If you’ve ever tried a medjool date then you will know what a yummy, sticky sweet treat they are; and along with being delicious they are also super healthful. In fact, the health benefits of dates are literally astounding and as they are so full of nutrient dense energy they can also be classed as the ULTIMATE training food.
I’m talking specifically about the medjool date variety as these really are the rolls royce of the date world in terms of both taste and nutrition. They mostly come dried and they taste super sweet, almost caramely, and are the perfect fix when you are craving something sweet or are just in dire need of an energy boost.
Dates are the ultimate fitness training food for before, during and after exercise, due to the fact they are packed full of low GI sugar, which are the type that give you a slow and sustained energy release. They also fit the perfect macro-nutrient requirements of a training food: each date contains 66 calories, 17g carbs, and barely zero protein and fat – making them similar to most energy gels, only way more nutritious.
Although the sugars in dates high, they are in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose which are easily broken down and processed by the body, and this is exactly what is needed when you need an instant but long lasting energy fix.
A Perfectly Packaged Superfood!
They also come perfectly packaged, making them easy to transport. They don’t spoil easily either, meaning you can eat them straight out of the fridge, or even wrap them in some tin foil and take them with you on your run or to the gym.
Dates aren’t just for those in training, they are good for EVERYBODY! This includes diabetics (in moderation, and along with a healthy diet). They also have an impressive number of other nutritional benefits, including:-
- HIGH FIBER – To keep your bowels working well, and to slow down the release of the dates sugars
- HIGH IN IRON – A vital component of hemoglobin, which is the substance in your red blood cells at helps to carry the oxygen you breathe throughout your body.
- VITAMIN B6 – Vital for good mood, central nervous system, brain health, reduces PMT symptoms, good for the heart, eye health, anti inflammatory.
- MAGNESIUM – Great for soothing aching muscles, reducing anxiety symptoms, easing migraines and headaches, helps the body to absorb calcium from other foods, heart healthy, reduces PMT
- POTASSIUM – Helps to lower blood pressure, enhances power and strength in your muscles, puts electrolytes into your body (one of the reasons dates are so awesome for those in training), regulates metabolism, and helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.
6 Major Health Benefits Of Dates – An Ultimate Training Food
1. Perfect on a plant based diet
A healthy plant based diet will require you to make sure you are eating lots of good sources of plant proteins; plus lots of antioxidants and nutrients – especially calcium. Fortunately for plant based eaters, dates are a well-rounded and abundant in all of these with their impressive nutritional profile and should be a staple in your plant based eating plan.
3. Heart healthy
Medjool dates are good for your heart, as their both soluble and insoluble fiber content helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which in turn lowers your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. Taken alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise, dates may help act as a preventative measure against all of the above.
4. Natural sweetener
Medjool dates are what you could call ‘nature’s very own candy’, and if you feel an itch for a sweet treat then dates will certainly scratch it – plus they are kinda guilt free! They come in low on the glycemic index scale at 43-55 for non diabetics, and 43-53 for type 2 diabetic’s (diabetic’s can eat up to 3 a day if the rest of their food intake is healthy). As with all the good things in life, they will still need to be eaten in moderation or instead of other treats if you don’t want to gain weight.
4. Bone health
The high amounts of key nutrients in dates, such as the calcium and phosphorus, are perfect for strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also needed for the repair, maintenance, and growth of cells and tissues.
Calcium is crucial to the healthy function of your nerves, muscles, and heart and is the NUMBER ONE mineral for helping to prevent osteoporosis. It is worth noting that contrary to popular belief there are many plant foods that are higher in calcium than dairy products, and they are often more easily absorbed.
Please check out these high calcium plant foods for a complete list of plant based calcium that is especially important for vegans or those following a highly plant based diet.
As you age you need more calcium than ever, because your bones will be becoming more fragile and your absorption rate will be lower. This is just how important calcium is at any age, and if you want to keep your bones strong and healthy for life then you need to start now.
Be sure to try and meet your calcium needs from actual food sources, and do not rely on supplements unless advised by a qualified practitioner. Many forms of cheap calcium are hard from the body to absorb and can even throw your other minerals out of wack. For instance, taking high dose calcium supplements can lower your magnesium levels (which is obviously bad as magnesium is crucial to health). I had this very problem, and only realised when I had a proper hair analysis done.
5. Anti inflammatory
Dates, along with most other plant foods, are anti inflammatory and therefore they help to fight chronic inflammation in the body. This in turn can help to ease pain, especially the pain caused by inflammatory diseases, such as autoimmune disease, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Chronic inflammation is something that affects many of us and can be triggered from various sources, such as sugar, trans fats, alcohol, tobacco, pollution, and toxins in the environment, and can eventually lead to disease and illness. You can help to lower chronic inflammation by eating lots of alkaline plant foods and high antioxidant foods such as fruits, legumes, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts and seeds.
Dates are a super high antioxidant fruit. And antioxidants are needed in abundance in our diet, especially as we are living in such a highly toxic world. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals in your body before than can damage your cells and DNA, thus slowing down the aging process on both the inside and out. If this damage where to be left out of control it can lead to premature aging and degenerative disease.
Here are a few energy ball recipes that you can add your dates to, which is a great way of getting them into your diet!