red-dates-master

Red Dates: The Healthiest Fruit on Earth

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 | By:

Thank you for visiting The World of Chinese! Besides this blog on red dates, we have many other blogs covering many facets of China including Chinese culture, Mandarin, Chinese cuisine, travel destinations, and living in China. We also print a bi-monthly magazine with a different theme every issue.

Just as Brazil’s mysterious acai berries once were to Western health fanatics (remember when they could cure cancer?), so are jujubes to China. Known as red dates, or hongzao (红枣) in Chinese, the native southeast asian fruit has long been heralded as a superfood, making appearances on TCM prescription pads and in locals’ kitchens, where they’re still used to decorate buns, porridge, soup or desert as a kind of spice. You can get them fresh during the autumn, when they’re crisp and green as apples, or dried, when the fruit take on a deep red color and sweet, chewy texture. So how did red dates get their reputation as China’s favorite cure-all fruit?

Nutritional and Health Benefits

Though red dates are actually classified as drupes (a category of pitted fruit that also includes mangoes, olives and coffee), in Chinese they’ve been labeled as “the king of nuts” (百果之王 bǎi guǒ zhī wáng) for their rich nutritional value. Seventy to 80 times higher in Vitamin C than grapes and apples, red dates also abound with Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. This vitamin-packed punch makes red dates great for people who are recovering from serious diseases. Making it even better for the sickly, red dates are said to stimulate the production of white blood cells, which improves immunity, and decrease the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream, which helps protect the liver. Like acai berries and other antioxidant foods, they’re even believed to suppress cancer cells. Red dates can also guard against more common ailments. Because of their high levels of Vitamin C, dates convert excessive cholesterol into bile acid, which helps prevent gallstones. Meanwhile, phosphorus and iron play an important role in preventing osteoporosis and anemia, both common in women.

Here are our recommendations on dried red dates that you can buy on Amazon:

TCM

Chinese herbal medicine believes that red dates help build up yangqi (阳气), or the warm half of the yin-yang balance, in the body, and have the power to strengthen the spleen and stomach, replenish qi, nourish and produce blood and tranquilize the mind. The fruit are also frequently included as an ingredient in more toxic herbal medicines because of their ability to moderate side effects, especially irritation of the stomach. The last benefit can account for why red dates remain frequently prescribed by TCM doctors.

Something for the Ladies

Though they’re eaten by everyone, red dates are especially popular with women for their alleged beauty and health effects. Because they’re renowned for enriching and replenishing blood, many women eat red dates during their special time of the month. But that’s not the only draw for ladies. Red dates are frequently touted in ads and on TV programs as an herbal elixir of life, guaranteed to keep you looking young as the smooth-faced 70-year-old women singing its praises. In the supermarket, packages of dates are often stamped with the bold sentence, “Three red dates a day keep you young for ever” (一天吃三枣,青春永不老 Yītiān chī sān zǎo, qīngchūn yǒng bùlǎo).

Here are some our recommended books on Chinese medicinal cooking:

History in China

Date kernel fossils discovered by Chinese archeologists prove that red dates have been in China for more than 8000 years, and have been used medicinally for more than 3000 years. In Xizhou Dynasty (1046 BC-771 BC), Chinese people began to use red dates to brew liquor, known as hongzaojiu (红枣酒), which would be served on special occasions and to distinguished guests. According to “Classic of Poetry” (诗经), a famous collection of poems dating from around the eighth century BC, red dates were harvested in the eighth month of Chinese lunar calendar (around the autumn). Liji (礼记), or the “Book of Rites,” a historical record written during the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC-256 BC) said red dates were used to make dishes. Many generations of Chinese herbal medicine works listed red dates and spelled out its healthcare effects.

