DUBAI: Buying dates can be a bewildering affair. The sheer range of the dried fruit available in the market can leave you confused and chances are, you invariably end up making a random pick or choosing something you’ve tried before.
According to rough estimates, there are over 300 varieties of dates sold in the UAE. Sourced from different countries in the region, they come in different shapes, sizes, colours, taste and texture, each commanding a different cost. They also carry unmatched health benefits, their high nutritional content a panacea for many illnesses. The most popular dates, originating from Saudi Arabia, also boast a huge diversity.
Mohammed Nizam of the UAE-based Kingdom Dates, who helped XPRESS sift through 10 common varieties, says the reasons to try them out are just as diverse. Here’s a sample ahead of Eid Al Fitr.
Features: Dry, very soft, small and black; subtly sweet
Health benefits: Ajwa, which finds mention in Islamic Hadith literature, is renowned for its healing properties. High in potassium, magnesium, calcium, amino acids etc, it is very good for the heart, kidney function, bone health, fertility and digestion. It can even help prevent abdominal cancer.
Cost: Starting from Dh100/kg
Features: Dry, soft, big and brown; has a very sweet, almost cinnamon-like flavour
Health benefits: The roughage stimulates sluggish bowel movement and checks constipation. Rich in calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and other elements, these dates are good for the heart, blood and bones.
Cost: Starting from Dh75/kg
Features: Fresh, soft, juicy, big and dark brown. Has a pillowy texture and must be maintained at temperatures 1 degree Celsius and -5 degree Celsius
Health benefits: Loaded with carbohydrates and proteins, this date has no fat. It helps fight hunger, blood pressure, constipation and arteriosclerosis, among other conditions.
Cost: Starting from Dh70/kg
Features: Dry, soft, medium sized, dark brown, have a flaky skin, not too wrinkled; moderately sweet
Health benefits: High in nutrients, this type of dates is good for the heart, bones and brain. They are filled with fibre, potassium, magnesium and vitamins and are excellent for digestion and the immune system.
Cost: Starting from Dh25/kg
Features: Dry, soft, large and medium sized, dark black with wrinked, flaky skin; chewy sweet texture
Health benefits: This variety is packed with nutrients and helps in fighting everything from obesity and diabetes to constipation and cancer. These dates ease the pain of childbirth and produce milk in nursing mothers.
Cost: Starting from Dh34/kg
Features: Dry, firm, large, light to medium brown (two-toned); mildly sweet
Health benefits: Good for the heart, blood, constipation and intestinal disorders. It contains an antidotal potency which restrains and kills intestinal worms and parasites. Helps fight abdominal cancer like many other varieties of dates.
Cost: Dh35/kg upwards
Features: Dry, firm, small-medium sized, brown; normal sweetness
Health benefits: A popular snack, it carries all the medicinal values of other dates. Consumption of the rich nutrients it contains helps resist hunger. The dates also replace sugar in a good way in diabetic patients.
Cost: Dh32/kg upwards
Features: Dry, soft, elongated and brown with wrinkles; no flakes; has a distinctly less sugary taste
Health benefits: Naturally rich in minerals and antioxidants, this variety shares the general health benefits of other dates. The high content of magnesium and fibre makes these dates a good cancer fighter.
Cost: Dh45/kg upwards
Features: Fresh, soft, moist, medium, light brown with a bit of flaking; very sweet and melts in the mouth.
Health benefits: Helps battle anoerexia, fatigue and a host of dental and eye problems. Good for digestive issues too. Dates in general are a rich source of calcium and help maintain good bone health.
Cost: Starting from Dh45/kg
Features: Dry, soft, moist and sticky, medium, reddish dark brown; have a hearty flavour and a butter-caramel taste.
Health benefits: Has simple sugars and is low in calories. High in anti-oxidants and other nutrients, it is considered to be a superfood by some. It also helps in reducing stress and fighting many major illnessses.
Cost: Starting from Dh40/kg
GEM OF A DATE
Ajwa is the world’s most celebrated of all dates. It originates from Madinah. According to The Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam), “Whoever has seven Ajwa dates every morning, will not be harmed on that day by even poison or magic.”
is the most expensive date, with prices starting from Dh100/kg
Dates allow diabetics to replace sugar in their diets in a good way. They contain fructose and glucose and a healthier Glycemic Index.
* Date palms
Cover three per cent of the earths cultivated surface.
* Bedouin tribes
of the Middle East, who eat a high percentage of dates in their diet, are said to have one of the lowest rates of cancer
Dates stuffed with nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashew or orange and lemon peel are very popular, especially among tourists. So are other value-added versions with brown and white chocolate, coconut powder etc.
Cost: Dh65/kg upwards