Dates and iron

Like most fruits, dates are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibres. One of the key benefits of dates, or any fruit for that matter, is that they provide a great source of iron. One way to ensure our bodies get a sufficient amount of iron is to make sure that we eat fruit regularly.


What is iron?
Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs and transport it throughout your body. Without enough iron, your body is unable to make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A significant lack of iron can result in anaemia, which can manifest itself in the form of fatigue, weakness, headaches, dizziness and leg cramps. Conversely, too much iron can also be detrimental as it can lead to the production of free radicals, cell-damaging molecules which can damage the heart, liver and other organs.


What foodstuffs contain iron?

Some foods known for their high iron content include red meat, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit and certain cereals, breads and pastas. It is a common misconception that this is only a trace amount of iron in fruits and vegetables – in actual fact, fruits and vegetables are a rich source of not only iron, but also vitamin C, which acts an aid to iron by encouraging its absorption into the body.


Dates – a good source of iron?

Dates, grown on the date palm, are small, oval fruits with a wrinkled and sticky coating and are often enjoyed in their dried form. As mentioned above, dried fruit is a fantastic source of iron. It is easy to incorporate dates into our diet in order to ensure we are getting the iron our bodies require. Eaten regularly, you should notice in increase in energy and alertness.
It is important to follow the recommended daily iron allowance as advised by nutritionists and health professionals. This increases with age and varies by sex and health. Women typically need more iron than men, particularly at certain stages in their lives, such as around puberty (to replace the iron lost during their period) and during pregnancy (for the health of the mother and development of the baby).

  • Children aged 1-3 years – 7mg
  • Children aged 4-8 years – 10mg
  • Boys aged 9-13 years – 8mg
  • Boys aged 14-18 years – 11mg
  • Girls aged 9-13 years – 8mg
  • Girls aged 14-18 years – 15mg
  • Men, all ages – 8mg
  • Women aged 18-50 years – 18mg
  • Women aged 50 years and above – 8mg
  • Pregnant women, all ages – 27mg
  • Lactating women aged 14-18 – 25mg

Why do we need it?

Iron is found in haemoglobin – the substance found in our red blood cells that helps to carry oxygen around the body. Without a sufficient amount of iron, our bodies cannot make enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency that people suffer from worldwide. A lack of iron can cause anaemia, making you feel weak and fatigued. Luckily, however, iron can be found in many different food sources. Eating fruit and vegetables is a great way to make sure your body is getting the level of iron it needs to keep your body healthy and functioning as it should.


Which fruits should I eat if I’m concerned about how much iron I’m consuming?

Generally speaking, most fruits and vegetables are a rich source of iron. Amongst the best are raisins, blackberries, avocado, figs, kiwi and dates.


It is important to note that there are two kinds of iron – heme and non-heme iron.


Heme iron

This type of iron can be found in:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Liver


Non-heme iron

This second kind is predominantly found in plant-based foodstuffs, including:

  • Cereals
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts (pistachios, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
  • Dried fruits (peaches, apricots, figs, raisins and dates)


The main difference between the two is their absorption capabilities; heme iron is typically absorbed at a rate of 7-35%, whilst non-heme iron is absorbed at a rate of around 2-20%.


Why should I eat dates and other fried fruit?

Well, in terms of iron consumption, eating dates and similar dried fruit is an easy way to maintain healthy iron levels. Whilst foodstuffs which contain heme iron may mean you absorb the iron quicker, dried fruits full of non-heme iron will still increase your iron absorption at a steady rate if incorporated as part of your diet. Let’s face it; dried fruits like dates are readily available, and easy to introduce into your diet in between meals or as a snack on the go. Such a small change really can be effective. Rather than snacking on ‘empty’ foods that don’t give your body a boost, swap these for nuts and dried fruit and you’re sure to feel the benefit. In fact, if you are actively trying to get more iron into your diet, opt for dried fruit rather than fresh, as dried fruit contains more nutrients (including) iron per serving than fresh fruit does.


So, will eating dried dates increase my iron levels?

Yes – absolutely. Dates are an excellent source of iron, typically containing 0.90mg of iron for every 100g. If you’re run down, fatigued or just need a boost – introducing dried dates into your diet is a simple yet effective way of making sure you’re getting the iron your body needs.


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