Nine of the date fruit varieties growing in Israel have been found to possess properties that protect against cardiovascular diseases.
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/ By Ilan Shavit /
There are about 20 date varieties growing in various parts of the world, including North Africa and Arizona in the US, but the Israeli varieties growing in the Jordan Valley and the Arava (and in Jericho in the Palestinian Authority) are the best. Says a recent research published in the prestigious Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (JAFC) by Professor Michael Aviram and his research group from the Rambam Medical Center and the Technion, jointly with Dr. Hamutal Borochov-Neori and her team from Arava R&D .
In their previous study, which was published in 2009, also by JAFC, Professor Aviram and his colleagues discovered that eating three dates a day does not cause an increase in blood sugar levels, lowers blood triglycerides, and improves the quality of blood cholesterol (lowering its degree of oxidation).
Aviram’s research group concentrated on identifying fruits and vegetables containing highly active antioxidants that may improve the quality of blood cholesterol, by inhibiting its oxidation rate. Furthermore, they discovered the date phenolics inhibition mechanisms in the development of atherosclerosis and its consequences – heart attack or stroke.
Professor Aviram was the first to demonstrate and to characterize unique polyphenolic antioxidants found in pomegranates, red wine (derived from the skin of the grape), and olive oil , which are most effective in slowing down the atherosclerotic process.
In the present study the scientists found that all of the nine date varieties studied showed a remarkable ability to delay oxidation of cholesterol, which is a key factor in inducing atherosclerosis and its consequent cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, in this study, Aviram also found that dates have a proven ability to accelerate the removal of excess cholesterol from arterial wall cells (cholesterol efflux) – a process that could lead to slowdown, containment and even regression of atherosclerosis development.
In the current joint study of Professor Aviram and Dr. Borochov-Neori, found that the date varieties with the best abilities to delay processes related to the development of atherosclerosis are Barhi (yellow), Deri, Medjool and Halawi.
Cultivating dates is an important form of agriculture on the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa, dating back more than 5, 000 years. Dietary and therapeutic benefits of this fruit have been described in religious works, and medicinal folklore. Dates are thought to have strengthening properties in traditional Indian medicine and are used for treating different diseases in traditional (folk) Middle Eastern medicine, owing to its immunological properties, including natural antibacterial and antifungal agents. Moreover, extracts from dates contain potent antioxidants and rids the body from free radicals.
Dates provides a high source of nutritional energy, due to its high sugar content, and are also rich in unique fibers (that bind to serum blood lipids- cholesterol and triglycerides, and keep them away from the body). Dates are also rich in minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc), and specific phenolics (highly active antioxidants), mostly phenolic acids and flavonoids.
In light of these studies and others, it is recommended to consume fruits and vegetables associated with the Middle-Eastern diet and Biblical dietary customs. Moreover, bear in mind that consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, and their appropriate combinations, are of higher nutritional benefit in comparison with the intake of a singular ingredient (active only against some specific oxidant), because they work together to neutralize a broad range of oxidative factors and hence – to attenuate atherosclerosis development , and to protect against cardiovascular diseasesץ
Photos: Getty Images