various stage of maturation-
Kimri: Which is green and unripe variety.
Khalal- Which is full-size and crunchy.
Rutab- Which is ripe and soft in variety.
Tamar- Which is ripe and sun-dried.
It is seen that during the ripening process the fruit starts losing its moisture content and its sugars are converted to glucose and fructose.
The moisture content of fresh date is between 37.6 and 50.4 g/100g. The moisture content of dried dates is between 7.2 and 9.5/100gm.
Nutritive Value of Dates
Dates contain 70% of carbohydrate. It includes sugars, sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Sugars found in dates are easily digested. It helps in the release of energy. Glucose and fructose which are present in date flesh are readily absorbed during the process of digestion. It helps in the rapid elevation of blood sugar levels.
- It provides 3150 calories of energy per kilogram.
- It contains 15 salts and minerals.
- It has 5.6% of proteins.
It contains vitamin A, A1, B, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and C as well as a variety of amino acids. These vitamins and minerals help the body produce hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that binds to oxygen and carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues.
It contains potassium which is an essential mineral that helps in proper muscle contractions. Potassium is also necessary for a healthy nervous system. Soluble fiber has been shown to help control diabetes by decreasing high blood sugar as well as lowering high cholesterol, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Insoluble fiber increases the body’s ability and the rate at which food is processed through the digestive system. The flesh of dates contains 0.2 /0.5% oil, whereas the seed contains 7.7 /9.7% oil.
It is a good source of fiber. The main fibers are cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin, lignin, and insoluble proteins. Insoluble fiber is the major component of dietary fiber in dates. Dates are a good source of dietary fiber. It has both soluble and insoluble fibers.
- It contains minerals mainly calcium, iron, fluorine, and selenium.
- It has antioxidant properties.
- It protects against cancer.
The protein content of date fruit is between 1-3%. It is seen that protein and lipid contents increase after drying. This occurs as a result of the loss of moisture. The average protein content of fresh and dried dates is 1.50 and 2.14 g/100 g. Lipids are found in the skin of date.
The average lipid content is about 0.14 g/100 g in fresh and 0.38 g/100 g in dried dates. The date seeds are also a rich source of dietary fiber (73.1 g/100 g), phenolics (3942 mg/100 g), and antioxidants (80,400 μmol/100 g) and therefore could potentially be considered as an inexpensive source of dietary fiber and natural antioxidants.
The date flesh and seed both contain a wide range of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The saturated fatty acids include capric, lauric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, margaric, arachidic, heneicosanoic, behenic, and tricosanoic acids. Unsaturated fatty acids include palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids.
Dates contain high levels of selenium, copper, potassium, and magnesium, moderate concentrations of manganese, iron, phosphorus, and calcium, and small quantities of boron. It is the ideal food for patients with high blood pressure as it contains a high amount of potassium and low sodium content.
It also contains boron which is useful in the treatment of cancer of the brain. The date can be used as a practical supplement for iron deficiency without any side effects such as nausea, headache, and anorexia that may occur with iron tablet supplements. At least six vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, pyridoxine, and vitamin A) have been reported to be present in dates in visible concentrations. Dried dates can be regarded as a moderate source of vitamin riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, and folic acid. Thiamine, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and vitamin A are present in relatively low concentrations in dried dates.
Dates contain various types of phytochemicals such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, neoxanthin, etc.), the phenolics, mainly the cinnamic acids and their derivatives (ferulic, sinapic, syringic, vanillic, gallic, caffeic, protocatechuic, coumaric acids, and their derivatives such as dactilyferic acids, etc.), flavonoid glycosides (luteolin, methyl luteolin, quercetin, and methyl quercetin) flavones, flavonols (catechin, epicatechin), flavoxanthin, anthocyanins. The concentration of these phytochemicals decreases as the maturity of fruit increases.
It is a good source of phenolics.
Religious Significance of Date Fruit
In all the three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam it is considered an important fruit. In Judaism, it is considered as seven holy foods. Other holy foods- Wheat, lentils, beans, garlic, and onion.
Medicinal Values of Dates
- It is an ideal high energy food.
- It provides strength, fitness and gives relief against various kinds of disease.
- It increases immunity.
- It protects against fever, stomach diseases, disturbance of memory, and various kinds of nervous disorders.
- It protects against cancer and various heart diseases.
- It controls blood cholesterol levels.
- It is very helpful in suppressing swelling in the foot as it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
- It is very useful in the treatment of arthritis.
- It is very useful in preventing liver disorders due to heavy consumption of alcohol.
- As the date has a high amount of phenolic content it acts as a cleansing agent in various kinds of intestinal diseases.
- It has anti-dysentery and laxative effects. It helps in the destruction of Ascaris which are giant intestinal roundworms.
- A decoction of dates with table salt helps in the treatment of dehydration occurring due to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Water extracts of dates are also considered to help in lowering stomach hyperacidity as well as blood acidity. For children with sensitive stomachs, the water extracts of dates are sometimes added to milk to help in the digestion of milk because the date fibers are soft and do not irritate a sensitive bowel or stomach. Dates crushed and boiled in milk are very nourishing and restorative especially during convalescence.
- A decoction of dates and fenugreek is recommended in the treatment of bronchial asthma.
- Pastes prepared from powdered seeds are given to relieve malarial fever.
- Daily diets containing dates can produce sedative action to allergy. It is believed that continuous feeding on dates can relieve the haemorrhoidal pain and may increase the body’s resistance to this disease.
- The most common medicinal use of dates and their products is as a tonic, especially for women who are close to delivery and at the postpartum stage.
- The consumption of dates by women before and after delivery can act as a tonic to strengthen the uterine muscle.
- Dates not only help in activating the delivery process but may also prevent post-delivery bleeding due to the presence of some constricting substances.
- The potassium, glycine, and threonine content of dates are thought to activate the production of milk hormone (prolactin). Small quantities of oxytocin have also been detected in dates and therefore dates can act as lactagogue if used in the daily meal plan of a woman during her lactation period.
- Dates mixed with milk and cinnamon are considered an aphrodisiac as they can activate sexual desire.
- Dates are also considered renal restorative and their daily consumption can prevent the formation of renal calculi due to its diuretic and anti-inflammatory actions.
- A cup of hot decoction of seven dates, when taken twice daily for a period of 15 days, is considered as a remedy for lithontriptic and diuretic. A drink made from powdered date stones is also considered lithontriptic for hepatic and renal calculi.
- The daily consumption of dates with meals and its decoction as eye-lotion is considered to help in the maintenance of eye hygiene and a remedy for night blindness and ophthalmic disorders.
- Dates have a low to medium glycaemic index which has beneficial effects in controlling glucose and lipid levels in diabetic patients. In folklore traditional medicine, the date seed powder is considered to be the best medicine for diabetic patients.
- It consists of tannins that have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties.
- It is a moderate source of Vitamin A, which has an antioxidant effect. It maintains healthy mucus membrane and skin. It prevents lung and mouth cancer.
- It consists of Antioxidant flavonoids such as ß-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Thus, eating dates found to offer some protection from colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Zea-xanthin protects against age-related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.
Various Uses of Different Parts of Dates
- Fruits are used as a sweet and cooling effect. It helps in increasing sexual desire. It is very useful in the treatment of leprosy, bronchitis, tuberculosis, fever, vomiting, and loss of consciousness.
- Leaves are used as an aphrodisiac (increasing sexual desire) and are very good for the liver.
- Flowers are bitter in taste. It is used as a tonic to the liver.
- Seeds are applied to wounds and inflammation. It is prescribed for asthma and gonorrhea.
- Its gum is useful in diarrhea and various kind of urinary troubles.