These chewy sweets have been around for so long..but why? Why are they are on the table every Ramadan? What makes them special?
Dates, Phoenix dactylifera, have a chewy flesh usually with a pit inside it. Some dates are processed so the pits are removed and they're really sweet. Most dates are sold in boxes although some merchants do sell them fresh and raw. There are different types of dates and their differences lie within the taste of it or the physical features of it. Some of the most popular or well known dates are Medjool dates and Khadrawy due to its superior taste. They are found mainly in the Middle East and parts of northern Africa but nowadays, they should be easily bought in all sorts of shops.
Now what's the point of eating dates?
Well dates, as small as they look, are packed with lots of amazing benefits and nutritional value that we need.
Dates are rich in fibre which is important for a good bowel movement so if you are suffering from constipation, dates are great laxative. More importantly, the dates prevent LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. LDL are the bad cholesterol that we should make sure is always at a low level in our body. Therefore by eating dates, it prevents LDL being absorbed into the blood and guts. This is great for patients with CVD, they're able to have a sweet treat without the fear factor.
Another great benefit is the different types of nutrition a date can hold. Dates are a source of Vitamin A, which is essential for your eyesight. It also contains other vitamins like vitamin B and K. It also contains potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. These minerals are vital in order for the body to function normally. Calcium is needed for bone growth and strengthening, Potassium is needed by the nervous system in order to make sure nerve signals are properly being sent to the right area and the right amount of chemical and hormones are being released.
For those who have had hijama done, after the session you can feel light headed which is normal. This is why dates are provided, they give you your energy back!
For anyone who is anaemic, dates have lots of iron, which is a better alternative than constantly having to take tablets. They taste better too!
Anyone who is diabetic can also consume dates: they may taste sweet and provide lots of energy but it has a low glycaemic content ( how much the sugar in the food can affect the overall blood sugar level). This does not mean in one sitting you should eat 70 dates! But for any diabetic who has a sweet tooth, a date is what you need!
Please it is advisable not to consume the date syrup for diabetics, that is refined and processed which can greatly affect your blood sugar level. It's always best to consume it in the natural form.
The Prophet Mohammad (SAW) gave special attention to dates and with a long list of benefits no wonder why!
As recommended by the Prophet (SAW) parents should chew some dates and feed that to their newborn babies, it helps to start their digestive system and provided them with nutrients and energy, preventing any type of disease or illness from forming.
During Ramadan most Muslims break their fasts with dates and water. A hadith mentions 'the Prophet (SAW) : (When any of you breaks his fasting he should eat dates cause dates are blessing, if he didn’t find dates then drink water cause water is purifying) [Narrated by Abo Dawood].' This is because the water helps to soften the dates and the dates themselves have natural sugar that the empty stomach can easily absorb without causing a seriously high sugar spike in the blood sugar level.
Dates are not just for the physical body but used spiritually.
In a hadith ' Prophet (PBUH) said: (Who eats 7 pressed dates in the morning, will not be inflected with witchcraft or poisoning that day).'
Physically, the number 7 has a significant meaning. If seven dates are eaten then the body will have a greater amount of vitamins and minerals, therefore any toxins should not have a deadly consequent.
Only Allah (SWT) knows exactly what is meant by protection from witchcraft but regardless it is a great alternative breakfast for anyone!
For anyone who is tired of just eating dates on their own,
I have put a few recipes together creating some variations.
1. Salad: A great way to have a sweet treat yet staying true to your diet. Pear, dates with walnut salad and blue cheese
2. Main: A different way to have lamb: Lamb cutlets marinated with spiced dates and sultanas.
3. Dessert: For anyone who wants to try something new and daring: Raw vegan caramel matcha truffles