Adding dates to your diet can not only help you lower your cholesterol levels but this can also provide surprising health benefits too. To understand how many dates you can eat and how it works let’s first understand why we actually need Cholesterol.
What is Cholesterol? And why do we actually need it?
Cholesterol is a type of fat that floats in our blood. Surprisingly, our body actually needs some Cholesterol to function properly but as the saying goes ‘too much of anything can be bad’ same is true with Cholesterol also.
The double whammy of modern diets and lifestyle means that we are seeing high levels of Cholesterol in our body. Consequently, this has increased the risk of heart disease, stroke, and many other health problems which are common these days.
Among many foods, one such food that has been gaining popularity recently is Dates. Is this just a passing fad or there’s some truth behind the new trend of going back to nutritious foods? Let’s explore.
The surprising health benefits of dates
While they may seem to be sugar bombs or empty calories, dates are grown in one of the toughest climatic conditions in the world. So they contain a unique combination of compounds that are known to support health.
Consider this, Dates are a rich source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and many other nutrients like Vitamin Bs, vitamin K, etc. which support your arteries, satiety, and heart. Let’s explore:
Dietary fiber — the truth they don’t tell you about it?
You may have seen advertisements that claim that their product contains fiber which helps reduce cholesterol. Can this be true? While it’s true that fiber actually does reduce cholesterol but there’s a difference between fiber in processed food items and dietary fiber found in natural foods like dates.
Dietary fiber found in dates binds to cholesterol in the gut and prevents its absorption into the bloodstream. This leads to a decrease in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
But dietary fiber goes a step further and works as a prebiotic food for the gut microbiome. As a result, it also promotes satiety and gives you better bowel movements. Clearly, processed fiber doesn’t hold a candle in front of dietary fiber.
How does Vitamin K in the dates work?
Natural food comes with a lot of natural compounds sometimes which are unknown. But the fat-soluble vitamin K plays a major role in cholesterol uptake. In simple words, Vitamin K reopens the closed gates in cells so the dangerous LDL cholesterol is taken inside the cells from the blood and used up. Here’s the exact process:
To explain, Vitamin K inhibits the activity of a protein called proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9). By inhibiting PCSK9, Vitamin K increases the number of LDL receptors in the cells, leading to increased uptake of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Consequently, it lowers the bad cholesterol in the blood.
What is the benefit of Anti-atherogenic compounds?
Dates are rich in phenolic compounds like flavonoids and phenolic acids. These natural compounds have anti-atherogenic effects. It simply means they can prevent the formation of plaques in the arteries. As a result, they protect us from heart diseases.
Apart from the above nutrients, Dates are rich in minerals like Potassium which regulates blood pressure and plays a role in reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
For these reasons, adding dates to your diet can have incredible benefits but you must be asking: what about cholesterol levels?
How Do Dates Affect Your Cholesterol Levels?
Now here’s the good news: Dates have been shown to have a positive effect on both bad (LDL) and good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
For example, a study found that when participants ate dates, their bad cholesterol levels decreased by 15% within four weeks (1). Another study found that eating dates their good cholesterol levels increased by 8% (2).
Clearly, eating dates can lower your cholesterol levels but now the obvious question you may have is:
How Many Dates Should You Eat to Reduce Your Cholesterol levels?
The truth is there isn’t a specific number that will lower your cholesterol levels. However, most experts agree that a daily dose of 3-6 dates is good enough.
Having said that, realize that there are over 300 varieties of dates and some are high in calories and natural sugar. For example, one Medjool date (the King of Dates) contains approximately 66 calories and 16 grams of sugar. One Ajwa date – the most nutritious and flavorful of all dates – contains approximately around 23 calories and 5 grams of sugar.
So like anything, eat in moderation as part of following a healthy lifestyle.
What other Lifestyle Choices can help you Lower your Cholesterol Levels?
Here are a few other things you can do to reduce your cholesterol:
Focus on a good diet: Not surprisingly, a diet rich in natural foods works wonders. No matter what the advertisements claim processed food items don’t help. Take small steps. Speak to a healthcare provider if you need support.
Get regular activity: It’s not necessary to hit the gym 7 days a week. Stick with activities you enjoy. It could be brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up.
Get sufficient sleep: During sleep, your body recovers and regenerates. A relaxing sleep can heal your body wonderfully.
While this is not an exhaustive list, they sum up the major factors that reduce your cholesterol levels.
What is the psychological impact of eating dates?
Most experts forget to mention the positive impact on mental health generated by eating delicious but nutritious foods like dates. Let’s discuss:
Sense of control: When you eat dates in a controlled manner, it lets you enjoy your fitness journey which can contribute to a sense of empowerment and higher self-esteem.
Instant energy: Eating quick energy-boosting foods like dates can contribute to overall positive mental health without feeling the sugar crash afterward.
Improved mood: Eating dates produces feel-good hormones and improves your mood. And reduces the risk of depression too.
The final word on dates and cholesterol levels
Dates are delicious and nutritious foods that can have positive effects on cholesterol levels. While there isn’t a specific number that can lower your cholesterol level, adding a few dates – 3 to 4 – in your diet along with other factors can certainly support your lifestyle factors and help you reduce your cholesterol levels. Some of the best varieties of nutritious dates you can enjoy our Ajwa and Medjool dates.
1. Alkaabi, J. M., Al-Dabbagh, B., Ahmad, S., Saadi, H. F., Gariballa, S., & Ghazali, M. A. (2011). Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects. Nutrition Journal, 10(1), 59. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-59
2. Rock, W., Rosenblat, M., Borochov-Neori, H., Volkova, N., Judeinstein, S., Elias, M., & Aviram, M. (2017). Effects of date (Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels and on serum oxidative status: A pilot study. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 65(48), 10486-10493.