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8 November 2010

The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

In October, the variety of Tunisian dates called Deglet Noor were harvested. 
"Deglet Noor (Arabic: دڤلة النور 'date of light') — so named because the centre appears light or golden when held up to the sun.  This is a leading date in Libya, Algeria, the USA, and Tunisia, and in the latter country it is grown inland near an oasis and is the chief export cultivar.  It is semi-dry and not very sweet."

The BBC have put together a video clip explaining the Tunisian Deglet Noor date harvest entitled, "Tunisia's date farmers push production".  Here is the link for your information:



Figure 1:  Bunches of new season Deglet Noor dates.

"Health Benefits of Dates

Dates are a great source of dietary fiber. The American Cancer Society recommends that you consume 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Dietary fiber comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble. Each serves a valuable function. Insoluble fiber increases the rate at which food moves through the digestive system. Soluble fiber may help control diabetes by decreasing elevated blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber also had been found to help lower serum cholesterol levels, particularly undesirable low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

 

According to researchers at the University of Scranton in Scranton Pennsylvania, they have the highest concentration of polyphenols among dried fruits. The findings of this research suggest that dried fruits should be a greater part of the diet as they are dense in phenol antioxidants and nutrients, most notably fiber.


A serving of power-packed dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. Carbohydrates include 3 grams of dietary fiber and 29 grams of naturally occurring sugars such as fructose, glucose and sucrose to provide quick energy and are readily used by the body. Dates are a perfect energy boosting snack.


Dates are one of the best natural sources of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral your body needs to maintain muscle contractions including the vital heart muscle. Potassium is needed to maintain a healthy nervous system and to balance the body’s metabolism as well.

 
Since potassium is not stored in the body, and much is lost in perspiration, it must be continually replenished. As you consume potassium you excrete sodium, helping to keep blood pressure down. As people age, their kidneys become less efficient at eliminating sodium. About a 400 mg increase in potassium intake has been associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of stroke. This roughly amounts to one additional serving daily of Dates.


Dates also contain a variety of B-complex vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid. These vitamins have a variety of functions that help maintain a healthy body – to metabolize carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels, fatty acids for energy, and they help make hemoglobin, the red and white blood cells. Dates also contain Magnesium which is essential for healthy bone development and for energy metabolism and Iron which is essential to red blood cell production. Red blood cells carry all the nutrients to cells throughout the body. In addition, Dates are fat and cholesterol free!"  The above extract from the family nutrition online website gives plenty of reasons as to why we ought to eat dates as part of a healthy and nutritious diet. http://www.familynutritiononline.com/Health%20Articles/health_benefits_of_dates.htm 

More information about the actual date palm can be found on this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_dactylifera and the quote at the top of the page about the Deglet Noor date was also taken from this website.
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