Oh, sweet, sweet dates. These ancient squishy palm tree fruits have been beloved by people in arid and tropical regions for at least 8,000 years. Like peaches and other stone fruit with a single central pit dates are considered a drupe, and are naturally very sweet and fleshy. Historically, dates were considered a perfect fruit because of their high nutrient content. They travel well once dried, and provide a long-lasting energy burst that makes them great to have along on an adventure.
Dates contain 15 minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and selenium. They also contain 23 amino acids, and provide more protein than most other fruit. They even have trace amounts of polyunsaturated fat, which helps ease the blood glucose spike they can cause with their high sugar content. This high sugar content is also balanced by dates high fiber content. Here are some of the other health benefits of one of the oldest known fruits.
1. Colon and Digestive Health
Dates are very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber helps keep the colon functioning optimally, by both moving waste matter and feeding beneficial intestinal bacteria. Fiber also binds with carcinogenic and toxic substances in the body and helps draw them out.
Dates are mildly laxative, which means eating them can help relieve constipation and ensure the bowels are always moving smoothly. To increase their constipation-relieving effects, soak the dates in filtered water overnight, and eat them in the morning along with the soak water. The high potassium content of dates helps keeps the kidneys nourished. Dates contain nicotine, which in this form supports the health of the intestines by inhibiting the growth of pathological organisms. And the amino acids in dates stimulate more thorough and efficient digestion.
2. Healthy Labor and Delivery
In a study done on expectant mothers, it was found that eating dates in the last four weeks of their pregnancy made for an easier labor.
The mothers were less likely to need induction, and experienced less pain and struggle. This might be because of the high mineral content balanced by fiber and micronutrients that inspire muscle relaxation and sustained energy.
3. Happy Brain
The vitamins and minerals in dates support brain performance. The B6 is especially important for maintaining mental functioning. The potassium supports the nervous system to function optimally, which means less brain-fogging stress and more energy available for thinking. The potassium also improves mental reaction time and processing speed.
4. I Can See Clearly Now
What s a sweet date without a little cheesy music? Seriously, dates (the fruit) are great for eye health. Anecdotally, dates are known to guard against night blindness.
The B-vitamins and phytonutrients, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, support the retina in filtering light. They also protect the eyes from macular degeneration.
Dates are very high in both sugar and fiber. This provides an energy boost that is more sustainable and causes less blood sugar spiking than an energy drink or fruit juice. Dates are especially helpful for boosting energy and supercharging the metabolism after a workout or in the mid-afternoon. Dates are high in iron, which helps with the production of red blood cells. Nourishing the blood with sufficient iron is necessary to prevent anemia.
The rich mineral profile of dates, which includes manganese and copper in addition to the magnesium and selenium mentioned above, supports healthy bone and muscle development. Eating dates can help prevent osteoporosis and other degenerative bone diseases.
7. More Fun in the Bedroom
Dates are known as an aphrodisiac for their soft fleshy texture and sweet flavor. But they also help increase masculine virility and sexual functioning. Dates are high in plant compounds like estradiol and flavanoids that increase sperm count. They make a great finger food to help increase intimacy and set the mood, while also increasing the potential for sexual potency and enjoyment. Humans have enjoyed dates since the beginning of recorded history.
Dates were mentioned in the Judeo-Christian Bible, and have been cultivated in some part of the world since at least 6,000 BCE. They continue to hold a wealth of nutritional benefit for nearly all people, supporting the health of the brain, bones, eyes, and digestive system. As they are quite high in sugar, it is a good idea to enjoy dates in moderation. One to four dates per day is plenty to receive the health benefits without messing with your blood sugar levels too much. Eat a solid meal that contains some protein and vegetables 45 minutes to an hour after eating the dates to help maintain more even blood sugar levels.
And enjoy this ancient fruit as a part of your healthy lifestyle.
It is the world s most well-known religious and cultural festival, celebrated worldwide including even by those who are not adherents of the faith. Many sentiments and customs attached to it have become common worldwide even where there is no snow, evergreen conifers to hang lights and decorations on, or a chimney for a nocturnal gift-giver to enter. But Christmas celebrations, as we know them today, are quite recent developments and it is some 19th century authors who were responsible. Celebrated from the third century A.D. onwards, the festival was however banned in Britain in the mid-17th century after the advent of the Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell (the closest the country came to be being ruled by Taliban/an Ayotallah, as John O Farell notes in his irreverent history of England). Though celebrations revived after a generation, it was not the same.
In US too, Puritans banned Christmas, and after the 13 colonies won independence, fell out of favour as a British custom . So how did the idea of Christmas time as a holiday season, the home celebrations and feast, the gift-giving and exchanges, the idea of a Christmas spirit exemplifying forgiveness, charity, generosity and redemption, Santa Claus and all come? Three authors two Americans and one British had quite a part to play.
The first was American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859), known mostly for Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, but also an essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat. The two tales alluded to appear in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820), a collection of nearly three dozen essays and short stories, of which just half a dozen relate to America. Among the others are several about Crayon , Irving s lightly-disguised literary alter ego, in Britain where he also attends the traditional warm-hearted Christmas celebrations.
These are Christmas , where Crayon reflects on the festival s meaning and its celebration, The Stage-Coach , about travelling to a country manor, Bracebridge Hall, and being invited to stay for Christmas, Christmas Eve , on celebrations at Squire Bracebridge s home, Christmas Day , having the old, traditional festivities continue at Bracebridge Hall, and finally, Christmas Dinner , where Crayon enjoys old-fashioned hospitality at the Bracebridge Christmas dinner table. The book, originally published in serial form in 1819-20, was immensely popular and slowly led to revival of Americans interest in Christmas. It was also helped when the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas , by an anonymous author, was published in 1822.
Better known by its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas , it sees a man, wakened by noises while his wife and children sleep on on Christmas Eve, looking out and seeing St. Nicholas eight reindeer-pulled flying sleigh land on his roof. Nicholas enters through the chimney with a sack of toys, and the father sees him filling the children s Christmas stockings, and they share a conspiratorial moment before the saint bounds up the chimney again, after wishing everyone: Happy Christmas . This poem helped to create a standard image of Santa Claus, including his appearance ( dress d all in fur, from his head to his foot , His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,/His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry and He had a broad face, and a little round belly/That shook when he laugh d, like a bowl full of jelly ), the night he visits, his method of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer ( Now!
Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,/On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen ); and that he brings toys to children. The author was Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), a professor of oriental and Greek literature, as well as divinity and Biblical learning at a leading Protestant seminary in New York, who in 1837, acknowledged he was the author and had written it for his children.
But the author who is most closely associated with the Christmas spirit is Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-70), who did the most to create it, especially through his novella A Christmas Carol , published on this day in 1843. The story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge ( Bah! Humbug! ) and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after being visited by the ghosts of his former business partner and of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, it was written in a bid to deal with his mounting debts and not only became a resounding success but made Christmas what it is today. (Read Les Standiford s The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirit , 2008).
But Dickens had more writings on Christmas The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton in The Pickwick Papers , The Chimes , The Cricket on the Hearth , The Battle of Life and various stories in journals Household Words and A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire . Now you know whom to thank when you wake up on Christmas and find your sock filled!
(20.12.2015 Vikas Datta is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal.
He can be contacted at [email protected] )
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