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California Date Administrative Committee focusing on date nutrition

The California Date Administrative Committee provides research and regulatory support for the date growers and producers located in the Coachella Valley, educating consumers about the tremendous nutritional value of dates and promoting them through recipes, tours of date processing and handling companies and by other means.

Lorrie Cooper, manager of the Indio, CA-based commission, said the industry has seen an increase in the ingredient sales market for the use of dates in manufacturing fruit bars as the natural sugar fruit has become the staple ingredient for those manufacturers wanting to use natural ingredients.

“Dates appear to be in higher demand both in the fresh marketplace and ingredient sales,” she said. “In years past, the demand was not noticeable, but over the last 18 months, the industry has seen an increase.”

The 2017 date crop is looking solid, according to the commission’s estimates, with volume expected to total around 55 million pounds or higher. 

“For the last five years, the industry has seen incremental increases in production volume,” Cooper said. “This was expected as the new plantings of seven to 10 years ago are now bearing fruit and adding to the increased volume of production.”

The commission is currently focusing on nutrition research, with the first phase of the research scheduled to be published in the journals late this fall from which materials will be developed for marketing purposes.

“The nutrition research has shown great results about dates and the reduction of triglycerides,” Cooper said. “Dates are a high fructose fruit, yet eating dates reduces triglycerides. From the research results, further studies are presently being conducted on polyphenols and fiber.”

The commission recently sponsored a study that discovered dates grown in the Coachella Valley are found to be rich in bioactive compounds that may help maintain a healthy metabolism by using the body’s own natural systems.

“Dates are a healthy whole fruit due to the presence of specific compounds called polyphenols,” said Marie-Louise Ricketts, the lead author of the study. “Our work shows that these compounds target receptors known to lower triglyceride levels, which may help to explain the reported triglyceride lowering effect of daily date consumption, previously reported in human subjects.”

The research is exciting, the commission feels, because helps show how consumption of dates can contribute to health, despite their high fructose content. Dates have a high sugar content, but have a low Glycemic Index of 41. They contain plenty of nutrients and are a good source of copper and dietary fibers, as well as potassium, B vitamins and seven other minerals.