Breaking the fast with dates is a Ramadan tradition for many Muslims around the world who follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him) and break their fast with dried dates soaked in milk, fresh dates, or just pure water, and then pray before eating their main meal.
Dates are easily digested, making them a quick source of energy and nutrients and an ideal food in Ramadan. When fasting for long hours, the body’s glucose levels decrease, so breaking the fast with dates can help increase the glucose levels in the blood and give the body time to start the digestive processes of the stomach that has been resting all day.
When not fasting, the consumption of dates before a meal satisfies the sensation of hunger, which in turn helps to avoid overeating.
Dates are rich in sugar, fibre, minerals, phytonutrients, Vitamins C (when fresh), B6 and A, potassium, magnesium, iron and small amounts of protein as well as fat. They also contain oil, calcium, sulphur, selenium, phosphorous, manganese and copper.
In other words, even one date can be an important contributor to a balanced and healthy diet. Dates aren’t just delicious; they’re also loaded with tremendous health gains.
Here are some reasons why you should eat dates during Ramadan and beyond:
Rich in fibre:
Dates are packed with fibre. One pitted date contains six per cent of the recommended daily intake of fibre, which can be beneficial for preventing constipation, keeping your colon healthy, decreasing cholesterol levels, especially the “bad” type of LDL cholesterol, and fighting and preventing obesity.
Dates have an excellent nutrition profile. A study in the US International Journal of Food, Sciences and Nutrition concluded that dates contain at least 15 minerals, numerous amino acids, and fairly good unsaturated fatty acids. They also have a host of vitamins and are considered a super food for strengthening bones, protecting the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, enabling us to fight off diseases like osteoporosis when we’re older, regulating blood sugar, as well as maintaining a healthy metabolism and preventing premature ageing.
High in antioxidants:
Dates provide various types of antioxidants that may help lower inflammation and prevent the development of certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Boosting the brain and memory:
Eating dates may help improve brain function and prevent plaques from forming in the veins or arteries. Dates act as a good supply of sugar and energy to the body and provide important nutrients for the brain cells and nerves.
Dates can be digested easily, so they do not upset the stomach of a fasting person. Eating dates activates the digestive juices and secretions that prepare the stomach for the reception of food after a long fasting day. Breaking your fast with dates curbs your hunger and prevents you from excessive eating, which could cause digestion disorders
Keeping the heart healthy:
Dates are a rich source of potassium, which is believed to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart-related diseases as they reduce the levels of the “bad” type of cholesterol, LDL, which seriously influences heart issues and strokes.
A quick energy booster:
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose, making them the perfect snack for an immediate and safe and effective burst of energy. Even though they are slightly high in calories, they will always be the better alternative when you have a craving for something sweet.
Protecting against hereditary diseases:
The alkaline salts in dates can adjust the acidity of the blood resulting from an excessive intake of meat and carbohydrates, causing a lot of hereditary diseases such as diabetes, gout, renal stones, gall bladder inflammation, high blood pressure and haemorrhoids.
Promoting and easing late-term labour:
Research has showed that dates contain fibre that strengthens the womb, making it easier for a woman to deliver. Dieticians also consider dates to be a good food for women in confinement and those who are breast-feeding because they contain elements that assist in alleviating depression and enriching the breast milk with the elements needed to make the baby healthy and resistant to diseases.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly