Chinese Red Dates: The Youth Pill

Chinese red dates are one of the most popular foods used for health in China. (Image: Phoebe via Flickr)

What are the health benefits of eating Chinese red dates? Li Shizhen, the renowned physician of the Ming Dynasty, described Chinese red dates in his classic writing Compendium of Materia Medica as sweet in taste, mild in nature, and can replenish energy and nourish the blood. There is a saying among common folks: “Red dates a day keeps your age away.”

Chinese red dates are one of the most popular foods used for health in China. Chinese people treat Chinese red dates as food, a health tonic, and a traditional herb.

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The red date is actually a jujube fruit that originates in China, specifically the Xinjiang region. The fruit has been cultivated in China for around 4,000 years, but some push it back even further, to some 8,000 years ago. Red date wine was popular during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), but later, the red date became mostly known for its use in traditional medicine.

A statue of Li Shizhen at Peking University Health Science Center.
Li Shizhen, the renowned physician of the Ming Dynasty, described Chinese red dates in his classic writing ‘Compendium of Materia Medica’ as sweet in taste, mild in nature, and can replenish energy and nourish the blood. (Image: Snowyowls via Wikimedia commons)

Many traditional herbal formulas include red dates as they are used for balancing the herbal formula and the Qi and blood of 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.

Chinese red dates are red, soft on the outside, with a sweet smell. The inside is soft and moist. They are readily available from Chinese markets and grocers throughout the year all around the world.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the amazing health benefits that Chinese red dates have, and therefore, they’re not popular enough in Western food and diet therapy culture.

Modern studies show that Chinese red dates contain protein, saccharides, and organic acids. They are rich in vitamins and consist of moderate amounts of vital elements such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron, making them a good anti-cancer and anti-aging natural food source. Due to their mild nature and sweet taste, they are popular food ingredients. However, to bring out the nutritional aspects of red dates, it is better to pair them up with other ingredients.

Hopefully, you may be encouraged to include them in your diet after learning how they can benefit your health.

A white porcelain bowl decorated with blue dragon flies is filled with red Chinese dates.
Modern studies show that Chinese red dates contain protein, saccharides, and organic acids. (Image: Mona Mok via Unsplash)

Chinese red dates and goji berries

Method: 

  • Rinse the red dated and goji berries
  • Place dates into a pot of water and boil for 30 minutes
  • Add the goji berries into the pot and boil for 5 minutes
  • Ready to serve

If a sweeter taste is preferred, add rock sugar and serve when it melts

Chinese red dates and red beans

Method:

  • Rinse the red dates and red beans
  • Soak for two hours
  • Put both in water and bring to a boil
  • Add in dry longan and bring to a boil
  • Cook at low heat for an hour
  • Add rock sugar and serve

Chinese red dates and Radix Polygoni Multiflori

Radix Polygoni Multiflori is a herb used effectively to prevent graying and to treat skin depigmentation diseases in traditional Chinese medicine.

Ingredients: 

  • Powdered Radix Polygoni Multiflori, 25 g
  • Red dates, 50 g
  • Rock sugar, 15 g
  • Round-grained rice, 50 g

Method:

  • Rinse rice and dates
  • Place both into a pot and cook until soft and mushy
  • Add Radix Polygoni Multiflori powder, keep stirring until it blends in well with the congee
  • Add sugar to taste

Chinese red dates and rice

Ingredients: 

Red dates, 50 g

Rice, 100 g

Method:

Rinse rice and date

Place both into a pot and cook until the rice is done

Points to note:

Chinese red dates are beneficial in general, but not for people with weak digestive systems. They should only consume three to four fruit daily.  Even for people with a proper digestive system, it is recommended to consume moderately up to 10 fruit daily.

The sugar content in red dates is relatively high; therefore, diabetes patients should only consume them sparingly. People with a cough, phlegm, or a bloated abdomen should also avoid red dates. 

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