Updated 5th January 2023

Do dates have health benefits?

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Dates are the energy-dense fruit of the date palm tree. They’re a stone fruit — like plums and peaches — and have a sweet, caramel-like flavor and chewy texture. 

Date palm trees likely originated in modern-day Iraq. Now, they grow throughout the world, including other parts of the Middle East and areas of North Africa, North America, and South Asia. There are many varieties, but Medjool and Deglet Noor dates are the most common. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at dates and their potential health benefits.

Dates contain a range of nutrients, but because they’re packed with sugar, the best way to eat them will depend on your unique blood sugar response.

With the ZOE at-home test, you can learn about your blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as which “good” and “bad” bugs you currently have in your gut.

To get started, take our free quiz.

1. Nutritional value

Dates have many important nutrients. Below, you'll find the nutritional breakdown and percentage daily value (DV) of a single serving of two Medjool dates.

Macronutrients

  • Fat: under 0.2 grams

  • Protein: 0.8 g

  • Carbohydrates: 38 g

  • Fiber: 3.2 g

  • Total sugars: 32 g

Micronutrients 

  • Calcium: 30.8 milligrams, 2% DV

  • Magnesium: 26 mg, 6% DV

  • Potassium: 334 mg, 8% DV

  • Copper: 0.2 mg, 20% DV

  • Iron: 0.4 mg, 2% DV

  • Vitamin B6: 0.12 mg, 8% DV

2. Fiber content

Fiber plays many roles in the body, and it brings some important health benefits, such as:

  • improving gut health and promoting regular bowel movements

  • promoting healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels

  • improving blood sugar control

  • protecting against some cancers

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women eat at least 25 g of fiber a day and men at least 35 g a day.

A serving of two Medjool dates provides 3.2 g of dietary fiber. 

Most of the fiber in dates is insoluble fiber, the type that doesn’t dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber helps food move through your body and can help prevent constipation.

3. Polyphenols

Polyphenols are a group of compounds in plants that help protect the plant from damage. 

When you eat them, they can benefit your health. Scientists have identified over 8,000 polyphenols, and they may have a wide variety of health benefits. These include: 

  • improving blood sugar control

  • lowering heart disease risk

  • protecting your skin

  • lowering cancer risk

  • promoting good gut health

  • supporting cognitive function

Dates contain many types of polyphenols, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids.

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4. Digestive health

Dates may help prevent constipation due to their fiber content, as fiber promotes gut health and regular bowel movements.

In one small study, researchers looked at the effects of eating dates for 21 days. 

They found that, compared with a control group, the participants who ate dates had more frequent bowel movements but no diarrhea. 

Are dates good for you?

Dates are an energy-dense food, so they can be a good addition to your diet if you eat them in the right way for your body.

While they contain fiber and important micronutrients, dates also have high amounts of sugar. For some people, eating sugar-dense foods can lead to steep increases in blood sugar levels.

Blood sugar fluctuations are normal, but having high blood sugar levels frequently isn't good for your long-term health. 

In the short term, these blood sugar spikes (and the crashes that follow for some people) can cause you to feel hungry, tired, and irritable. Over long periods, they can lead to chronic health conditions.

But the sugar in dates doesn’t mean you have to avoid them. Eating dates alongside sources of fats, protein, or fiber can help prevent big blood sugar fluctuations.

You might try tossing some chopped dates into a salad with lentils, or eating them with oats or nuts.

If you’re looking for fruit alternatives to dates — apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and berries are all good sources of fiber and other nutrients.

Summary

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, and you can find them in many grocery stores. 

They’re a rich source of natural sugar and fiber, as well as some important micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 

Dates also contain polyphenols, a type of plant compound that can have beneficial effects on your health.

Still, eating dates might not be the best way to get these nutrients and helpful compounds. Their high sugar content can cause blood sugar levels to spike and crash, which isn’t good for your health.

Pairing dates with a source of fat, protein, or fiber can slow the blood sugar response.

For some people, it may be better to opt for fruits like apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and berries.

At ZOE, we know that all bodies are different, so a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for nutrition.

With the ZOE at-home test, you can learn about your body's unique blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as which “good” and “bad” bugs are living in your gut. To discover which foods are best for you to pair with dates, get started with our free quiz.

Sources

A review of the chemical composition, nutritional and health benefits of dates for their potential use in energy nutrition bars for athletes. Cogent Food & Agriculture. (2020). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311932.2020.1809309

Date palm. (2022). https://www.britannica.com/plant/date-palm

Dates, Medjool. (2019). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients

Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545442/table/appJ_tab3/?report=objectonly

Impact of palm date consumption on microbiota growth and large intestinal health: A randomised, controlled, cross-over, human intervention study. British Journal of Nutrition. (2015). https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/impact-of-palm-date-consumption-on-microbiota-growth-and-large-intestinal-health-a-randomised-controlled-crossover-human-intervention-study/ED43BF5EF097AD6486B9BA81A9BCD2F2

Nutritional and functional properties of dates: A review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (2008). https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1155/htm

The role of polyphenols in human health and food systems: A mini-review. Frontiers. (2018). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2018.00087/full

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