Have you ever stood in your local grocery stores, staring at the different types of dates, and wondered what is the difference between standard Dates vs Medjool dates? The world of dates has thousands of varieties. This sweet fruit has not only graced tables in the Middle East for centuries, but is also gaining popularity around the world. Dates are now a staple in many household in the UK and United States, mine included.
As a Dietitian specializing in supporting vegan families, I find dates, to be a valuable addition to the diet. These little gems do more than naturally sweeten; they are pack essential nutrients beneficial for you and your little ones.
In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the main differences between two common types of dates; Regular Dates. also called deglet noor dates, and Medjool dates. You’ll learn about whether there is any difference between the two, including their nutritional value, whether dates can speed up labour and why Medjool dates have earned nicknames like “King of Dates.”
How are dates grown?
Date palm trees thrive in warm climates, making it impossible to grow them in the UK. Today, these trees predominantly grow in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern California.
People have cultivated these sweet fruits for over 7,000 years, as archaeological findings suggest.
When dates are growing on the date palm tree, they look like clusters hanging from the tree, similar to large bunches of grapes. As the dates mature they change color and texture depending on the variety and how ripe they are. Early on when they are growing they might be green and firm. As they ripen, they may turn yellow, reddish, or brown, and become softer and then get their sweetness!
The Difference; Dates vs Medjool Dates
As we’ve said there there are many varieties of dates but we’re going to focus on Dates vs Medjool Dates.
|Category||Regular Dates (Delget Noor)||Medjool Dates||Special Notes|
|Look & Feel||Smaller in size, Darker color and Firmer texture. Typically in the form of dried dates||Large size, Lighter color, Soft dates with a chewy texture. Medjool dates are eaten fresh and are not dried.||Medjool dates are larger and lighter in color than the deglet noor variety (regular dates), with a chewier texture.|
|Nutritional Value||Higher in fibre, Lower in potassium, iron and calcium||Slightly lower in fibre, higher in iron and calcium than regular dates.||Dates are a natural source of sugar and a low GI food. All dates are a good source of B vitamins, Fibre, Pectin, Magnesium and folate.|
|Flavor Profile||Less sweet, More subtle flavors||Sweeter, Rich, caramel-like taste||Medjool dates are often referred to as the “King of Dates” for their flavor and are a more luxurious indulgent snack.|
|Availability and Seasonality||Available most of the year round. Commonly found in grocery stores in various forms like whole, pitted, and chopped dates.||Seasonal availability dependent on the country of origin. More likely to be found in specialty stores or the fresh produce section of well-stocked grocery stores.||Regular dates are easier to find year-round, while Medjool dates may be seasonal and only found in the harvest season.|
|Culinary Uses||Very versatile and often found in baked goods, energy bars, and smoothies. They can also be turned into date paste, which serves as a natural sweetener in a variety of dishes.||Perfect for eating fresh due to their soft, chewy texture. They are also commonly stuffed with nuts and added to desserts like cakes. They are also often used to make high-quality date syrup.||Medjool dates are often used in luxury desserts and are fresh fruit and are not typically dried.|
|Cost||Generally more cost-effective, often ranging from $0.50 to $1.00 per 100 grams depending on the brand and whether they are organic||Considered a more luxurious option and can range from $1.50 to $3.00 per 100 grams, again depending on factors like whether they are organic and their brand.||Cost varies by region and availability. Medjool dates are often considered a luxury item and are more expensive.|
So, which dates are the healthiest? The answer can vary a little depending on what you are looking at. Let’s take a look at the key benefits;
- Carbohydrate (sugar) content; Both Deglet Noor and Medjool dates have the natural sugars fructose, glucose, and sucrose. However, factors like growing conditions, ripeness, and processing methods can cause slight differences in their sugar content. Deglet Noor Dates are generally higher in sucrose (a combination of glucose and fructose) and have balanced fructose and glucose. The body uses sucrose slower than fructose and glucose because it needs to break it down.
- Fiber Content: Standard dates contain more fiber than Medjool dates, and this is thought to be because Medjool dates lose some of their fiber content as they grow and become larger. The average content per two dates (30g) is around 3 grams of fibre, 2-3 times higher than in broccoli. This makes them a great addition to your diet especially if you are experiencing constipation.
- Pectin: Dates contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber, and many believe it slows down digestion, thereby keeping us fuller for longer.
- Vitamin B: Both date varieties are sources of B vitamins, including B1, B2 and B3. These Vitamins are important to help the body release energy from other foods.
- Iron: Medjool dates are a good source of iron (around 1g per portion), which is especially crucial during pregnancy and childhood to reduce the risk of developing anemia. Deglet noor dates are a little lower in iron.
- Calcium: Medjool dates contain higher levels of calcium (15mg) compared to Deglet Noor (6mg). While dates are not a high source of plant-based calcium, they do contribute to your daily intake, which is vital for bone health for the whole family.
- Magnesium; Dates are a great source of Magnesium but Medjool dates are a little better. Magnesium is beneficial to support a healthy pregnancy including reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia, regulating blood pressure, and supporting your baby’s growth and also essential during the early years.
- Immune Support: Dates have phytochemicals, including phenolic acid, which supports the immune system by reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of free radicals.
- Low Glycemic Index: Researchers have found that both types of dates have a low GI, making them a suitable snack for those monitoring their blood sugar levels and seeking a healthy option.
