by Robin Freeman November 8, 2016
In search of a healthy food staple? Consider date fruit, the world’s most ancient food. The Quran, Old Testament, and Bible reference the date palm and its benefits. Dates are part and partial of the daily food supply in the Middle-East, and it is the main agricultural crop in Saudi Arabia.
Below is a comprehensive guide that shares a video on date harvesting, history, health benefits, and ten most popular date varieties sold in Saudi Arabia. A study of the impressive fruit in the Journal of Science of Food & Agriculture found,
“…The main chemical components of date fruit include carbohydrates, dietary fiber, enzymes, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins, phenolic acids, and carotenoids.” Further, many studies have shown that date fruit has antioxidant, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, anticancer and immunostimulant activities…” (Tang, 2013).
The History of Dates
Two excellent articles published in Aramco World Magazine and well worth the read:
Other Research Suggests the Following:
- Dates are digested easily and valuable for supplying quick energy
- Regular consumption of dates helps the growth of good bacteria in the intestines
- Beneficial as a natural laxative and waste elimination
- Good food source for those with heart problems
- Regulates the nervous system due to rich potassium content
- Ability to lower LDL cholesterol
- Rich in iron and beneficial to those who suffer from anemia
- Four weeks of date consumption improves lipids (fats) in the blood without a rise in sugar levels
Benefits for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers:
- Helps strengthen uterine muscles, improves dilation, and reduces postpartum bleeding
- Helps alleviate postpartum depression in mothers
- Enriches breast-milk with key elements
#1 Ajwa Small rounded shape, soft texture, semi-dried, black in color, and cultivated in the Madinah region. Most expensive, and in high demand.
In Islam, a hadith sayings of the prophet reports, “He who has a morning meal of seven ajwa dates will not suffer harm that day through toxins or magic.” (Bukhari, Hadith 5327 and Muslim, Hadith 3814). A nutritional study from The Journal of Animal & Plant Sciences, found the Ajwa date to contain the richest sources of nutrients more than other varieties in the market (Khalid, 2016).
#2 Anbara Large, rectangular, and reddish-brown in color. Anbara’s have a small seed, and are cultivated in the Medina region. One of the most expensive varieties due to scarcity.
#3 Barhi Round, mild amber to darker brown, crunchy, tastes like caramel and brown sugar. These creamy dates are really delicate and often sold while still on thin branches. Freeze and store for months. Available in many areas of the world.
#4 Kholas Moderate size, mild brown color, and soft. Caramel notes when cured, loose flesh, and sticky when fresh. Cultivated in Al Kharj, Al Ahsa and Al Qasim regions of Saudi Arabia.
#5 Khudri Large, brown in color, juicy, moderately sweet, with wrinkled flesh. Cultivated in the Medina region. Most exported dates due to freshness, and reasonable prices. A wonderful way to refresh and energize the body.
#6 Mejdool Large, dark in color depending on soil grew in. Known as the ‘Queen of Dates’ with a large cushiony texture, and caramel like flavor. Popular in America and often used to make shakes and smoothies. Available year-round in many areas of the world.
#7 Safawi Moderate size, oblong, and black in color. Soft, semi-dried and cultivated in the Madinah region. This type is readily available and the most popular.
#8 Sagae Medium size, two-toned golden brown in color. Chewy with a mild sweetness, and cultivated in Riyadh.
#9 Sukkari Large, blond-golden brown in color, crisp and really sweet. Cultivated in the Al-Qaseem region.
#10 Zahidi Moderate sized, round, mild golden-brown in color. Semi-dry but gathered and traded in 3 phases: gentle, medium-hard, and hard. Extremely sugary keeps well for a few months and best utilized for cooking functions.
Khalid, S., Ahmad, A., Masud, T., Asad, M. J., & Sandhu, M. (2016). Nutritional assessment of Ajwa date flesh and pits in comparison to local varieties. JAPS: Journal Of Animal & Plant Sciences, 26(4), 1072-1080.
Tang, Z., Shi, L., & Aleid, S. M. (2013). Date fruit: chemical composition, nutritional and medicinal values, products. Journal Of The Science Of Food & Agriculture, 93(10), 2351-2361. doi:10.1002/jsfa.6154