Fasting during Ramadan is from sunrise to sunset. This tradition is rooted in religious teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, who is quoted as saying: “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates; but if he cannot get any, then (he should break his fast) with water, for water is purifying.“
Moroccan Muslims, like countless other Muslims around the world, follow a religious tradition of serving dates at their Ramadan iftar table, with many making it a point to actually to break their fast with them. Dates are not only associated with Ramadan, however. The fruit is mentioned more than 20 times in the Quran, and they’re favored by many Muslims for tahneek, the tradition of rubbing something sweet into the mouth of a newborn.
Dates in the Holy Qur’an & the Sunnah of the Prophet:
- The Prophet said: “Break your fast by eating dates as it is purifying,” (Ahmad).
- On the basis of this Hadith, Muslims insist on breaking their fasts with dates. However, in another Hadith, the Prophet said, “If you have a date, break your fast with it, if you don’t have it, break the fast with water as it is purifying.” (Abu Dawood)
- According to another Hadith, “The Messenger said: Ajwah dates are from Paradise.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
- Ajwah is one of the excellent varieties of dates grown in the Madinah region.
- In Surah Maryam of the Holy Qur’an, Allah provided Prophet Isa’s (peace be upon him) mother Maryam (peace be upon her) with fresh dates when she was experiencing discomfort and pain during the final stages of her pregnancy.
- “Shake the trunk of the palm toward you and fresh, ripe dates will drop down onto you.” (Surah Maryam: verse 25)
- The significance of the date palm as a source of nutrition and sustenance is evident in the statement narrated by Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): “The Prophet said there is a tree among the trees which is similar to a Muslim (in goodness), and that is the date palm tree.” (Bukhari)
- In another Hadith, the Prophet stressed the importance of dates as a major food item, saying, “People in a house without dates are in a state of hunger.” (Muslim)
- The excellence of date palms is also referred to in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an: “And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighboring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees — growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand.” (Surah Al-Raad, verse 4)
- The date is also referred to in the Holy Qur’an as one of the blessings that would be offered in Paradise.
- In several traditions the Prophet ate dates with some other fruits and vegetables. “Abdullah ibn Jaafar, may Allah be pleased with him, said the Messenger ate cucumbers with dates.” (Al-Tirmidhi) According to two other traditions recorded by Al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet ate dates with watermelon or muskmelon.
- The Prophet also taught his disciples that the date was not only an antidote to poison but also an effective defense against black magic. “Whoever eats seven dates of the High Land of Madinah in the morning will not be hurt by poison or sorcery on that day.” (Bukhari)
- “Rubay bint Mu’awwidh ibn Afraa said: ‘I took a plate of fresh dates and small cucumbers to the Messenger. He gave me a handful of jewelry, or a handful of gold.’” (Al-Tirmidhi)
- In another Hadith, the Prophet exhorted the believers that “you should defend yourselves from the hellfire even with a piece of date.”
- It has also been reported that the Prophet used to put chewed dates or honey into the mouths of newborn babies.
- Reference to the palm tree could also be seen in chapter Qaf, Al-Shuara and Al-Nahl of the Holy Qur’an. In early descriptions of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah,
- historians state that the leaves of the date palm were used as a roof covering.
Dates are high in natural sugar, so many people think they may not be good for them. However, these sweet fruits are packed with plenty of nutrients, making them an excellent snack in moderation.
Dates grow on date palms in small clusters. The term date comes from the Greek word daktulos, which means fingers.
Farmers harvest dates in the fall and early winter, so dates usually taste freshest at this time of year. However, many people eat dried dates, which can last for a long time in a sealed container.
Five benefits of eating dates:
In addition to tasting great, dates contain protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are also:
- High in polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that can protect the body from inflammation. Dates contain more polyphenols than most other fruits and vegetables.
- Alternative to empty-calorie sweets. Dates can satisfy a person’s sweet tooth while also providing essential nutrients, such as vitamin B-6 and iron.
- High in fiber. Just ¼ of a cup of dates provides 12 percent of a person’s daily fiber requirement. Fiber helps a person feel fuller for longer.
