Health & Nutrition

Date fruits:

A Hidden Nutrition Gem with Many Health Benefits

Scientists call them Phoenix dactylifera, but we simply know them as date palms. There are more than 600 types of date palms, all of them featuring finger-shaped fruits. In North Africa, date fruits are an essential part of the economy. In Muslim culture, they have an additional religious value as the first food people eat after fasting.

But besides the economic and cultural perspectives, date fruits are also highly nutritious. They hold countless health benefits and a variety of nutrients.

In this article, we’re giving you a complete summary about date fruit nutrition in simple words. Did you know that they are sometimes classified as a superfood? 

Here’s why.

Date fruits as a superfood

Let’s start by speaking about nutrients in date fruits. As you may already know, nutrients are classified as carbs, proteins, fat, and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Here’s the nutrient profile of date fruits according to a recent review (1):

Date fruits as a superfood

Let’s start by speaking about nutrients in date fruits. As you may already know, nutrients are classified as carbs, proteins, fat, and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Here’s the nutrient profile of date fruits according to a recent review (1):


Carbohydrates are the energy source of the body. When they join oxygen and other substances, they turn into ATP, the energy molecule that moves around everything inside the cell.

Dates are very rich source of carbohydrates, especially glucose, fructose, maltose, and mannose. Thus, dates are an excellent source of readily available energy. They also have up to 8% of dietary fiber. Therefore, eating 6-7 dates (100 grams) provides the daily recommended intake of dietary fiber.

Despite having fructose, we should remember that dates are considered whole foods. Many other constituents prevent fat accumulation or a sudden rise in blood sugar. They have up to 8 grams of fiber for every 100 grams. It’s mainly insoluble fiber, which is known to improve insulin sensitivity, contribute to satiety, and prevent weight gain (2, 3)


Vitamins are like the missing pieces of the puzzle. They are very small but essential to perform the functions of the body. They are all important because a deficiency causes severe problems regardless of the type. Still, we can say that vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, are the most common vitamins in healthy food.

Dates have many vitamins. For example, it has provitamin A, a substance that converts to vitamin A in the human body. Lutein and beta-carotene are the main carotenoids in date fruits, and you can find them in almost every variety of dates.

Other vitamins found in high levels include vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxal), and vitamin B9 (folate). Each one can be found in different proportions depending on the variety of date (2).


Everything that moves or has a function in the body is made up of proteins. Some of them are created in the body. Others can only be obtained in the diet. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are absorbed in the intestines.

As for proteins, these fruits have 17 amino acids (the building blocks of protein) such as leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, valine, threonine, and phenylalanine, none of which are synthesized in the body. The total content of proteins depends on the growth stage of the fruit and variety, ranging between 2.5 and 6.4%


Vitamins and minerals work along to maximize our body functions. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are quite common in healthy foods and very beneficial for us. One of the most abundant minerals in dates is potassium. This mineral is commonly lost during exercise but essential for heartbeats and blood pressure maintenance. Potassium is also important to maintain our brain working as it should. It keeps the equilibrium in body water and facilitates chemical reactions (1, 2).

You also get several essential minerals in dates, including Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Calcium, and Iron. Copper contributes to iron absorption and other body reactions with iron, including the formation of red blood cells. Magnesium activates all of the B vitamins in dates and contribute to producing energy, controlling blood sugar, and other day-to-day body functions. Manganese fits in special proteins called enzymes and boost their activities throughout the body. Zinc contributes to wound healing, vision, the immune function, and energy processing. Calcium strengthens bone tissue and is essential for blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve signals. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation and helps the blood carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. All of these nutrients can be found in a 40-gram serving of dates (1, 2).

Health benefits of date fruits

Besides the macronutrient content of dates, they have plenty of phenolic compounds.  These are natural substances that play a significant role in plant biology. They protect plant cells and can do the same to our tissues.

