The Nourishing Power of Dates

By Tara Allen

Apr 10 2024

As the Islamic month of fasting – Ramadan – comes to a close, I wanted to highlight Phoenix dactylifera L., or the date palm, which holds significance for Muslims generally and especially during Ramadan. The date palm is held in very high esteem in Islam and is mentioned in the Qur’an more times than any other plant. The fruits of this tree are very important during this month because Muslims around the world fast (abstaining from both food and water) from sunrise to sunset and then break their fasts starting with dates. It is traditional to break fast on dates as it is considered sunnah, an action that was recommended by and/or based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Dates are an ideal component of a post-fasting meal due to factors such as their high concentration of easily digestible sugars and the essential vitamins (e.g. B2, B3, B6, and B9) and minerals (e.g. potassium, magnesium, copper, and selenium) that they contain (Nasir et al., 2015). These characteristics allow dates to help replenish nutrients after a fast and provide a feeling of fullness to prevent the overeating of other foods during iftar [the post-sunset meal during Ramadan] (Nasir et al., 2015). These characteristics also make dates popular ingredients for energy bars.

There are many different cultivars of Phoenix dactylifera, but the exact numbers are unknown due to multiple names referring to the same cultivar and lots of cultivar exchange (Chao & Krueger, 2007). Some of the most common cultivars are the Medjool which is thought to have originated in Morocco, the Deglet Noor from Algeria, and the Halawy from Iraq (Chao & Krueger, 2007). As dates ripen, the water, sugar, and tannin content shifts which affects the flavor (Chao & Krueger, 2007; Alkhoori et al., 2022). There are five distinct stages of date growth with names deriving from Arabic, the first is known as Hababauk (immature, inedible small green stage), next is Kimri (immature, inedible larger green stage), then Khalal (mature, but highly astringent and crunchy golden stage), Rutab (mature, light golden brown, soft and sweet stage), and Tamar (mature, dark brown, sweet and wrinkled stage) (Chao & Krueger, 2007). In the United States it’s most common to see dates in the last two stages, though dates in the Khalal stage are also edible.

See below for more information about these palm fruits and the many ways they are used.


Alkhoori, M. A., Kong, A. S., Aljaafari, M. N., Abushelaibi, A., Lim, S. E., Cheng, W., Chong, C., Lai, K. (2022). Biochemical Composition and Biological Activities of Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) Seeds: A Review. Biomolecules, 12(11), 1626. Retrieved 12 March 2024, from
Chao, C. T., & Krueger, R. R. (2007). The Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.): Overview of Biology, Uses, and Cultivation. HortScience, 42(5), 1077-1082. Retrieved 10 March 2024, from
Nasir, M.U., Hussain, S., Jabbar, S., Rahid, F., Khalid, N., Mehmood, A. (2015). A Review on the Nutritional Content, Functional Properties and Medicinal Potential of Dates. Science Letters, 3(1), 17-22. Retrieved 10 March 2024, from