In 1898, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a special department called “Agriculture Explorers.” Their goal was to travel and find new food crops to bring back to farm in the United States. David Fairchild, a botanist who helped found the program, first traveled to Baghdad to investigate dates. By the early 1900s, date palm cuttings were brought back as offshoots to grow in the U.S. Long a staple food in the Middle East as well as northern Africa, dates are now common in the warmer regions of California and Florida.
Dates are naturally sweet and have been called nature’s “candy.”1 For this reason, dates are often used as a natural replacement for sugar in desserts and pastries. Because of their sticky consistency, dried dates are ideal for holding together nuts, oats and other high-fiber grains commonly found in energy bars. In fact, dates themselves contain lots of insoluble and soluble fiber, which helps to clean out the gastrointestinal system. Dates are therefore praised for promoting digestive health.
Very high in its mineral content, dates are rich in potassium, copper, manganese, and magnesium.2 Potassium is one of the prime ingredients in promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system, and it also helps improve the speed and alertness of brain activity. 3 Magnesium is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as its ability to help lower blood pressure together with potassium. 2 High in iron content, dates are often recommended for those suffering from low blood iron and/or fatigue. The significant amounts of minerals found in dates also make them a superfood for strengthening and maintaining bone health.
Dates are a good source of phytochemicals, such as phenols and carotenoids, and contain vitamins A, B1, B2, niacin and traces of vitamin C.1 Known to help boost energy levels within a half hour of consumption, they are recommended as snacks for athletes and active people. It’s even said that “a date a day will help you maintain eye health all your life.” 3
Most dates grown in the U.S. have a USDA total ORAC value of 3895, which makes them high in natural antioxidants. Even better, dates are high in anthocyanins, natural flavonoids that give fruit their blue and red coloring. Anthocyanins are nine times more bioavailable than other flavonoids.4
1 Ahluwalia, Sudhir, “Formulating with Dates,” Snacks & Bars: Convenience Without Compromise, October 2017 digital magazine.