Why Do People Eat Dates During Ramadan?

Preserved dates on golden background.
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Question: Why Do People Eat Dates During Ramadan?

I have always wondered if there is a specific reason as to why dates are popular during Ramadan. Can you please tell me what the significance is?

Answer: Great question! As you may know, Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar and Muslims observe it as a month of fasting, prayer and reflection with a heavy emphasis on family, community and charity. Their belief is that this is the historic time when the Koran was first revealed to the prophet Mohammed and they fast to commemorate the event.

The fasting lasts from dawn until sunset and Muslims may not eat, drink, smoke or have sex. They are also encouraged to refrain from any sinful behavior such as cursing, lying or fighting. The point of the month is to purify the body and soul and to do good deeds and charitable work.

The meal that breaks the fast is called Iftar and and it is begun by eating three dates because tradition holds that the prophet Mohammed broke his fast with three dates and water. Because the Ramadan fast lasts for so many hours during the day, the body can develop mild health problems such as headaches, low blood sugar, and lethargy. To avoid such problems, one should carefully monitor their eating habits once fasting for the day has ended. Dates are an excellent source of fiber, sugar, magnesium, potassium, and have carbohydrates which will aid the body in maintaining health. The carbohydrates found in dates also make the fruit a slower digesting food, much better than fried or fatty foods which digest fast and leave one hungry for more!

Dates have been cultivated in the Middle East for thousands of years and are a staple of the cuisine. Fresh or dried dates can be eaten out of hand as snacks. Fresh, pitted dates are also often stuffed with treats like nuts, citrus peel, tahini, marzipan or soft cheese to be eaten as a snack or dessert.

Dates can be ingredients in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes such as lamb or chicken tajine, puddings, smoothies, cookies, muffins, bars, sweet breads such as date nut loaves and cakes such as the classic British sticky toffee pudding.

Due to their high natural sweetness, date products are often used instead of honey. Date sugar is available as a more wholesome natural sweetener as well as date syrup, known as silan, which can be used to sweeten desserts or beverages. Dates are also a common addition to energy bars due to their sweetness and high nutritional content.

In the United States, Medjool dates are the most commonly found. They are large, plump and have an almost caramel flavor.