In date fruits, there are different types of phenolics. Most of them have complicated names, but you may recognize the word flavonoids. They include substances such as quercetin, luteolin, and kaempferol. They can all be found in most types of date fruits and have lots of health benefits, as you can see below (1).

Antioxidant properties

Free radicals can be harmful to cell DNA and tissue structure. They are unstable molecules that react with other substances and change their structure and normal function. These free radicals change DNA and destroy our healthy tissues, causing cardiovascular problems, contributing to Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems. That's why the antioxidant profile of dates is so important for us. They can catch free radicals and deactivate them. In the body we also produce antioxidant enzymes, and dates can boost their natural activity to work against free radicals (1).

We can consider an example by taking a look at the gastric mucosa. In the stomach, gastric acid causes free radical damage resulting in oxidative stress. Sometimes these free radicals hurt the stomach lining and cause ulcers. But dates can help counter this problem by displaying their antioxidant arsenal in the stomach and protecting its surface (4, 5).

Anti-microbial effect

The phenolic content in dates can help in destroying the bacteria and other microorganisms.  In practice, this anti-microbial effect is noticeable in dates as they do not show signs of microbial growth, even after several months of storage in a warehouse. That’s how they protect themselves from microbes and the same happens when we consume dates (1).

When tested in the laboratory, researchers found a potent antibacterial activity against different bacterial cultures. They mentioned that the effect was similar to that of ampicillin. This is a popular antibiotic that works against many bacteria, including the so-famous Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and others (6).

Blood fat-lowering benefits

Besides protecting the blood vessels against free radicals, dates may also contribute to lowering cholesterol in the blood. This effect is particularly noticeable in date seeds and date plant leaves. Since they have dietary fiber, they bind to cholesterol in the intestines and contribute to its elimination. That’s how date seeds and leaves reduce circulating levels of LDL and VLDL cholesterol. (7).

Considering that high blood cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, we can say that combining date fruits with date seed fiber can be an excellent way to help prevent cardiovascular problems in the long-term (1).

Hepatic protection

The liver is a vital blood filter that takes away toxins. But in the process, the same toxins can cause lesions in the liver. Dates contain nutrients that protect the liver, such as selenium, anthocyanins, quercetin, and ferulic acid.

Even when the body is exposed to very dangerous toxins, dates can contribute to detox the organism. They also protect the liver whenever necessary (8).

Immune modulation properties

Allergy and inflammation are two natural defense mechanisms. But they only show up when the immune system is overreacting against stimuli. They feature an immune system that is overly stimulated and starts damaging healthy tissues, which can become a problem for some patients. It’s similar to trying to kill a bug with dynamite. You could end up destroying your house.

In this context, dates can display an anti-allergic effect. Their phenolic substances suppress the exaggerated immune response against all allergens. But don’t worry, they leave our body defenses ready to defend us against real threats (9).

Dates also have anti-inflammatory potential. They modulate the activity of an inflammatory cytokine known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha which is associated with healthy tissue damage. Inflammatory cytokine is a signaling molecule that is excreted from immune cells and other certain cells that promotes inflammation. By suppressing its activity, dates can display an anti-inflammatory effect in almost every tissue of the body (10).

Dates and diabetes mellitus

One would think that dates have a high carbohydrate content and should not be recommended for diabetic patients. However, doctors would agree that the glycemic index is more important than the carbohydrate content. The glycemic index is how fast a given food increases your blood sugar. You can have foods with a lower count of carbs, but they would still increase your blood sugar more rapidly.

Dates are completely different. They have a low glycemic index. So, despite their carb content, dates won’t increase your blood sugar dramatically. This is probably because of the high fiber content and other nutrients found in dates (11).

For example, zinc and magnesium in dates stimulate insulin secretion. Manganese mimics the body's insulin effect. Insulin helps muscle cells absorb glucose and lowers blood sugar levels. All of this slows down the absorption of sugars and reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic people at the same time (12, 13).

Research & articles