Foodies who like lusciousness—not to mention fitness fans looking for a natural source of post-workout muscle recovery—may want to reach for one of the world’s oldest-cultivated fruits: Medjool dates.
Sure, they’re delicious. But dates and other foods rich in potassium are linked to reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness and connective tissue damage, and enhanced athletic performance going forward. Nutritionists are touting the health and muscle-recovery capabilities of dates as a natural replacement for sports drinks and energy bars that are loaded with processed sugar.
According to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness and Eat Your Way to Sexy, dates are one of nature’s best recovery foods.
“A serving of dates speeds recovery after exercise, replacing needed potassium and other electrolytes, and helping to restock glycogen stores,” explains Somer. “In addition, the potassium and manganese help balance blood-sodium levels that support muscle contraction, reduce fatigue and stimulate recovery.”
Who knew? We’ve been eating them plain and with cheese simply because we love them. But now, we’ll look at them a guilt-free sweet snack! For those watching their sugar intake, Medjools rate low to low/medium on the Glycemic Index (GI).
A great anytime snack. Photo copyright Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association.
Among the sweetest fruits in the world, with a concentration of natural sugar that has earned them the sobriquet “nature’s candy,” dates are one of the earliest crops to be cultivated, in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.
Dates are the fruit of the date palm (photo below), a tree that thrives in desert conditions—including the Bard Valley of Southern California, which produces premium Medjools.
Several varieties are easy to find in the U.S., but the best are Medjools, larger, plumper, moister and more tender, with caramel notes. They are are considered the best-tasting, most luscious dates in the world, and have long been called the “Fruit of the Kings.”
You may also come across Deglet Noor, Halawy and Khadrawy, all chewier varieties. We like them all, but prefer the larger, softer Medjool.
In addition to sweet recipes—cakes, compotes, cookies, fruit breads, ice cream, puddings, smoothies, etc.—dates add a sweet accent to braises and roasts, and can be substituted for prunes. (Unless otherwise specified, date varieties are interchangeable in recipes.)
One serving of Medjool dates (two whole dates) provides 8% of the daily recommended value (DRV) for potassium, 12% for dietary fiber and 4% for magnesium, as well as important vitamins and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and vitamin B6.