We’re often cautioned against sweet foods when trying to lose weight or get healthier in general. But if you’re on a health kick and still having cravings for something sweet, we have some good news. There’s one delicious treat that might be the key to a healthier gut, more stable blood-sugar, and even weight loss — dates.
Grown natively in tropical climates, dates are the fruit that come from the date palm tree. You’ll mostly find dates — usually Medjool or Deglet Noor varieties — for sale in the US in their dried form. They have a sweet flavor and slightly chewy texture, almost like an overgrown raisin. They’re often used as an all-natural sugar substitute in baking and other recipes, but the best part about them isn’t even their sweet taste.
These fruits are so nutritious that adding them into your daily diet could help you regulate your gut bacteria and blood sugar, all while protecting you from disease. Dates are loaded with essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6, but of the nutritional contents, the amount of fiber in them is most notable. In just a 3.5-ounce serving, there are approximately seven grams of fiber. That’s more than you might find in the healthiest of granola bars!
Fiber content is extremely important to gut health and is a crucial part of any weight loss plan. When we don’t get enough fiber, our bodies can’t eliminate waste properly, causing us to pack on pounds and store bad bacteria in the gut which can wreak havoc on our overall health. Fiber benefits our entire digestive system by promoting healthy elimination and bowel movements. In one study, 21 people who consumed seven dates a day for 21 days experienced a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they didn't eat dates. So if you’ve ever felt backed up, including dates in your diet is a great way to get more regular.
What’s more, the fiber in dates may also help to regulate blood sugar. When fiber is present in the digestive tract, it slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream which would normally cause blood sugar to spike. Because of this, dates have a low glycemic index and are considered safe for consumption by those watching their sugar intake. In fact, the fiber content in dates actually helps to prevent blood sugar from spiking, and so they’re an ideal option for those struggling with prediabetes or diabetes — despite their sugar content.
Dates are also extremely high in antioxidants — namely flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid. These antioxidants have shown to help control inflammation in the body. Dates also protect against disease, because they are full of antioxidants that reduce disease-causing free radicals. What’s more, eating dates may even facilitate better brain health, as they’ve shown to reduce inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 (IL-6), which is linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Findings from an animal study similarly suggest that dates may help boost memory, learning, and anxiety-related behaviors. All this in one fruit!
Since dates do still have a decent amount of sugar, of course you don't want to go overboard. But if you’re interested in giving your gut a boost, improving your regularity and brain health, or protecting yourself from disease, adding a few dates to your daily routine is a healthy — and delicious — option!