- The GI of Dates may also vary depending on their ripeness, the riper the fruit the higher the GI. Just remember to stick to the correct portion.
How Many Dates Should you eat in a day?
The number of dates can vary between children and adults.
- A portion of dates for adults is 30g which is around 2 dates based on their size.
- A portion of dates for children is around 15g (1 date).
Avoid giving dates to children under 12 months old because of their high sugar and fiber content. Their sticky texture also raises the risk of choking.
Quick Date Snack ideas for kids
Dates are a versatile and delicious way to boost nutrition in your child’s diet. Here are some simple methods to get your kids munching on this healthy fruit:
Whole Dates as Snacks
- Simple Snack: Whole dates are a good choice for a quick and nutritious snack. You can serve fresh dates as they are, or stuff them with nut butter for added protein. Just be sure to monitor younger children while eating to prevent choking and don’t give to children under 3 years.
Fresh Dates in Smoothies
- Smoothie Boost: Fresh dates are an excellent natural sweetener for smoothies. Add 1 or 2 dates to your child’s favorite smoothie recipe for added sweetness and a fiber boost.
Date Energy Balls
- Energy Balls: Combine oats, chopped dates, chia seeds, vegan chocolate and peanut butter to create quick, no-bake energy balls. These dates are great for on-the-go snacking, and you can add them to packed lunches, packing in the nutrients.
Date and Nut Butter Sandwich
- Nut Butter and Date Sandwich: Swap out the jelly in your classic PB&J for sliced or mashed dates for a lower sugar option that’s still delicious and has a fantastic caramel flavor.
Date Pancakes or Waffles
- Breakfast Twist: Chop up some whole dates and add them to vegan pancake or waffle batter. They’ll add a touch of natural sweetness without the need for extra sugar.
All these recipes can use dates or Medjool dates
Are Dates a sustainable food?
The sustainability of dates can depend on a number of factors. Here are the top 5 things to look out for when searching for sustainable dates.
- Water Usage: Date palm trees adapt well to dry conditions and have some drought tolerance, which makes them more sustainable in water-scarce regions than some other crops. However, commercial cultivation of dates may still consume significant amounts of water.
- Land Use: Farmers often grow date palms in areas unsuitable for other types of crops. Dates make unproductive land productive.
- Pesticides and Fertilizers: The use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers can impact the environmental when it comes to date production. Choosing Organic Dates can help to reduce this impact.
- Transportation: The carbon footprint associated with transporting dates to various places around the world can be significant. Locally sourced dates are generally more sustainable so try to buy local where you can.
- Packaging: The type of packaging used can also influence sustainability. Definitely, choosing eco-friendly packaging that you can recycle is a better option. Check for the symbol that indicates your packaging is recyclable.
Can Dates Speed Up Labour?
There is some evidence to suggest that dates can speed up labour, however, this is not wholly conclusive.
A 2020 systematic review analyzed 8 randomized control trials, revealing that eating dates can shorten the active phase of labor (typically around 6cm dilation) and enhance the Bishop Score, a measure assessing cervix readiness for labor.
So overall, dates might speed up labor, but we need more research.
Do dates help with post-partum recovery?
Due to their nutritional benefits consuming dates whether they are Deglet noor dates or medjool dates is a good idea. Dates provide fiber which can support constipation and digestion, they help to keep energy levels stable, due to their low GI, satisfy your sweet tooth and plus other things they are a source of iron.
In a randomized control trial, researchers gave 98 women experiencing postpartum hemorrhage 100g of dates.
Researchers found that giving dates in the post-natal period reduced the amount of hemorrhage.
Another small study of 68 women in the post-partum period compared a group of women given 50g Delget noor dates and a second group given 10 units of oxytocin (typically given to reduce post-partum bleeding). This study found that of the women who were given dates their bleeding was significantly less; 162mls vs 220mls over a 3 hour period.
Do dates need to be stored in the refrigerator?
No. You don’t necessarily have to store dates in the fridge, but doing so can extend their shelf life.
You can store both regular dates and Medjool dates at room temperature for several weeks if you keep them in an airtight container. Storing them in the refrigerator can prolong their freshness for up to six months or even longer. If you prefer a softer, chewy texture, room temperature is sufficient. However, if you want to keep them fresh for an extended period, especially in warm climates, refrigerating them is a good option.
To wrap up, dates, whether regular or Medjool, are a versatile and nutritious addition to any diet. While both types are the fruit of the date palm tree and thrive in warm climates, their differences in size, texture, and sweetness make them suited for distinct culinary uses.
Medjool dates, often referred to as the “king of dates,” are larger and have a caramel-like flavor, making them a delicious, natural sweetener. On the other hand, people often use Deglet Noor dates in cooking and baking because they have a more subtle sweetness. They are also much cheaper!
When it comes to nutrition, both varieties are rich in essential nutrients including Folate and Fibre, and a great way to add to your iron and calcium intake. All of which are beneficial during pregnancy and early childhood. They are a good choice for a healthy snack, provided you keep an eye on portion size. for storage, these sweet fruits are quite versatile and have a long shelf life if stored in the fridge. No matter your preference, both types of dates offer a sweet way to boost your nutrition and you should definitely make them an addition to your families day.
Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy.
She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.
- Registered Dietitian
- First Class Degree in Nutrition
- Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
- Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
- Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition