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By Nadia Marshall
What are dates?
Dates are the fruit of the Date Palm. They are believed to have originated from the Middle East but are now widely cultivated in warm climates around the world. There are more than a hundred varieties of dates but the most common is Deglet noor. One of the most highly prized (and expensive) varieties is Medjool dates from Morocco - they are very large, very sweet and very succulent!
What are their qualities?
From an Ayurvedic perspective, dates have the following qualities...
Qualities: Heavy, Energizing
Actions on the doshas: Balance Vata & Pitta, increase Kapha in excess
Action on the mind: Sattvic
Special quality: nourish Ojas
What are their medicinal qualities?
In Ayurveda dates are considered a ‘superfood’ because they are both Sattvic (promote peace in the mind) and directly nourish Ojas (the essence of our immune system). They are considered a nutritive tonic for the body - energising for the tissues and immune system. But they are also considered heavy and difficult to digest so eating just 1 or 2 a day is more than sufficient, otherwise they may overtax your Agni. Dates are often used as medicine in depleted plasma tissue (rasa dhatu) conditions and are also used as a tonic in the case of lung (pranavaha srota) problems. They are also useful in the case of low libido or infertility, helping to nourish and invigorate sexual reproductive tissues (shukra dhatu).
The Western viewpoint.
Dates are very high in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and also dietary fibre. On the mineral front, they are rich in selenium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese and copper. Interestingly, selenium is a trace mineral that plays an important role in antioxidant activity, thyroid and immune system function as well as sperm production.
In terms of vitamins, dates are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, the B Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6) and also folate. But, they are also high in sugar (especially fructose) so again, should only be eaten in small amounts.
How do you eat them?
We mainly eat dates in date and coconut balls (see video on the right!) but also as part of a daily energy shake or sometimes used as a sweetener in baking.
Why do I love them?
To tell you the truth, I don’t actually like dates on their own. I find them incredibly rich and a bit heavy. But, I do love them mixed or cooked with other foods, particularly in Stephen’s date and coconut balls! Then I love them because they are so sweet and nourishing. They make me feel grounded and strong.
Should anyone avoid eating them?
People with Kapha constitutions or imbalances shouldn’t overdo the dates. In fact, no-one should overdo dates because they are very rich, heavy and difficult to digest. They should be thought of as a tonic, a densely nutritional sweet... not something you should eat huge amounts of daily.
Where do you get them from?
You can get normal pitted dates from all supermarkets. If you’re after organic dates or medjool dates, try your local wholefood store instead.
“Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing” by Vasant Lad
“Heaven’s Banquet” by Miriam Kasin Hospodar
Agni - the digestive fire.
Ama or Aama - undigested food waste, toxins.
Ojas- the foundation of our immune system and longevity.
Dhatus - the tissues of the body.
Srotas - the channels of the body.
Vata - the air/ether
intelligence in the body.
Pitta- the fire/water
intelligence in the body.
Kapha- the water/earth intelligence in the body.
Sattva- the quality of purity, intelligence, peace and love.
Rajas- the quality of
turbulence and activity.
Tamas- the quality of
dullness, darkness and inertia.
Rasa - the taste of a food (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent)
Virya - second level of digestion (either Heating or Cooling)
Vipaka - third level of digestion, the deep taste of a food (can be Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Prabhav - the 'special effect' of a food or herb/spice
Rasa - also the name for plasma tissue
Rakta - blood tissue
Mamsa - muscle tissue
Meda - fat tissue
Asthi - bone tissue
Majja - nerve & bone marrow tissue
Shukra - sexual reproductive tissue