Dates are often synonymous with dessert; their inherent sweetness and rich flavor are indeed decadent. But this nutritious fruit will also deliver some pretty amazing health benefits.

Here are ways dates can protect your health and easy ways to include this super fruit as food, snacks, beverages, and treats.

Dates are high in nutrients

Three dates have about 200 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrate with about 5 grams of fiber, one gram of protein, and no fat. This size portion also supplies smaller quantities of a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese. In other words, dates are not either sugar bombs or empty calories.

Dates contain antioxidants

Dates, in addition to their vitamin and mineral content, are high in protective antioxidants for health. A recent study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences notes that dates are a strong source of natural antioxidants that can be used to treat diseases associated with oxidative stress. When an imbalance arises between the development of cell-damaging free radicals and the ability of the body to fight their adverse effects, oxidative stress occurs. It is a precursor to aging and disruption to cells that can contribute to sickness. Dates also contain substances that are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, meaning they can also play a part in the war against infectious diseases.

Other experiments have shown that dates contain multiple antioxidants, including carotenoids, polyphenols, tannins, and sterols (e.g., phenolic acids, isoflavones, lignans, and flavonoids). They possess anti-fungal properties as well.

Dates are naturally sweet and have no added sugar

Many people think of dates as dried fruit, but as no water is lost, they're still fresh fruit. And their sugar content exists naturally since dates are whole, unprocessed berries. In other words, if an energy bar is just sweetened with dates, 0 grams of added sugar can be mentioned on the bottle. That's significant because added sugar, due to its correlation with an increased risk of heart disease and obesity, is the form we should restrict.

The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day be eaten by women, which amounts to 25 grams or 100 calories. Nine teaspoons of added sugar, which is 36 grams or 150 calories, is the recommended limit for men. You have not used up any of your normal added sugar budgets, whether you use dates to sweeten a meal or recipe, unlike sweeteners such as cane sugar.

If you think you can't live without desserts but want to control your sugar consumption, dates make a great alternative.