The bounties of the dates

The following article was published in the news, I found it to be beneficial and though of sharing with others:

With the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan, we rush to select the best quality dates to adorn our iftar (breakfast) tables. This tradition comes from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who recommended breaking the fast with dates or water.

During the summer season, a wide variety of fresh dates of different stages (balah, munassaf, ruthab and tamr) abound in fruit markets. Date shops display them arranged in pyramids inside glass boxes like gems and sell them at considerably high prices. Since it is date season this Ramadan, I find it appropriate to discuss the many benefits of this “blessed” fruit.

For Westerners, dates and the palm tree symbolize Arabia. Arabia is the origin of the precious tree. It is a gift to the inhabitants of this barren land. Ancient Arabs thrived and survived on the palm tree, which surprisingly prospers in arid land and yields the nutritious date. Very few fruits rival it in nutritional value. Its benefits are heightened and complemented when it is taken along with goat or camel milk as the Bedouins do. Arabians found use for every section of the palm tree.

They employ the fronds to weave baskets and ropes and to thatch roofs. Palm trunks are used as pillars to support houses and tents. The liquid of boiled luqqaah (the sheath of flower clusters) is given to quell upset stomachs. Date pits yield cooking oil. The center of the palm trunk, jummar or heart of palm, makes a delicious salad ingredient.

Coming back to the fruit, the date only ripens at the peak of desert heat (August), which yields a superior quality fruit. Dates are eaten at different stages. The first stage is the deep red and bright yellow crunchy balah. The best in the red balah is the long zahou Al-Madinah and the shorter barhi in the yellow ones. As they mellow, one half becomes soft and brown. They are called munassaf, meaning half and half. When they turn completely soft and brown, they become rutthab. Freezing can maintain the latter stage for months, making it available all year long. Some types are better than others for freezing. To last a whole year to the next season, they need to be dried to become tamr. Different types of dates are dried to different levels. Date syrup is sometimes added to keep them soft and to preserve them.

There are around a hundred varieties of dates in Arabia. Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah used to be the main supplier of quality dates in the country. Now, many regions provide good dates. The most popular ones from different regions are the, ajwa barhi, khlas, khudhari majdoulah, nabbout saif, saqq’i, sukkari, etc…

Dates contain 80 percent carbohydrates (fructose) along with protein, minerals and vitamins. They have very little fat and no cholesterol. Their nutrients are bioavailable even to children and the elderly. Let us review some of these nutrients.

Magnesium in the fruit lowers blood pressure; relaxes the muscles, nerves and arteries; helps make bone mass; protects against cancer (lung); and controls hypertension and heartbeat along with its copper content.

Calcium in dates is another muscle, artery, and nerve relaxant; builds bones; prevents osteoporosis; and helps regulate blood pressure.

Potassium from the fruit strengthens the heart muscles; enhances appetite; prevents muscle spasms; lowers blood pressure; improves bone structure; and reduces cancer risk.

Boron in dates builds bone; relieves arthritis; enhances sexual desire; and treats brain cancer.

Phosphorus in them protects teeth and bones and stimulates the reproductive and sexual organs in both males and females.

Selenium in the fruit prevents infections (hospital bacteria); prevents antibiotic resistance; works against cancer; strengthens immunity; reduces joint inflammation; improves mood disorders; normalizes thyroid activity; and enhances fertility.

Sodium, chloride, and potassium contents in the fruit help balance stomach acid.

Iron along with vitamin B2 and copper in dates builds red blood cells; transports oxygen in the blood and muscles; improves vision; provides energy; is important for child bearing years and pregnancies; and eases delivery.

Fluorine in the fruit protects against tooth decay, making dates a good substitute for sweets for children.

Vitamin C in dates is high enough to protect against scurvy; strengthen blood vessel walls; help gum disease and bleeding; and bolster and aid in liver detoxification.

Vitamin A’s availability in the date improves eye and skin dryness, night vision and sexual drive.

Vitamins B1 and B2 respectively treat nervous system disorders and anemia.

Pectin in dates, like apples and pears, lowers cholesterol to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Fiber is high in dates. It improves digestion and bowel movement and decreases colon cancer risk.

Traditional medicine in Arabia prescribes dates for many conditions ranging from digestive and respiratory disorders and bone building to pregnancy, childbirth, flagging sexual drive, low-sperm count, fertility, and insect bites. During pregnancy, they bolster energy; supplement mother with important nutrients; prepare for delivery and lactation; regulate contractions; and prevent hemorrhage.

Different regions of the Arabian Peninsula have different recipes to ease childbirth. Some suggest eating several dates with cinnamon tea; others use clove, cumin, or anise tea with dates. After delivery, dates are given to prevent postpartum bleeding and void the placenta. To invigorate the new mother, they give her dates, black seeds, Nigella sativa, and fenugreek, or they prepare for her wheat gruel with dates, butter, pepper, and aromatic seeds, plus an egg in the morning. Date cures may have been influenced by the Holy Quran when God addresses Mary, or Mariam, Mother of Jesus (PBUH) during her labor pains: “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward thee: It will drop fresh dates upon thee (Chapter: 19; verse: 25).

Until the invasion of modern diets, the date was the main nutrition in the Arabian Peninsula. Most desserts such as henaini, saeedha and maamoul, are made from dates, even rice and vegetable recipes include dates. They can be added to pastries, cakes, pies, and chocolate bonbons. Date syrup is used in desserts. Dates with nuts make a nice snack. Plain or nut-stuffed dates are savored with the cardamom-flavored Arabic coffee.

Dates are particularly popular during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Breaking the fast with one, three, or up to seven dates is highly recommended by Prophet Muhammad to energize after a long day of abstinence from food. Nutrients replenish and antioxidants detoxify. He suggested: “Whoever takes every morning seven dates of ajwa, he will neither be harmed by poison nor sorcery on that day” (related by Al-Bukhari). Ajwa, the Prophet’s favorite date, is the short black highly-prized date, grown in Al-Madinah.

Dates, like fruits, should be taken on an empty stomach in order to benefit from their nutrients and antioxidants, which nourish, detoxify, and cleanse the body. Consuming too many can be detrimental to health and counteracts weight control. Dates should be restricted or approached with prudence by individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides and obesity. The average date contains approximately 20 calories.

Dates may be an age-old fruit, but they offer a number of health benefits, which have yet to be researched and discovered. Meanwhile, do not miss this health-promoting “blessed” fruit, but “in moderation!” Bi siha wa afia! Ramadan Mubarak to all.

“Natural Remedies of Arabia” by Robert Lebling and Donna Pepperdine, MH.

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