Archeological evidence shows that the date fruit has been cultivated since 7000 BC in what is now Western Pakistan. Dates are also one of the seven holy foods/seeds of Judaism, along with barley, wheat, lentils, beans, garlic and onion.
Dates are considered a “functional food” due to the minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals found in them, along with their high fiber content. They contain between 7.5 and 100 grams of fiber, have high levels of selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and moderate levels of manganese, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. They contain small quantities of boron and B vitamins. Dates are made up mostly of carbohydrates (glucose and fructose), which can constitute up to 70% of their composition, and they have low water content. This makes their naturally occurring sugars even more concentrated.
Their nutritional properties will vary based on everything from the soil condition and agricultural practices to the ripening process, the temperature at which they dried, and how they were stored.
Due to the broad variety of phytochemicals (carotenoids, lycopene, polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins, among others), dates play a role as an anti-oxidant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, hepato-protective and nephron-protective agent. However, date phytochemical concentrations decrease as the fruit matures so it is best to eat them when they are fresh. The total phenolic content in fresh dates is six times higher than that of dried dates. Phenolic content in dates can play role in cardiovascular disease prevention and modulation of the immune system due to their anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic effect, anti-oxidation of bad cholesterol and their ability to reduce platelet aggregation. Due to their high phenolic contents, dates have anti-fungal, anti -bacterial and antiviral properties, and they contain most of the phenolic compounds that have proven anti-carcinogenic activity. While the benefits of dates for cardiovascular and immune system health are clear, more research is needed on the potential benefits for cancer prevention.
Dates have many important nutritional properties and can be a great addition to a healthy and balanced diet. However, if you are trying to restrict carbohydrates then dates should not be your first choice.
The Recipe of the Week comes from the American Institute for Cancer Research: Seared Salmon with Blackberry-Date Chutney
1 tsp. black mustard seed
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black peppercorns
1 lb. wild salmon (if wild not available, use sustainably farmed)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Blackberry-Date Chutney Ingredients:
10 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup blackberries
2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
Dash red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Toast mustard seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, moving skillet to prevent burning, for 5 minutes or until lightly toasted.
In small bowl, combine mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, and black peppercorns.
Rub salmon skin with ½ tbsp. oil and turn salmon over. Drizzle lemon juice over top, and use your fingers to spread spice rub all over the flesh side of salmon.
Cut salmon into four equal sized filets.
Coat skillet with remaining oil and heat over high heat. Sear salmon, flesh-side down, until flesh turns opaque about halfway up the fish, 5 to 10 minutes. Use a spatula to turn fish over.
Continue cooking until fish is opaque throughout but still very moist, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve with blackberry-date chutney and garnish with lemon wedges.
Place dates in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
Add blackberries and ginger to food processor.
Add 2/3 cups boiling water, or enough to make the mixture a spreadable consistency. Process until smooth.
Add cilantro, salt and red pepper flakes. Pulse briefly.
Store for up to 5 days in the fridge or serve directly on the salmon.
Makes 1 cup or 16 servings. (Serves 4). Per Serving (Salmon with 1 Tbsp. chutney): 235 calories, 12 g total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate, 23 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 490 mg sodium.