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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 benefits
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 dates 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. Other studies have also found greater cervical dilation from eating dates. And a new controlled study, 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 child.
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 fig for 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, tasty solution.
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 double-blind study. 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 group.
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.
The first 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 study included 160 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 vitamin 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 build bone.
So, modern science has revealed secret benefits to these three ancient fruits.
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