History Of
Egyption Palm Dates

The cultivation of date palms in Egypt goes back thousands of years. The date palm tree has great socioeconomic importance and nutritional value in Egypt. Ancient date pits have been found during archeological digs and palm trunks have been used to construct ancient temples. Dates were a popular and important source of food for the Middle Eastern people because they dried and stored well, were light, and were satisfying and delicious. Dates were also highly prized by royalty. The fruit was commonly traded and date palm tree orchards grew throughout the Middle East. Later trading spread the palm trees to Northeast Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions.

The Moors introduced dates to Spain, who in turn introduced the trees to South America, Mexico and California in the 18th and 19th centuries during missions. Descendants of these trees still grow there today. However, most of the commercially produced dates in California actually came later directly from the Middle East. California is the major producer of dates for the United States.

Its traditional use as a primary source of food and by-products and its ecological benefits in oasis agriculture make it an important fruit tree and the best crop to be cultivated. Egypt is the most productive country of date palm fruit in the world. There is a high potential for increasing the production area of date palm to fulfill local consumption in the whole country and to produce date fruits for export purposes. Presently, the Egyptian Government and private sector are convinced of the potential of date production and are striving to establish commercial date plantations and promote viable date production.

Date Palm Trees

The date palm tree is considered the "Tree of Life" to the Middle Eastern people and is a holy symbol to the Muslim people. Palm trees are also mentioned throughout the Bible and Palm fronds from the tree are also a symbol of Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The tree has many uses besides its dates. The wood is used for fuel and to build shelters. The fronds are woven into mats used to make floors and ceilings and for carrying utensils. Palm trees are frequently used as ornamental plants throughout the southwest of the United States.

Palm trees have skinny, long trunks with many huge leaves, called fronds, on top of the tree. Mature trees reach up to a hundred feet tall. The palms are dioecious, meaning male and female parts of the flower grow on separate trees up by the fronds. The pollen from the male flower needs to be mixed with the female flower for proper pollination. After pollination hundreds of dates develop in large clusters high in the trees.

Date palms grow best in regions with high temperatures, low humidity, and lots of water. This makes them somewhat expensive to grow commercially because they require extensive irrigation. Date palms are commercially grown in orchards called "oases." Growers generally keep a 30 female to 1 male ratio for the best date production. Flower buds form in the spring and open for a short time in the early summer. During this time the female flowers are hand-pollinated with the pollen from the male flowers.

 

Dates develop over four phases before they are ripe, which takes about 200 days. The phases are:

"Chimri" ("Kimri"): This is the first 17 weeks after pollination. The dates are green, hard, bitter, and are mostly moisture.
"Khalal": The next 6 weeks. Here the dates grow until they reach their full size. The dates are still hard but become sweeter and change color to yellow, orange, or red. Some dates may be harvested at this phase
"Rutab": The next 4 weeks. The dates turn a light brown color and slowly become soft and sweet. Most soft and semi-soft dates are harvested during this phase.
"Tamar": The last 2 weeks before final harvesting. The dates darken in color and become softer and sweeter. Dry varieties of dates are harvested now.
Date palm trees produce fruit every other year. A mature palm tree can grow up to 20 clusters of dates per pollination. Dates are harvested anywhere from late summer to early winter. Some dates are harvested by hand picking, but most are picked by tall equipment that cuts the entire cluster of dates at once.

Varieties
of Dates

There are more than 600 varieties of dates worldwide. They are divided into three categories: soft, semi-soft, and dry. Soft dates are sweet and have lots of moisture and a soft skin and flesh. Semi-soft dates are sweeter, have less moisture, and are firmer. Dry dates are very sweet and have the least moisture and dry and hard flesh.

Medjool:

These are considered the "King of Dates" due to their large size, soft flesh, and extreme sweetness.

Barhi:

These dates are very round and have a dark amber color. They are soft and have a rich, caramel flavor. Dates are more dark amber in color.

Siwi:

For 7,000 years, the farmers of Siwa Oasis in the Western Egyptian desert have been taking advantage of water in the desert in order to grow chewy Siwa Oasis dates.

Deglet Noor:

These caramel-colored dates are a bit drier, firmer, and less sweet. This is direct from Moroco through our Branch there "Gannat"

Dates
benefits

1. Very Nutritious

Dates have an excellent nutrition profile.

Since they’re dried, their calorie content is higher than most fresh fruit. The calorie content of dates is similar to that of other dried fruits, such as raisins and figs (1).

Most of the calories in dates come from carbs. The rest are from a very small amount of protein. Despite their calories, dates contain some important vitamins and minerals in addition to a significant amount of fiber.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving provides the following nutrients (1):

Calories: 277
Carbs: 75 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 2 grams
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

Dates are also high in antioxidants, which may contribute to many of their health benefits (2Trusted Source).

2. High in Fiber

Getting enough fiber is important for your overall health.