When and How to Eat

While it’s healthy to indulge in a few red dates every day, like all dried fruits, they should be eaten in moderation to avoid bloating. Three to five are usually enough for one day. Diabetics, however, and people with digestive problems should avoid red dates. Chinese herbal medicine says that red dates are not suitable for people with too much internal humidity. Below are some common red date dishes, which you should be able to pick up at most non-regional or zhou (粥):

  • Red dates, white fungus and lotus seed soup (红枣银耳莲子羹 hóng zǎo yín’ěr  iánzǐ gēng)
  • Longan, red dates and glutinous rice porridge (桂圆红枣糯米粥 guìyuán hóng zǎo nuòmǐ zhōu)
  • Osmanthus and red dates cake (桂花红枣糕 guìhuā hóng zǎo gāo)
  • Red date, Chinese yam and pork rib soup (红枣山药排骨汤 hóng zǎo shānyào páigǔ tāng)
  • Black rice, red date and soy bean paste (黑米红枣豆沙 Hēi mǐ hóng zǎo dòushā)

Now that you’ve got your red date fix, check out their rival red beans! Or how about Green Mung Beans?

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34 Responses to Red Dates: The Healthiest Fruit on Earth

  1. elsie says:

    can red date cook with black fungus and ginger and chicken feet? any side effects?

    • Juling He (何菊玲) says:

      Hi Elsie,
      Thanks for your question. It’s common for Chinese to make a soup with organic chicken, black fungus, ginger and red dates. We commonly do not use chicken feet only.

  2. satej khadse, Goa India says:

    Very good, I have tested when I was in Wuxi, Dalian, Shanghai but not available in India .

  3. Sherley says:

    WhAt can I use to help kidney, diabetic, inflammation in the joints Ty

    • David Green (武剑) says:

      We have some suggestions – give the following a try:

      sesame seeds

      cow pea

      pig kidney

      dried scallop

      perch

      walnut

      sea cucumber

      shrimp

  4. bisi says:

    thanks for the enlihtenment. I like to know what fruit or vegetable could help an ulcer patient?

  5. Mireia says:

    is it good for pregnant women to eat or drink red dates, or is it better to wait after giving birth, during nursing?
    can the red dates be made into a hot drink just by boiling 3 to 5 dates in a glass of water? how many minutes should it boil for its beneficial properties?

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Mireia, as far as we know there shouldn’t be any adverse effects of consuming red dates in normal quantities during pregnancy and when nursing. But of course, you should consult both Western and Chinese physicians to be sure. Yes, if you make it a drink you should add dried Longan (桂圆 Guìyuán) to it. The amount of time it will take to reach the boiling point depends on what altitude you are at. Anyway, boil it long enough so that the fruits are soft enough to mash.

      • cielo says:

        I boil 14 pcs of dried red dates in 1 liter of water, then I drink it during the day. is it beneficial to replace half of my water intake with this?

      • stephanie says:

        Hi, i want to use this red dates process to red dates juice and want introduce our chinese herbal to everybody know. Red dates is a very good fruits for us.But how to choose a good or sweet red dates based on physical and to avoid get a bitter red dates?

        • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

          I think it’s likely sweet if the dates are of a slightly dark red, soft and puffy. If it’s almost black or particularly dry and hard then it usually doesn’t taste good. Also look out for cracks or insect holes.
          Here’s more information about the optimal conditions of a red date: http://jingyan.baidu.com/article/22fe7ced6084473003617f5f.html

        • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

          Hey Stephanie,

          Here’s the original author’s (Juling He) response to your question:
          “According to what I know, one tip is to use your fingers to pinch the red dates lightly. If the part you pinch first sunken and then bounce back soon, it’s good red date. If it can not bounce back, the quality is not good. It means good red dates are resilient. Another tip is that the good dates’ red color are even.

          Of course, the safest way is to taste it.”

  6. Rob Bruce says:

    Possibly you mean Bloating, not Gloating?

    “eaten in moderation to avoid gloating.”

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Thanks for pointing this out Rob, I just fixed it. I’m surprised how much people are so fascinated with this topic a year and a half since the blog was written.

