Red dates, palm dates and prunes are common dried fruits and may be confused with each other. Each has its own distinct flavour and differs in terms of nutritional value, health benefits and usage.
1. RED DATE 红枣
Red dates, or called jujubes, are native to China dating back more than 8,000 years. China is now the main exporting country of red dates and are mainly produced in regions like Hebei, Henan, Shandong and Xinjiang. Cultivation of red dates requires abundance of sunlight for sweeter red dates, with larger fruits and thicker flesh.
Dried red dates have tough skin which are rich in fiber and fibrous flesh. Therefore, the texture of dried red dates is usually chewy and hard. Red dates are more commonly used in soups, teas, or added into dessert dishes for natural sweetness. There are also dried red dates preserved using freeze-drying technology which the taste is lightly sweet with a crisp texture, thus suitable to be consumed as snacks.
Red date is considered to be a nourishing food in traditional Chinese medicine perspective. It has a warm nature with ‘qi’ and blood nourishing function thus is absolutely beneficial to women. From a nutritional point of view, red dates are rich in iron and vitamins such as vitamin C, whereby it is one of the top fruits rich in vitamin C, so eating more red dates is also believed to help strengthen immunity and promote skin health.
2. PALM DATE 椰枣
Palm dates have been cultivated in the Middle East and North Africa for more than 5,000 years. Nowadays, the main exporting countries of palm dates include Tunisia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arabic countries. Palm date trees are somewhat similar to coconut trees and palm trees and they can survive in harsh environments with hot and dry climates. Therefore, palm dates are also considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as one of the most important foods in the future.
Palm dates taste very sweet like candied fruit but unlike candied fruit which is usually processed with lots of added sugar, sweetness of palm dates comes from the natural sugar content thus it can be considered as a type of healthy snack. In addition, palm dates are best known for health benefits like offering protective effects on the gastric layer and help replenish energy quickly. Hence, date is also one of the important foods for Muslims to break fasting.
Palm dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, thus earning them the nickname- bread of the desert. They are particularly high in potassium content, and even higher than some of the most potassium-rich fresh produce such as bananas, spinach and pumpkins. Consuming adequate potassium would help the body in sodium excretion, so date palm is considered beneficial for those with high blood pressure, edema, those who dine out regularly who are more susceptible to sodium retention. However, palm dates are very high in sugar, mainly fructose and glucose. Even though they are considered as natural sugar with a low glycemic index, it is advisable to consume in moderate amount, especially for people with diabetes and gout*.
*Suggested serving size for palm dates: 2-3 fruits a day to avoid excessive sugar intake.
3. PRUNE 黑枣
Prunes are actually made from dried plums. Cultivation of plum requires abundance of sunlight and well-drained soil. In history, prunes have been brought into North America since 1848. Nowadays, countries like The United States, Chile and Argentina are few main exporting countries of prunes.
Prunes have a naturally sweet and sour taste. Due to their high moisture content, they still have a soft and juicy texture even after they are dried. Therefore, prunes are often consumed directly as wholesome snacks, and also make great addition into oat porridge and breakfast cereals. Due to a myriad of health benefits they offer, prune-based health supplements like prune paste (made from prune extract) and prune juice are gaining popularity among the public.
Prunes are rich in dietary fibre and contain sorbitol, which is a kind of natural laxative that promotes smooth bowel movement and prevents constipation. In addition, prunes are also rich in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, thus making it one of the most nutritious ingredients of babies’ puree.
NUTRITION TIPS 营养小贴士
It is highly recommended to choose certified organic dried fruits free from added sugar. As dried fruits are naturally rich in sugar, suggested serving size for dried fruits are 3-5 fruits per time to avoid excessive sugar intake.
Info adapted from:
- FAO- 椰枣可以成为未来重要食物的五大原因 (http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/zh/c/1252887/ )
- International Trade Centre- The global trade in dates (https://www.intracen.org)
- Baidu-加州西梅 (https://baike.baidu.com)
- OEC-Prunes, dried (https://oec.world)