Did you know that dates can help reduce the need for an induction and shorten the length of labour? This recently discovered phenomenon has seen women the world over buying them in bulk, and has midwives and doulas singing their praises!
It’s been found that the consumption of dates in significant quantities in the later stages of pregnancy can have numerous benefits for birth. By “date” we mean the fresh medjool dates with the stone that you can buy loose or packaged at supermarkets, fruit and veg shops or in bulk online.
A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that eating six dates a day from 36 weeks contributed to higher cervical dilation upon arriving at hospital, a higher proportion of intact membranes (i.e waters not yet broken), a likelihood to go into labour spontaneously (rather than chemically induced) and a shorter first stage of labour¹,². It is thought that dates mimic oxytocin, the hormone that helps soften and ripen the cervix and create contractions. Evidence even shows that dates may also help reduce postpartum blood loss².
Dates have amazing nutritional value such as:
- B Vitamins & Vitamin C
- Minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium (great for relaxation of the nervous system and muscles ie. the uterus), selenium, manganese and copper (good for bone health)
- Essential fatty acids
- Amino acids
But eating six dates a day is a LOT of dates (we hear you!) The good thing is they are also very versatile. You can:
- Use dates to sweeten and thicken your smoothies – just throw them in the blender along with everything else
- Make a healthy “Mars Bar” – pull out the stone, fill with your favourite nut butter and freeze
- We especially love these little “vulvas” (pictured). Simply remove the seed and replace with a brazil nut, perfect for a baby blessingway or women’s circle.
There’s also a plethora of great recipes online that use dates. As well as the ideas above, we’ve bought you a few more inspiring recipes (below). Of course if you have gestational diabetes, speak to your Doctor / Midwife first about consuming dates as part of a balanced diet.
These recipes are also fabulously nutritious for the whole family, so everyone can benefit!
RAW CHOCOLATE LOVE BALLS
- 150g organic cacao powder
- 200g organic cacao butter (softened)
- 200g organic coconut oil (softened)
- 1 cup organic cacao nibs
- 400g organic coconut flesh
- 400g organic dates
- 1 cup organic desiccated coconut
- Soak the dates in water for an hour or so.
- Gently melt the cocoa butter in the pan until almost melted
- Add the cocoa butter, coconut oil and dates (reserve the liquid) to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Add cocoa powder and blend.
- Slowly add a little of the water the dates were soaked in (about ¼ of a cup max – a little at a time so the mixture is not too runny) and coconut flesh and blend until smooth.
- Add cocoa nibs and blend.
- Refrigerate until firm (around 2 hours)
- Roll into balls of your choice and size then roll in desiccated coconut
- Refrigerate (or freeze) balls
Once you become familiar with the recipe (and taste along the way!) you can add anything extra you like!
Recipe thanks to Nadine Richardson at She BirthsⓇ www.shebirths.com
CASHEW AND DATE BUTTER
- 2 cups (300G) cashews
- 6 fresh dates, pitted
- ½ cup (125ml) maple syrup plus extra to serve
- Sliced walnut toast or fruit toast to serve
- Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).
- Place the cashews on a large baking tray and cook for 8– 10 minutes or until golden.
- While the cashews are still warm, place them in a large food processor and add the dates.
- Process for 2–3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- With the food processor running, gradually pour in the maple syrup and process until smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Spread onto toast and drizzle with extra maple syrup to serve.
Makes 1½ cups.
Recipe courtesy of www.donnahay.com.au
ROAST CHICKEN WITH DATES
- 130g medjool dates, pitted
- 50ml orange juice
- 2 medium lemons
- 4 mackerel (roughly 180g each), cleaned and gutted
- 24-30 vine leaves
- 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
- 40g watercress
- Sea salt and ground
1 – 2 days earlier:
- Place the chicken in a large, non-reactive bowl and add all ingredients (apart from the wine and date molasses), along with 3⁄4 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.
- Gently mix everything together, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1 to 2 days, stirring the ingredients a few times during the process.
On the day:
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Spread the chicken legs on a large baking tray, along with all the marinade.
- Whisk together the wine and molasses and pour over.
- Place in the oven and cook for 50 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times, until the meat is golden brown on top and cooked through.
- Remove from the oven, transfer everything to a large platter, sprinkle with some freshly picked oregano leaves and serve.
This recipe thanks to the wonderful (and date loving chef), Yotam Ottolenghi www.ottolenghi.co.uk
SPICED CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH YOGHURT AND DATES
If you’d like a vegan version, just omit the yoghurt.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets (use the inner green leaves too), roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp paprika
- Little nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1 litre veg stock
- A little natural yoghurt
- 6-8 dates, pitted & chopped
- Fresh coriander, chopped (optional)
- Salt & pepper
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil.
- Add the onion and gently fry for 7-8 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add the cauliflower and spices and cook, stirring continuously, for another couple of minutes.
- Add the stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.
- Blitz until smooth. Serve with a swirl of yoghurt, topped with chopped dates and coriander if you have it.
