Chinese red dates are one of the most popular foods used for health in China. Chinese people treat dates as a food, a health tonic, and a traditional herb.
Many traditional herbal formulas include dates as they are used for balancing the herbal formula, and the Qi and Blood for the body. Likewise, they are also used in cooking to balance the food. On special occasions many people buy quality dates and give these as gifts to their friends and relatives.
These dates are red, soft on the outside, with a sweet smell. The inside is soft and moist. They are readily available from a Chinese market or grocer, throughout the year, all around the world.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realise the amazing health benefits that Chinese dates have, and therefore, they’re not popular enough in Western food and diet therapy culture.
Hopefully, you may be encouraged to include them in your diet, after learning how they can benefit your health.
How Chinese red dates can help you
An ancient traditional Chinese book called Ben Jin, along with other Chinese herbal text books all claim that Chinese dates can strengthen the Spleen and Stomach Qi (energy) which helps to digest food, tonify blood and calm the mind.
Chinese medicine regards that blood is formed through good digestion and absorption of food, which is mainly helped by the Spleen and Stomach. If Spleen and Stomach Qi are weakened, it will affect the blood supply and its function. This may lead to blood deficiency (iron deficiency) along with the following symptoms:
- poor appetite
- lack of energy
- lack of muscle on the arm and legs
- sluggish bowel movements or bowel movements straight after eating
- bloating after eating
- stomach cramps or diarrhoea from eating cold food
- light and shorter menstruation
Some people may also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism), miscarriages or infertility.
Balancing the Spleen and Stomach Qi function increases the blood and causes symptoms to subside. If you are currently receiving treatment for the above symptoms, or want to avoid them, add Chinese red dates to your diet. There is a recipe at the end of this article.
Chinese red dates can help people who have insomnia from lack of Qi and Blood. Chinese medicine considers Qi and blood deficiency one of the major causes of insomnia. This is due to the blood being unable to moisturise the Liver and Heart, causing a Ying and Yang disorder. This disorder causes sleep problems, including the following:
- light sleep (easily woken)
- lots of vivid dreams
- lack of energy from the beginning of the day.
These people may also experience dizziness, lower blood pressure, palpitations, pale skin, and shortness of breath, especially during activities. They may also notice tremoring hands when they become tired. Eating Chinese red dates whilst undergoing treatment, can be very helpful.
Help protect the Liver, reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer
Modern scientific research confirms what was noted in the traditional Chinese medicine textbooks. That is, Chinese red dates contain high levels of Vitamin C, as well as having the function of protecting the Liver. They also help reduce cholesterol and increase the body’s immune system, and may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Chinese dates can be eaten many ways. You can eat fresh dates as they are, or you can cook them which is very easy to do. Dates can be cooked with porridge, steamed rice or as a soup. It’s recommended that adults eat five dates in a sitting, three or four times a week for general health care.
Chinese red date and goji berry tea
- 3 whole dried Chinese red dates
- A tablespoon of goji berries
Place the red dates and goji berries into a tea mug, add hot boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. You can refill with hot water a few times. Don’t forget you can eat the red dates and goji berries at the end (watch out for seeds in the red dates).
Effects: Tonifies body fluids (Yin) and Blood.
Chinese red date porridge
- One hand full of white rice
- 5 Chinese red dates (remove the seed)
- 3 cups of water
Bring the rice and whole dates to the boil and simmer until the rice is soft and the liquid is sticky (around 30 minutes). The porridge will smell very nice and will taste mildly sweet. It is best to eat when warm. However during summer you can eat the porridge at room temperature. It can be eaten for breakfast or for dessert.
Effects: Strengthens the digestive system and tonifies blood.
Chinese dates and lotus seed porridge
This porridge is cooked the same way as Chinese date porridge, but instead of using 5 Chinese dates you also add 5 lotus seeds.
Effects: tonifyies Spleen function and increases Blood; helps those with sleeping issues.
Beef bone soup with red dates
- 1kg beef bones with a little meat
- 8 cups of water
- 20 Chinese red dates
Add the beef bone to the water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook slowly for 4 hours. 30 minutes before eating, add the Chinese red dates and cook. Add salt and pepper for taste and serve with your favourite vegetables.
Effects: Increases energy and Blood; warms the circulation.
While Chinese red dates can be beneficial, it’s wise to take precautions as they may not be suitable for everyone.
If you suffer from any of the following conditions, it may be best to avoid Chinese red dates, or to limit the amount you have:
- smelly stools
- stomach bloating
- body heat or fever
- red face
- bad breath
- cough with yellow phlegm
- tooth disease including gum and tooth pain or infection
- mouth ulcers.
If you’re in doubt, please check with your Chinese medicine practitioner.
I remember 40 years ago when I lived in the traditional Hutong (street) of Beijing. A lot of the houses there had many date trees and in November which is Autumn, it would be the harvest time for the dates. There were many red dates hanging off the trees, just like red lanterns looking so beautiful. The date trees from different homes each had different tastes, some may be crunchy, soft, sour or sweet, so many children exchanged dates with all their friends to try everyone’s home grown dates. Everyone knew that if they ate too many dates it would cause them to bloat and have diarrhea, so they would only eat 10 dates at most.
A few years ago, the Hutong street was cleared and changed into a park so there are no longer as many red date trees in the area. But the beautiful image of the date trees are still in my memory.