Datepalm is a flowering plant species in the family of Arcaceae and it binomial name is Phoenix dactylifera. Date fruits are tiny, reddish brown, slightly wrinkled and sweet fruit, that are to taste and hard to resist.
They are typically oval shaped with a length of 3cm and diameter of 2cm. Researchers state that, dates was originated around Persian Gulf, but their cultivation began Mesopotamia and Prehistoric Egypt, around 4000BC. The ancient Egyptian also utilized this fruit for making date wine. Date spread around Mexico and California due to the Spanish colonies during the mission San Ignacio in 1765.
The fruit English name was gotten from French, as well as Latin species name ‘dactylifera’ and ‘daktlos’, because of its elongated shape. Date is an important crop in Iraq, Arabia and Morocco.
Date are also mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible and 20 times in the Qur’an. In Islamic culture, date and yogurt or milk, are traditionally the first foods consumed for Iftar after the sun has set during Ramadan.
Date can be dehydrated, grind and mixed with grain to form a nutritious stock feed. Dried dates are used in feeding camels, horses and dogs in Sahara the northern part of Nigeria. Also date and peppers are added to the native beer and believed to make it less intoxicating. Dates can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and produce viable yield for commercial harvest between 7 to 10 years. Date palm is dioeciously, having separate male and female plant.
The best way to store date is storing them in a cool and dry places. You can also refrigerate them by putting them in airtight container, and they can last for months. Date can be eaten the way it is, there are some date dishes such as, date kheer, date laddu, date nut, date pudding, date chocolate etc. The benefit of date include relief from constipation, intestinal disorder, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, abdominal cancer and many more. Date are rich in several vitamins, minerals and fiber too.
Nutritional values of dates
- They contain health benefiting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
- They are moderate sources ofvitamin-A (contains 149 IU per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and essential for vision. Additionally, it is also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- They compose antioxidant flavonoids such as ß-carotene, lutein, and Zea-xanthin. These antioxidants found to have the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals. Thus, eating dates found to offer some protection from colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
- Zea-xanthin is an important dietary carotenoid that selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions. It thus offers protection against age-related macular degeneration, especially in elderly populations.
- Dates are an excellent source ofiron, carry 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits (about 11% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
- They are an excellent sources of potassium. 100 g contains 696 mg or 16% of daily-recommended levels of this electrolyte. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. They, thus, offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.
- Date fruits are also rich in minerals likecalcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse conduction. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells. Magnesium is essential for bone growth.
- Further, the fruit has moderate levels of B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts ofpyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These vitamins are acting as co-factors that help the body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats. VitaminK is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood as well as in bone metabolism.