KARACHI, July 22: Come Ramazan and you find dates being sold on every street corner besides the packed variety available in the shops. Dates are not just part of a Muslim tradition to break your fast with, the fruit also has several health benefits.

Khajoor Bazaar in Lea Market is the place to go to if one is looking to choose from a variety of dates. “There is the ‘Basrawala’ variety from Iraq available at Rs95 per kilogram. In wholesale, it is Rs3,800 for 40kg. The Iranian variety is more expensive — Rs5,500 for 40kg. And the Turbat dates are the cheapest at Rs1,600 for 40kg,” said Haji Pir Mohammad of Panjgoor Dates House in Khajoor Bazaar.

Asked about the local dates and their rates, the wholesaler said that they were not ripe enough to reach the market yet. “The dates on our trees are not ready so we are selling last year’s stock at the moment. Still Sukkur dates are the best among the local varieties, which will be on sale at Rs6,500 for 40kg. But they would only be ready after the 20th of Ramazan,” he said.

Kashif, another date wholesaler in the area, said that by the time the local dates were ripe enough to reach the market, there would be no buyers for them. “Right now the Irani dates are the biggest sellers. We are selling them at Rs180 per kg. But when the local Sukkur dates will come to the market, we would hardly have any buyers for them as people mostly buy dates to last them a month in the beginning of Ramazan only,” he said.

Asked who other than the retailers bought from them, Kashif said that he had many clients, including retailers, clerics from mosques and families.

Meanwhile, Dr Juveria Siddiqui of the School of Public Health of the Dow University of Health Science points out that having dates at Iftar is not just a tradition as dates carry several health and nutritional benefits.

“Breaking one’s fast with dates provides instant energy as the ripe fruit is a rich source of glucose and fructose,” says the doctor.

Giving more nutritional facts on dates, she adds: “Date fruit is a good source of vitamin and essential minerals. There are almost six vitamins found in good quantities in dates, making the fruit more of multivitamin supplement. Then they are also good sources of potassium, at least 25 per cent more than a banana.

“And as a source of Selenium, a mineral, it proves quite helpful for multiple biological processes especially important in brain function and said to be part of the diet plan for mood elation.”

And giving the health benefits of dates beyond basic nutrition, Dr Siddiqui says: “Dates are also a good source of antioxidant, compounds which are beneficial in multiple health conditions. Date extract was also found to be good against Ochratoxin A, which causes kidney failure. The date fruit is an excellent candidate for functional food production,” she concludes.

Updated Jul 23, 2012 12:20am

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