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Even though my name, Tamar, is hebrew for dates, I only recently became a fan. I had only ever tasted hard sticky (stale) dates that I didn't much care for.  Then last year, when I was in Israel, a trainer at the gym told me to eat dates before and/or after my workout.  Turns our they are on every pre workout list because of their quick energy boost from sugar balanced out with their fiber and potassium.  So I figured it was time to give them another shot. 

Luckily dates come in many varieties and although most easily found dried, they are often quite soft and chewy and really delicious.  Dates have played a starring role in Middle Eastern cooking for many years, but today they are being included on menus around the world either in their whole dried form or as date honey, Silan, which is becoming a popular, healthier sugar substitute. 

Here are 5 reasons you should be getting more dates in your diet:

Fiber - dates are high in both insoluble and soluble fiber which will help clean out the GI system and have a cleansing effect promoting a healthy digestive system.  Fiber also boosts heart health. 

Magnesium - dates are a good source of magnesium, a mineral known for anti-inflammatory properties.  Anti-inflammatory is a recent buzz word, because it has been found that many people with chronic diseases have increased inflammation. Several studies have found that magnesium can effectively reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other inflammation-related health ailments.

Potassium - Dates are rich in potassium which has been found to reduce blood pressure.

Organic sulfur -  Not a common element in foods, but surprisingly has its benefits, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. According to a study done in 2002, organic sulfur compounds can have a positive impact on the amount of suffering people experience from SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), which affects approximately 23 million people in the United States alone. 

Iron - Despite their small package, dates have a high mineral content including iron which is beneficial for people suffering from anemia or anyone who is low in iron. 

Dates are so versatile they can be used in both sweet and savory recipes and provide a unique flavor profile to anything they are added to.  I love them in my yogurt bowl or smoothie or filled with goat cheese and and nuts.  Check out these date recipes to find new ways to get your fill.