The Surprising Benefits of Dates, Figs and
Linda Woolven & Ted
Dates, figs and prunes have several things in common. They are all
fruits we often eat dried. They all likely originate in the Middle East
or Mediterranean. And they all have surprising secret health
Dates have been eaten for over 4,000 years. In the Qur’an,
Mary is counselled to eat dates to ease the birth of Jesus.
Today, science is giving the same advice.
Why? What effect does eating dates have on delivery?
Sixty-nine pregnant women ate six dates a day for four weeks before their
estimated delivery date. Another group of 45 women ate none. The women
who ate the dates had significantly greater cervical dilation: 3.52 cm
versus 2.02 cm. Spontaneous, or natural, labour occurred in 79% of the
women who ate no dates but in a full 96% of the women who did. The women
who ate the
also needed significantly less drugs: 47% of women who did not eat dates
had to be administered prostin/oxytocin while only 28% of women who ate
dates did. The women who ate dates also had shorter labours: latent phase
of the first stage of labour was 906 minutes in the no date group but a
significantly shorter 510 minutes in the date group.
This study suggests that eating six dates a day during the last
four weeks before labour encourages easier, faster deliveries.
And, it’s not the first study to find this benefit for pregnant women.
studies have also found greater cervical dilation from eating
dates. And a new controlled
while not finding that dates bring about faster labour, did find that
eating dates late in a pregnancy “positively affect[s] the outcome of
delivery and labour” by significantly reducing the need for labour
augmentation with drugs (oxytocin). The study found that dates produced
this important benefit without any adverse effect on the mother or the
So, eating six dates a day during the final month of pregnancy could
safely bring about huge relief for pregnant women.
Though prunes may be the dried fruit famous for treating
constipation, modern research also supports the
this too commonly needed relief.
Our diet and lifestyle are so messed up that chronic
constipation has become an incredibly common problem. There are a
number of effective herbs for constipation, but now science adds an easy,
Forty people suffering from constipation were given figs that had been
turned into a paste while another forty were given a placebo paste in a
You could just eat figs, but the study used a fig paste because giving
you a fig would make using a placebo impossible.
The people in the study were all experiencing reduced stool frequency,
hard stools and difficulty passing stools. The paste they were given was
equal to eating about 3 figs. They ate the fig paste or the placebo paste
every day for eight weeks.
The people who got the fig paste improved significantly more. Their
Transit time went down significantly more: it was reduced from 63 hours
to 38 hours. Their stools were significantly softer, and they experienced
significantly less abdominal discomfort than people in the placebo
So, science says that figs are an easy, safe, affordable remedy for the
common problem of constipation.
You know them as prunes, but the official name is now dried plums.
Dried plums are best known for relieving constipation, but they have been
hiding a secret and surprising benefit. Recent research has discovered
that dried plum is the most beneficial fruit for building bone.
clue came in 2002 when 58 postmenopausal women ate either 100g or
dried prunes or 75g of dried apples each day for 3 months. Only the prune
group had significantly increased markers of bone formation (insulin-like
growth factor-I and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase activity). This
study provided the first suggestion that eating dried plums could be good
for bones in postmenopausal women.
Almost a decade would pass before researchers put that suggestion to the
test. The new
postmenopausal women with low bone density
osteopenia). The women were given either 100g of dried plums or a
placebo of dried apple. That’s about 10 prunes a day. All of the women
also took 500mg of calcium and 400IU of
D. At the end of the one year study, eating prunes had
significantly increased bone mineral density compared to apple.
The effect of the prunes may be even greater than the study suggests
because it is not totally clear that apple is a true placebo. Apples
include nutrients, including boron, that are good for bones.
A more recent
study set out to see if a lower dose of plums would work just
as well. If 100g of plums was “highly effective,” how would half as much
do? 48 postmenopausal women between the ages of 65 and 79 who had
osteopenia were given either 50g of dried plums, 100g of dried plums or
no dried plums. As in the earlier study, they each also took 500mg of
calcium and 400IU of vitamin D.
At the end of the 6 month study, both doses of prunes had significantly
increased bone mineral density. The lower dose was as effective as the
higher dose, suggesting that 5-6 dried plums a day should be enough to
So, modern science has revealed secret benefits to these three ancient
Linda Woolven and Ted Snider are the authors of a monthly newsletter,
"The Natural Path: Your Guide to Good Health & Vitality: Cutting
Edge Research Made Easy." If you want to subscribe to it (for a