What Are Jujubes Good For?

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  • Jujubes are a nutritional powerhouse that have been cultivated and used medicinally for more than 4,000 years, particularly within traditional Chinese medicine, where they are used to tonify spleen and stomach energy
  • As both a fruit and a medicine, jujubes are well-known for boosting energy, promoting relaxation, preventing premature aging, strengthening your immune system and supporting digestion
  • Due to the presence of antioxidants with the ability to fight free radicals, jujubes are also believed to have potent anticancer properties

By Dr. Mercola

If you live in the U.S., the name jujubes may bring to mind the chewy, sticky corn-syrup-based candy known to wreak havoc on your dental work. You may not realize there is an actual jujube fruit that has been prized for millennia as a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and flavonols. Also known as Chinese dates or red dates (although unrelated to dates), jujubes have been cultivated and used medicinally in China for more than 4,000 years.

As both a fruit and a medicine, jujubes are well-known for boosting energy, promoting relaxation, preventing premature aging, strengthening your immune system and supporting digestion. Due to the presence of antioxidants with the ability to fight free radicals, jujubes are also believed to have potent anticancer properties. If you have yet to become aware of their many benefits, now is the time to find out what jujubes are good for.

The History of Jujubes

Jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) are a native of southern Asia belonging to the buckthorn (or Rhamnaceae) family. They have been cultivated in China for more than 4,000 years and used for millennia in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). About 400 jujube varieties are cultivated worldwide in two main types: those best for eating fresh and those better suited to drying, a process that gives them a chewy, date-like consistency.

Jujubes grow on relatively small deciduous trees that reach heights of about 40 feet. The trees, which thrive in warm climates, feature shiny green leaves, modest-looking blossoms and fruit ranging in sizes similar to grapes and strawberries. Jujube fruits are characterized by a red outer skin and white inner flesh that contains a single, large center seed. In terms of taste, jujubes have been described as having a crispy texture, edible skin and a mixed sweet-tart flavor similar to an apple.

Due to their many beneficial properties, including the presence of vitamin C, jujubes have been used medicinally by a number of cultures. Given their ability to fight infections and strengthen your immune system, one of this fruit's most popular applications is as a tea to soothe a sore throat. Dried jujube varieties are often used as a substitute for dates or apples in recipes.

The Health Benefits of Jujubes

If you are wondering what jujubes are good for, consider the following health benefits.1,2,3 Jujubes are:

  • Rich in vitamins B (niacin and B6) and C, and a decent source of vitamin A
  • A good source of copper, iron, manganese and potassium
  • Loaded with phytonutrients
  • Filled with flavonoids, including spinosin and swertish, known for their sedative properties, which may explain why jujube seeds are used in TCM to treat anxiety and insomnia.

A 3.5-ounce portion (100 grams) of fresh, raw jujubes contains:

Calories: 76

Carbohydrates: 20.2 grams

Protein: 1.2 grams

Copper: 0.1 milligram (4 percent recommended dietary allowance — RDA)

Niacin: 0.9 milligrams (4 percent RDA)

Iron: 0.5 milligram (3 percent RDA)

Manganese: 0.1 milligram (4 percent RDA)

Potassium: 250 milligrams (7 percent RDA)

Vitamin B6: 0.1 milligram (4 percent RDA)

Vitamin C: 69 milligrams (115 percent RDA)

In addition, jujubes deliver 18 of the most important essential amino acids your body needs daily, which assist in the production of more than 50,000 proteins in your body. Jujubes boast vitamin C at levels nearly 20 times that found in most citrus fruits. They also contain tannins, which are known to possess antihemorrhagic, anti-infective and anti-inflammatory properties.4

It's important to note jujubes are very sweet. Due to the amount of fructose they contain, you should eat them in moderation. Because the fructose in dehydrated fruit is concentrated, moderation is even more important if you eat dried jujubes. Due to its high sugar content, I discourage you from eating the candied variety.

Taking into account whole fruits such as jujubes, I recommend you maintain your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you have any fructose-related health issues such as cancer, heart disease, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome or obesity, you would be wise to limit your total fructose consumption to 15 grams per day or less.

Seven More Reasons to Consider Jujubes

While the information above validates the nutritional benefits of jujubes, there are even more reasons why you should consider eating this versatile fruit. By the way, the best place to find high-quality, organic jujubes is from an Asian market, specialty health food store or on the internet. In the U.S., you will rarely, if ever, find them in your local supermarket. Jujubes are known to:5,6,7

Boost your energy: As a good source of iron and phosphorous, which are key ingredients in your red blood cells, jujubes promote healthy blood circulation. When your blood is properly oxygenated and circulating, your organ systems thrive and your body feels more energized.

