Sunnah Superfoods: The Humble Date

Sunnah Superfoods: The Humble Date

Many of us have the blessing of having a Quran teacher who at some point has helped us greatly improve our diin. My Quran teacher is just such a wonderful gift of a woman, mashallah la haula wa la quwatta illah billah. And before she talks about Quran or Hadith, or the months or seasons, she almost always begins with nutritional advice.

Sometimes, she offers different exercises, or health practices, or eye exercises for vision, all based upon what is encouraged in our diin. It changes from week to week. But one of her most memorable lessons for me was her teachings on the foods of the Prophet, peace be upon him. After hearing her speak about sunnah foods, I began to look into the information online about the foods in the Quran, and the foods that our Prophet, peace be upon him, ate. Not surprisingly our Beloved (SAW) recommended foods that are universally acknowledged as what we call “superfoods” today.

So over the next few months, inshallah, Muslim Girl is going to run a series of articles on these power foods in order to help, as the wonderful dua says, “make the Quran the Lord of our Hearts and the light of our eyes,” and also, inshallah, a source of good health.

Also, eating sunnah foods allows us to follow the example of the Prophet (SAW) and the following verse talks about how important this is:

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad SAW) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” [Surah Al-Ahzab, Verse 21] 

Ramadan Spotlight: Dates

So where to start? Well, with the Holy Month of Ramadan, there is one sunnah food that almost all Muslims eat every day right now: Dates.

The botanical name of the date palm is Phoenix dactylifera, which belongs to the family Palmae (Arecaceae). In Arabic, the date palm is called “Nakhl,” whereas its fruit is known as “Tamar,” although in many Arab and African countries, the Hindi word “Khajur,” and Persian word “Khurma,” have been of common usage for the date fruits.

Dates are perhaps the quintessential Quranic food as they are mentioned in 20 verses of the Quran. In fact, dates are such a staple of fasting that it is almost the quintessential Muslim food. Dates are so healthy, a person could survive, for years, on just dates.

So, What Does the Quran Actually Say About Dates? 

According to Surah Ya-Sin, verses 34-35: “And We have placed therein gardens of the date-palm and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein, That they may eat of the fruit thereof, and their hands made it not. Will they not, then, give thanks?”

Furthermore, as per Surah Rahman, verses 60-69:

“And beside them are two other gardens,

Which is it, of the favors of your Lord that ye deny?

Dark green with foliage.

Which is it, of the favors of your Lord that ye deny?

Wherein are two abundant springs.

Which is it, of the favors of your Lord that ye deny?

Wherein is fruit, the date-palm and pomegranate,

Which is it, of the favors of your Lord that ye deny?”

Hit Me With the Hadith

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The most excellent pre-fasting meal of the believer is dates.”

Additionally, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When one of you breaks his fast, let him break it with dates for they are blessed. If they are not found, let him break it with water for it is pure.”

And finally, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If somebody takes some Ajwa dates every morning, he will not be effected by poison or magic on that day till night.” (Another narrator specified seven dates).

A Sunnah Food That Packs a Nutritional Punch

One 3.5 oz (100g) serving of dates contains:

Calories: 277

Carbs: 75 grams

Fiber: 7 grams

Protein: 2 grams

Potassium: 20% of the RDI

Phosphorous: 6% RDI

Calcium: 6% RDI

Magnesium: 14% of the RDI

Copper: 18% of the RDI

Manganese: 15% of the RDI

Iron: 5% of the RDI

Vitamin B6: 12% of the RDI

Folate: 5% of the RDI

Pantothenic acid: 6% of the RDI

So what do these numbers mean exactly? Well, there are a number of health benefits that come from the regular consumption of dates. Some of these include:

– Dates are high in three major antioxidants (flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid) that have multiple well-studied health benefits and may help prevent the development of certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

– Studies have shown that women who eat dates prior to labor and delivery were less likely to be induced, and were in labor for shorter periods of time. This is because dates have oxytocin in them, which has also been shown to improve level of milk in new mothers. Maybe this is why Maryam is instructed to eat ripe dates in the Quran when she is going into labor? Alhamdulilah, the wisdom of our Book!

– Due to the presence of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in dates, the consumption of this superfood may may reduce the risk of bone disease such as osteoporosis.

– Being high in fiber, dates can improve continence and bowel function.

– Dates have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain, and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

– Dates have been known to help regulate hormones due to the presence of manganese.

– They have been known, also, to boost the metabolism due to all the B vitamins.

– The best part is that dates are a stellar way to replace refined sugar as a sweetener, and as a sweet-tooth fix!

So how to eat dates? Well, the easiest way is just with a glass of milk, but if you want to get fancy, I’ve included a few recipes below. And yes, we’re so grateful and blessed for dates, truly a favor of our Lord.

Recipes

Vanilla-Date Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder, optional

1 large frozen or fresh banana

3 – 4 medjool dates, pitted (soft and fresh is best)

1 teaspoon non-alcoholic vanilla extract

Method:

Blend for 3 minutes and enjoy! You can also add cacao powder, cinnamon, peanut butter, or other nut butters, and a variety of other supplements to this blend to increase its potency, versatility, and benefits.

Spicy Couscous with Dates

Ingredients: 

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1 carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup pitted and chopped dates

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1½ cup uncooked couscous

3 cups vegetable stock

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté onion, carrot, and celery until tender.
  2. Season mix with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Mix in garlic, bell pepper, chili flakes, and black pepper. Continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir mushrooms and lemon juice into the vegetable mixture. Mix in dates and cinnamon, and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place couscous in a medium saucepan, and cover with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
  6. Once the mix is boiling, reduce heat to low. Cover, and simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until all moisture has been absorbed.
  7. Fluff couscous with a fork, mix into the vegetables, and serve.
Image courtesy of Pinterest
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