  7. Eric says:

    love your website/mag! Found this site while looking up info about dates and it couldn’t have been a greater find! Love all the historical tidbits you add, and the nutritional benefits as well. Here in LA, dates are very common in grocery stores but not a lot of people eat them… shame. However to a raw vegan like me, they are basically an essential part of my diet. I’ve tried medjool, and deglet noor… now time to find some jujubes! :-)

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Thanks Eric for your comment. We’re actually kind of bewildered about the intense fascination with Chinese red dates. Is there some kind of new health fad over red dates in the US? In China, it’s just taken for granted that they are very healthy for numerous reasons.

  8. Cat says:

    How many calories are in one red date?

  9. Maggie Chew says:

    Tks for the sharing. Just wondering can a patient had a abdominal operation done drink red dates tea?

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Maggie, for something as serious as an abdominal operation, you should consult a qualified physician. Red dates are good for the stomach and spleen in general, but like anything they aren’t a cure-all for all conditions and could have counterindications depending on numerous factors.

  10. margarita says:

    Is the red dates good for the person who have constipation?thanks.

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      This is one of it’s purported benefits, but it depends on the root cause and seriousness of the constipation. There are Chinese tonics that can be taken that may have a more immediate effect for specific conditions. It’s best to consult a TCM specialist in person to prescribe the best solution for your individual case.

  11. ILYA says:

    Dear Juling, dear Keoni !

    I’m a bit concerned about white fluffy stuff building on the red
    dates after cooking them. We have to change water 2 or 3 times to get
    rid of this “fallout”. All chinese people know about it but nobody
    has ever thought WHAT it is. Could You please explain the reason
    of this white plaque ? I can send you the photograph if necessary.
    Many thanks to you in advance for the answer ! Sincere regards, ilya.

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Dear Ilya,

      I’m afraid your question is beyond the realm of our expertise, sorry we couldn’t be of more help :( .

  12. Jane says:

    Where can you find these red dates in supermarket I. North carolina

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Jane,

      Where in Norf Cackalacky are you?

  13. Natalie Chen says:

    hi i think it’s good to get your facts right. Dates are super fruits but they are not known for Vitamin C in properties they have. What is outstanding are the high amount of Calcium, Potassium & Magnesium in the Minerals they pack.

  14. Stas Terentyev says:

    Is it just me or the phrase 青春用不老 contains a 错别字 error? 永 seems to be more logically apropriate in the phrase.

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Yes Stas, you’re right and I just fixed the error. After two years I’m afraid this blog is pretty much 青春永不老. We have 2,000 other blogs besides this one, you should definitely check out a few of them.

  15. MiMi says:

    It says you shouldn’t eat to much dates for those who have a lot of internal heat. Women gets a lot of internal heat during that special time of month. So isn’t it a bit confusing to say women way dates during that special time of their month as it says above? And then go to say that people who have lots of internal heat shouldn’t eat dates? I’m kind of confused.

  16. Francesca says:

    Where do I buy fresh Chinese dates in Brisbane?
    I have been seeing an acupuncturist.
    I have been recommended to eat chinese dates for my wellbeing and insommnia.
    Thank you
    Kind Regards
    Francesca

  17. Beverly Carroll says:

    I am very interested in the Chinese dates and goji berries
    Can you email me info ! Thank you

  18. jana says:

    Hiya,

    could eating red dates cause a red stain in the middle of my right cheek :) ?

    Thanks a lot for any help!

    Jana

  19. jun says:

    is this sold in the philippines?

  20. loredana says:

    I had no idea. I am in China and so far i have discovered so many things. This culture has been around forever and the elder seem in better shape than our young generation. They must be doing something right. However, my question is this. I am taking atorvastatine for my cholesterol, and citrics and atorv. Dont really get along. Dates have huge amount of vitamin C. How bad is it for me? Can i still eat them?
    Thanks