You might have had dates mixed into energy bars (you’ll see them listed on Rx Bars and Picky Bars) or at a party wrapped in bacon. But have you considered their benefits? These small fruits often serve as a go-to to naturally sweeten foods, but they offer up more than a dessert-like taste—they’re also loaded with nutrients. Learn how dates’ nutrition can help your general well-being, as well as fuel your rides and help you recover too.
Dates pack lots of fiber, plus carbs
Most Americans need more fiber, an essential nutrient for helping to regulate your digestive system, prevent constipation, keep you full, and lower cholesterol, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adults need about 22 to 34 grams per day, according to the 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And considering they’re packed with this system-regulating nutrient, dates can help you reach that daily number.
“Two dates contain 3.2 grams of fiber, but for some people, it’s hard to eat just two dates,” Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian, creator of Better than Dieting, and author of Read It Before You Eat it, tells Bicycling.
Of course, there’s a catch to having too much fiber, especially around your ride time—it can result in an unplanned pit stop. Taub-Dix warns that cyclists should monitor how their body responds to eating dates, as too many can lead to bloating and potential diarrhea in some people.
On the other hand, Taub-Dix says dates offer a source of energy for your rides. The tiny fruit consists of 70 percent carbohydrates, which comes from mostly sugars like glucose, sucrose, and fructose, according to a review published in the journal Food Research International. These carbs come in handy during a ride as they’re the primary fuel for your muscles. So if you want to give dates a try on your next wheeled adventure, Taux-Dix just recommends testing them out before you hit the road.
Dates have other health-promoting nutrients
Dates not for you midride? You can benefit from eating them postride too. That’s because dates also provide vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, and copper says, Taub-Dix. These nutrients help cyclists by supporting the immune system. Iron, in particular, is super important because it helps carry oxygen to your muscles through your bloodstream. And magnesium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as maintain muscle and nerve function—it’s also easy to lose through sweat and urine so it’s key to get in your diet.
According to a study published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, most date varieties contain polyphenols (a type of disease-fighting antioxidant) and other nutrients that help support your cardiovascular system and maintain blood pressure. They may also reduce inflammation.
While research is limited, some studies have highlighted dates for improving brain health and providing antibacterial properties thanks to those antioxidants and phytochemicals, says Taub-Dix.
How can you incorporate dates into your diet?
“Dates can seamlessly and deliciously weave their way into some of our favorite dishes,” says Taub-Dix. Whether you’ve opted to take dates along for your next ride or to eat them after, you can incorporate them in your everyday diet as they easily pair with foods you likely already enjoy, she says. Dates are very versatile and can be found in many different forms including jams, syrups, desserts, appetizers, and beyond.
Here, Taub-Dix recommends a few ways to add more dates to your plate:
- For a delicious dinner side dish, combine dates with bitter-tasting foods like broccoli rabe or Brussel sprouts to create the perfect savory-and-sweet flavor combination.
- Try mixing dates in with your favorite nuts, like almonds, for a snack on the go. “The protein and healthy fat in the nuts help to slow the absorption of sugar in the dates, which helps even out blood sugar levels and provide more sustained energy,” Taub-Dix explains.
- Add them to a salad for a sweet twist and even more nutrients.