Calm your nervous system: Jujubes have long been used to calm the mind, ease anxiety and stress, promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.

With respect to this fruit's positive effects on your nervous system, authors of a 2017 study8 said: "Jujube possesses neuroprotective activities, including protecting neuronal cells against neurotoxin stress, stimulating neuronal differentiation, increasing expression of neurotrophic factors and promoting memory and learning."

Inhibit cancer: While the relationship between jujubes and cancer continues to be researched, it is evident the antioxidants in jujube reduce the activity of free radicals in your body, which help prevent the spread of cancer cells. Scientific research has shown that cancer cell growth is particularly inhibited when jujubes are combined with green tea extract.9

Prevent premature aging of your skin: Because the antioxidants in jujubes act as a natural anti-aging agent, eating jujubes is one way to keep your skin looking younger. Jujube extracts keep your skin energized with oxygenated blood and are also thought to be an effective remedy for dry, red and sunburned skin.

Promote healthy bones and teeth: The presence of calcium, iron and phosphorous in jujubes helps your body build strong bones and teeth.

Strengthen your immune system: Due to the presence of significant amounts of vitamin C and A, as well as potassium, jujubes are useful in helping to strengthen your immune system. Vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting illness and infections.

Support healthy digestion: Along with their modest amount of fiber, the saponins and triterpenoids found in jujubes play an important role in digestion by promoting the uptake of nutrients and encouraging the healthy movement of food through your bowels.

Jujubes in TCM

According to Acupuncture Today,10 in TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), jujube (da zao) "has a tonifying effect, and is used to tonify your spleen and stomach qi (energy flow). It calms the spirit and nourishes the blood." Jujube is considered to be a harmonizing herb in TCM herbal formulas, most likely because its sweetness is effective in making bitter herbs more tolerable. About jujube, Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Portland, Oregon, says:11

"[Jujube] is incorporated into the medical tradition in two ways. As a nourishing food, it is thought to tonify qi and strengthen those who are weak, and it is especially given to children who would not tolerate a bitter or acrid herb formula, but can consume these fruits. It is used in medicinal formulas to moderate the taste and effect of potent herbs."

While the dosing of jujube within TCM depends on the condition being treated, a typical dose is generally 10 to 30 grams. It is given in either powder form or boiled in water for oral use. To date, there are no known drug interactions with jujube. TCM practitioners discourage you from taking jujube if you suffer from abdominal cramps and bloating, excessive phlegm or intestinal parasites.12 Before using jujube as a dietary supplement or herbal remedy, be sure to consult with a licensed health care provider.

How to Eat Jujubes

Just as there are many varieties of jujubes, there are many ways to enjoy them.13 Ripe jujubes can be eaten fresh, dried, preserved, boiled or pickled. As with all thin-skinned fruits similar to jujubes, it is always best to buy organic. Fresh and dried jujubes can be eaten as is, or added to desserts, rice, soups and trail mix. Jujubes are frequently infused into a fruity herbal tea that is popular in China, Korea and Taiwan. This tea is commonly taken at night before bed to induce relaxed, restful sleep.

Both jujube powder and jujube oil are processed from the fruit. Jujube syrup diluted with cold water makes a nutritious and refreshing drink. Fermented jujubes produce a delightful vinegar or wine. Dried jujubes are added to desserts, soups, stews and stuffing. They are an excellent substitute in recipes calling for dates or raisins.

Similar to apple butter, the Chinese enjoy jujube butter, which is made by simmering ripe jujubes with water, sugar (I recommend substituting honey or another healthy sweetener), cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, lemon and vinegar. Raw, fresh jujubes will last for three to four days at room temperature and about two weeks in the refrigerator. Dried berries store well for several months.

Making Jujube Tea

As demonstrated in the video above, it is very easy to make jujube tea. Here's how:

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 20 pitted jujubes
  • 1 finger-length portion of ginger root, chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Asian pear, quartered

Procedure:

  1. Rinse jujubes thoroughly. Drain well. Split and remove pit. Set aside.
  2. Chop ginger and cut Asian pear into quarters.
  3. Place water, jujubes, ginger, cinnamon stick and Asian pear in large saucepan. Simmer for three to four hours.
  4. Remove pan from the stove and pour liquid through a strainer. Compost the solid items.
  5. Drink tea immediately, or store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat and drink by the cupful as desired.
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