- High in potassium. Dates are high in potassium, which is an electrolyte the body needs for good heart health. Potassium also helps to build muscle and proteins in the body.
- Great for substitutions. People can replace the sugar, chocolate chips, or candies in baking recipes with dates to ensure they are eating natural sugars instead of refined sugars.
Deglet Noor dates are one of the most common types of dates that people can find in the supermarket.
The following is the nutritional information for one average-sizedTrusted Source Deglet Noor date:
- calories: 20
- total fat: 0.03 grams (g)
- total carbohydrates: 5.33 g
- dietary fiber: 0.6 g
- sugar: 4.5 g
- protein: 0.17 g
- vitamin B-6: 0.012 milligrams (mg)
- iron: 0.07 mg
- magnesium: 3 mg
- potassium: 47 mg
Another common variety is the Medjool date. Medjool dates have a similar nutritional contentTrusted Source and are often larger than Deglet Noor dates.
Risks and considerations:
Dates have a very high sugar content relative to the rest of their nutritional value. People who are trying to manage their blood sugar, such as those with diabetes, should be mindful of their total sugar intake when consuming dates.
Eating dates in moderation is unlikely to raise a person’s blood sugar excessively, even if they have diabetes.
According to one studyTrusted Source, dates are a low glycemic index food that does not result in significant increases in blood sugar in people with or without diabetes.
Although the researchers had only a small sample size, their findings do indicate that eating dates in moderation should not dramatically impact a person’s blood sugar.
How to eat dates:
Dates can be eaten fresh or dried, much like raisins. People can also add them to a variety of sweet or savory dishes.
Some examples of dishes that incorporate dates include:
- Stuffed dates: People can stuff dates with almonds, pecans, cream cheese, or pistachios for a snack or finger food.
- Salads: Chopped, sliced, or pitted whole dates are an excellent addition to salads.
- Smoothies: Blending dates into a banana smoothie adds natural sweetness and extra nutritional value.
- Stews: Dates taste great in Moroccan stews or tagine dishes.
- Energy balls: People can blend dates with nuts, cranberries, oats, coconut flakes, or a variety of other ingredients to make no-bake “energy balls.”
When shopping for dates, people should look for those that are shiny and unbroken.
A person can store fresh dates in an airtight container in the refrigerator for many months and even longer in the freezer. If refrigerated, dried dates will last for about 1 year in an airtight container and many years if frozen.
A person should not eat dates that have a sour smell, are very hard, or have crystallized sugar on their surface. These signs can indicate the dates have gone bad.
Eating dates can be an easy way for a person to incorporate a new fruit into their diet.
Healthy Aspects of Dates
What is about dates that make them an ideal and healthy choice for fueling an empty body? For starters, dates are high in sugar, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients, and (when fresh) vitamin C. They also contain potassium, magnesium, iron, and small amounts of protein and fat. Dates are easily digested, making them a quick source of energy and nutrients. Eating dates after a long day of fasting can help the body’s blood glucose levels quickly return to normal. When not fasting, consumption of dates before a meal will satisfy the sensation of hunger, which in turn helps to avoid overeating.
Dates in Morocco
Aside from their religious significance, dates were an important food among the Arabs and early Muslims, and this influence extended to Morocco, where dates have been cultivated for centuries. Dozens of varieties are grown for both domestic and international markets, with Medjool, Halawi, and Deglet Noor being among the most popular.
A Few Interesting Facts About This Naturally Sweet and Popular Food:
- Dates are the fruit of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) tree, which is most widely cultivated in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Africa, Southern Asia, and Southeast Asia.
- More than 40 varieties of dates are grown in Arabia alone; the same can be said of Morocco’s date production. Depending on the variety, dates may be harvested soft, dry, or semi-dry.
- Dates have been consumed for at least 7,000 years and appear to have been cultivated for more than 2000 years.
- Date seeds can lie dormant for years or even decades when germinating conditions are unfavorable.
- In addition to tasting good, dates can be beneficial in treating constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal disorders, and they can help promote a healthy heart.
- Dates aren’t just for people; Arabs in the Sahara are known to use dates as a feed for camels, horses, and dogs.
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