Native to the Persian Gulf, dates have been cultivated by humans since 4,000 B.C. Dates offer a range of health benefits thanks to their nutrient content -- for example, their fiber content fights constipation, while their B-complex vitamins support your metabolism. They also serve as good sources of potassium, a mineral important for nervous system and cardiovascular health.
Role of Potassium
Potassium makes up an essential part of your diet, and you need at least 4,700 milligrams daily for good health, recommends the Institute of Medicine. Potassium maintains your cells' membrane potential -- the balance of charged electrolytes inside and outside your cells. A healthy membrane potential plays a central role in muscle and nerve health, and maintaining membrane potential also allows your heart to function. The potassium in your diet also prevents stroke and treats high blood pressure, making it an important nutrient for cardiovascular health.
Potassium in Dates
All three major varieties of dates -- deglet noor, medjool and jujube -- provide you with potassium. A half-cup serving of deglet noor dates contains 482 milligrams of potassium, or 10 percent of the daily intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine, while an equivalent serving of medjool dates offers 512 milligrams of potassium, or 11 percent of your daily intake requirement. Jujube dates contain slightly less potassium, at 390 milligrams -- 8 percent of the recommended daily intake -- per serving.
Comparison to Other Foods
Dates contain more potassium per serving than a few other varieties of dried fruit. A serving of prunes, for example, contains 398 milligrams of potassium, while a serving of dried apple rings provides just 288 milligrams. Dried apricots and figs roughly compare to dates in terms of potassium content -- they contain 407 and 516 milligrams of potassium per serving, respectively. However, several fresh fruits and vegetables provide more potassium than dates. A serving of fresh bananas, artichokes, pumpkin, mushrooms, bok-choy or potatoes contains more potassium per serving than dates.
Consuming More Dates
Because they travel well and don't require refrigeration, dates make for healthy snacks ready for consumption on the go. Use chopped dates to add sweetness to your favorite granola or muesli, or combine dates, rolled oats and raw nuts in a food processor to produce a mixture that can be shaped into energy bars or balls. Alternatively, stew dates in apple cider along with chicken breast or lean pork tenderloin for a nutrient-packed main course.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Dates, Deglet Noor
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Dates, Medjool
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Jujube, Dried
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Potassium, K Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure
- Purdue University: Date
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.