Recipe courtesy of Riverford Organics UK www.riverford.co.uk
CAROB, CHAI, DATE AND WALNUT LOAF
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 heaped tbsp organic chai tea
- 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
- 1 cup organic brown rice flour
- 1 cup almond meal
- ¼ cup organic carob powder
- Sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 free-range eggs
- ¼ cup organic coconut oil, melted
- 2 tbsp organic raw honey
- 1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
- Place water and chai tea in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off heat and allow to infuse for 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop the dates.
- Strain the tea and return it to the pan while still hot. Add the dates and cover with a lid. Allow to soak for 10-15 minutes.
- Place the walnuts on a small baking tray and place in the oven to toast lightly (about 5-10 minutes).
- Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl (almond meal, brown rice flour, sea salt, carob powder and baking powder).
- In a separate smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut oil, honey and apple cider vinegar. Add to dry mixture and stir to combine.
- Add soaked dates and toasted walnuts. Stir again.
- Pour into a lined loaf tin and top with a few extra chopped dates and walnuts.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until it bounces back when pressed in the centre. Cover with foil for the last 15 minutes or so if browning too much on top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before slicing, buttering and devouring. This loaf is delicious fresh or toasted. Enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Honest to Goodness www.goodness.com.au
SEED AND DATE SLICE
This is a family favourite, you can replace the almonds with other seeds to make it nut-free.
- 120g sunflower seeds
- 120g roughly chopped almonds
- 240g finely chopped fresh dates
- 80g pumpkin seeds
- 2 tbl sp honey
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Pre-heat your oven to 160c.
- Completely line a brownie tin with non-stick baking paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until they’re well mixed and coated with the honey.
- Very firmly press the mixture into the tin. I recommend using the back of a metal spoon that you’ve heated under a hot tap.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until toasty brown.
- Allow to cool before slicing with a sharp knife. This will store well in an airtight container for a few days at room temperature.
From “Life In Balance” by Donna Hay, https://sharingthefoodwelove.wordpress.com
CHICKEN TAGINE WITH LEMON, DATES AND APRICOTS
- 1 package chicken thighs – roughly 1.5 lbs
- 1 package chicken legs – roughly 1.5 lbs
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt divided
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- rind from one lemon
- 4 medjool dates chopped
- 8 dry apricots chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 2 tbsp sliced almonds
- Preheat pan over a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil
- Add chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. You may have to cook the chicken in 2 batches. When chicken is cooked, set aside on a plate.
- Meanwhile using a vegetable peeler, cut the rind off the lemon. Then cut each peel into thin long strips and set aside.
- Next add the other tbsp olive oil, onion and 1/4 tsp salt to the pan.
- Sauté for 5-8 minutes until onion is translucent.
- Add garlic and spices and cook stirring continuously for 2 minutes.
- Return chicken to pan along with broth, dates, apricots and lemon peel.
- Cover, lower heat and cook for about 30-35 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.
- Add arrowroot starch, cilantro and sliced almonds and give a good stir.
- Serve over rice or cauliflower rice with additional cilantro and sliced almonds.
Recipe courtesy of www.calmeats.com
¹ Al-Kuran, O., et al. (2011). “The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery.” J Obstet Gynaecol 31(1): 29-31
² Razali, N., et al. (2017). “Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery.” J Obstet Gynaecol: 1-6.
³ Khadem N, Sharaphy A, Latifnejad R, Hammod N, I R. 2007. Comparing the efficacy of dates and oxytocin in the management of postpartum hemorrhage. Shiraz E-Medical Journal 8:64–71.
If you are passionate about nurturing women during pregnancy and postnatally, and offering holistic yoga classes with safe, appropriate and nourishing practices designed specifically for pregnant women and new mothers, you may be interested in our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training course. We also offer Online Extension Modules to enhance and further your learning in this area, covering topics including Perinatal Nutrition & Ayurveda, Prenatal & Postnatal Anatomy and Physiology and Pelvic Floor Anatomy and Physiology for Women’s Health.
Nadine O’Mara is an experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, doula, and our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Course Content Manager and Co-Director, who also runs her own business, Conscious Life Yoga Conscious Birth. She shares her wealth of knowledge through contributing and editing content for our Bliss Baby Yoga online courses and social media, including being a co-facilitator of our Online Level 2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training course. Nadine also provides doula support, yoga and birth education to women and their partners in Northern Sydney, as well as offering self care and restorative yoga workshops for mothers, mother’s circles, family yoga and retreats for women and/or families.
Further Reading related to this topic:
- The path of surrender: a key to a ‘good’ birth by Beth Ivy Buxton
- Rosie Matheson: introducing women to their wombs and the power of their bodies
- Healing the wound: How can we best support mothers after caesarian? by Nadine O’Mara
- The Sweet Sounds of Birth by Ana Davis
- Optimal Positioning with Anna Watts (VIDEO)
- Chanting, Mantra and Mudra for Pregnancy and Birth by Jennifer Allen