Date Varieties: Ajwa

Dates are nutritious and tasty fruits. They are cultivated in many places, especially in Arab countries. Dates have been used for centuries in the Arab world. They play a major role in the traditions and socioeconomics of these countries. The Ajwa variety of date fruits is cultivated exclusively in the Al Madinah region. This can be found in western Saudi Arabia.

Ajwa and Its Difference to Other Varieties

Ajwa dates are a special luxury type of date. In fact, they are usually the most expensive variety of dates. Ajwa dates are soft, dry, and typically dark brown to black in color. They are a little smaller than most other date varieties. Some say that the Ajwa variety has a chocolatey caramel taste. They pair especially well with a cup of coffee or tea.

The Ajwa date variety is set apart among other varieties. This is due to its rich vitamin and mineral content and unique phytochemical profile. Below is the nutritional information for about 100 grams of Ajwa date pulp:

 

Nutrient

Amount in 100g of dates

Carbohydrates

86 g

Total Sugars

66 g 

  • Glucose

34 g

  • Fructose

32 g

Fat

0.09 g

Potassium

6 g

Phosphorus

0.7 g

Magnesium

0.5 g

Calcium

0.2 g

Sodium

0.08 g

Iron

0.06 g

Ajwa Dates and Their Health Benefits

Ajwa dates are a rich source of vital nutrients for our bodies. They are a good natural source of carbohydrates, energy, potassium, iron, fiber, and antioxidants. In addition, dates contain 23 amino acids. More importantly, some of these amino acids are not found in other popular fruits. These include oranges, apples, and bananas.


Antioxidants

Ajwa dates are packed with antioxidants called phenolics and flavonoids. These antioxidants have many beneficial effects on human health. They scavenge and fight against free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which leads to cell damage. By decreasing the damaging free radicals in the body, antioxidants reduce your risk for a lot of chronic diseases. These include heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.


Heart health

Ajwa dates can help prevent and treat heart disease. Hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood) is a prevalent disease. It increases your chance of death or illness. The drugs currently used to treat hyperlipidemia have many side effects. Some people are looking for alternative treatments. Dates may be one option. 

  • In one study, rats who received Ajwa date extract had reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides. They also had increased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and antioxidant activity.
  • In another study, Ajwa dates, in particular, lowered fat levels in the blood. They also decreased inflammation and showed antioxidant activity against heart damage.
  • Another study showed that date extract has the potential to help repair tissues after a heart attack.

Other benefits

Dates also show promise for reducing inflammation and cancer activity. They may also help protect the liver and kidneys. Additionally, a 100-gram serving of dates provides about 8 grams of dietary fiber. This high fiber content is good for the digestive system and bowel regularity. It also helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Shopping For and Storing Ajwa Dates

The Ajwa variety is not commonly found in mainstream grocery stores in the United States. However, you might be able to find them at a specialty Middle Eastern supermarket. Choose Ajwa dates that are plump and wrinkled. Make sure that they are not shriveled.

Dates can be stored in an airtight container. If stored in the refrigerator or freezer, they can last for up to 10 to 12 months. Ajwa dates are not as sweet as some other varieties. Therefore, they may not show as much sugar crystallization on their skin when they get older. The longer they are stored, the drier and less moist they will become.

Don’t wait for a special occasion to try this luxury variety of dates. Try adding 3 to 6 Ajwa dates to your daily diet to boost your fruit and vegetable intake. You will also be able to reap its many health benefits.

Summary

Ajwa dates are a luxury variety of dates. Because of this, they are often more expensive than other varieties. They are black in color, soft in texture, and not as sweet as other date varieties. They are excellent sources of antioxidants. They are especially beneficial for heart health. Ajwa dates also provide benefits for cancer treatment, liver health, and kidney health.

Scientific Information

  • Phytochemicals – chemicals found in plants that provide health benefits to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. They are sometimes called phytonutrients.

  • Antioxidants – substances that may prevent or slow down some types of cell damage caused by free radicals. 

  • Flavonoids and phenolics – types of phytochemical antioxidants found in plants, especially fruits and vegetables. They are important in promoting health and preventing disease. 

  • Hyperlipidemia – a condition of elevated fats (lipids) in the body, especially total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.

Written by:
Lindsay Delk, RD
Registered Dietitian
Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian

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