With almost 7 grams of fiber in a 3.5-ounce serving, including dates in your diet is a great way to increase your fiber intake (1).

Fiber can benefit your digestive health by preventing constipation. It promotes regular bowel movements by contributing to the formation of stool (3Trusted Source).

In one study, 21 people who consumed 7 dates per day for 21 days experienced improvements in stool frequency and had a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they did not eat dates (4Trusted Source).

Furthermore, the fiber in dates may be beneficial for blood sugar control. Fiber slows digestion and may help prevent blood sugar levels from spiking too high after eating (5Trusted Source).

For this reason, dates have a low glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating a certain food (6Trusted Source).

3. High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Dates provide various antioxidants that have a number of health benefits to offer, including a reduced risk of several diseases.

Antioxidants protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may cause harmful reactions in your body and lead to disease (7Trusted Source).

Compared to similar types of fruit, such as figs and dried plums, dates appear to have the highest antioxidant content (8Trusted Source).

Here’s an overview of the three most potent antioxidants in dates:

Flavonoids: Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and certain types of cancer (2Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Carotenoids: Carotenoids are proven to promote heart health and may also reduce the risk of eye-related disorders, such as macular degeneration (2Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Phenolic acid: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, phenolic acid may help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

4. May Promote Brain Health

Eating dates may help improve brain function.

Laboratory studies have found dates to be helpful for lowering inflammatory markers, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6), in the brain. High levels of IL-6 are associated with a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).

Additionally, animal studies have shown dates to be helpful for reducing the activity of amyloid beta proteins, which can form plaques in the brain (13Trusted Source).

When plaques accumulate in the brain, they may disturb communication between brain cells, which can ultimately lead to brain cell death and Alzheimer’s disease (15Trusted Source).

One animal study found that mice fed food mixed with dates had significantly better memory and learning ability, as well as less anxiety-related behaviors, compared to those that did not eat them (16Trusted Source).

The potential brain-boosting properties of dates have been attributed to their content of antioxidants known to reduce inflammation, including flavonoids (13Trusted Source).

However, human studies are needed to confirm the role of dates in brain health.

5. May Promote Natural Labor

Dates have been studied for their potential to promote and ease late-term labor in pregnant women.

Eating these fruits throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labor. They may also be helpful for reducing labor time (17Trusted Source).

In one study, 69 women who consumed 6 dates per day for 4 weeks prior to their due date were 20% more likely to go into labor naturally and were in labor for significantly less time than those who did not eat them (18Trusted Source).

Another study of 154 pregnant women found that those who ate dates were much less likely to be induced compared to those who did not (19Trusted Source).

A third study found similar results in 91 pregnant women who consumed 70–76 grams of dates daily starting the 37th week of pregnancy. They were in active labor for an average of 4 fewer hours than those who did not eat dates (17Trusted Source).

Although eating dates appears to help promote labor and reduce labor duration, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

The role dates may have in pregnancy is likely due to compounds that bind to oxytocin receptors and appear to mimic the effects of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that causes labor contractions during childbirth (18Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).

Additionally, dates contain tannins, which are compounds that have been shown to help facilitate contractions. They are also a good source of natural sugar and calories, which are necessary to maintain energy levels during labor (20Trusted Source).

6. Excellent Natural Sweetener

Dates are a source of fructose, which is a natural type of sugar found in fruit.

For this reason, dates are very sweet and also have a subtle caramel-like taste. They make a great healthy substitute for white sugar in recipes due to the nutrients, fiber and antioxidants that they provide.

The best way to substitute dates for white sugar is to make date paste, as in this recipe. It is made by mixing dates with water in a blender. A rule of thumb is to replace sugar with date paste at a 1:1 ratio.

For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you’ll replace it with 1 cup of date paste.

It is important to note that although dates are high in fiber and nutrients, they are still fairly high in calories and best consumed in moderation.

7. Other Potential Health Benefits

Dates have been claimed to have a few other health benefits that have not yet been extensively studied.

Bone health: Dates contain several minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. All of these have been studied for their potential to prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis (1, 21Trusted Source).
Blood sugar control: Dates have the potential to help with blood sugar regulation due to their low glycemic index, fiber and antioxidants. Thus, eating them may benefit diabetes management (2Trusted Source).

Although these potential health benefits are promising, more human studies are needed before conclusions can be made.

8. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Dates are incredibly versatile and make a delicious snack. They are often paired with other foods, such as almonds, nut butter or soft cheese.

Dates are also very sticky, which makes them useful as a binder in baked goods, such as cookies and bars. You can also combine dates with nuts and seeds to make healthy snack bars or energy balls, as in this recipe.

What’s more, you can use dates to sweeten up sauces, such as salad dressings and marinades, or blend them into smoothies and oatmeal.

It is important to note that dates are high in calories and their sweet taste makes them easy to overeat. For this reason, they are best consumed in moderation.