The Latest Sweetener: Dates
As the latest Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting total added sugar to 10 percent of total daily calories, health-conscious people are on the lookout for ways to naturally sweeten food. Dates are one delicious way to sweeten all types of dishes.
Dates are native to the Middle East; in the U.S. they are grown in California and Florida. Fresh dates are usually picked off the tree and ripened before being dried, which is how they are usually found at the market. There are several varieties of dried dates available, including Medjool and Deglet Noor. Dried dates can be found year-round and are sold pitted, unpitted and even chopped. Store dried dates in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months or in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
One pitted Medjool date has 66 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of natural sugar and 2 grams of fiber. It also contains an array of nutrients like copper, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins. Adding several dates, or chopped pitted dates, into dishes can boost the fiber quickly. This has many benefits, including keeping your digestive system healthy.
Sweeten with Dates
Many folks underestimate the sweetening power of dates. They can be chopped finely and added into muffins, cookies and cakes. By adding sweetness with dates, you can tone down the amount of added sugar in the dish. Chopped dates can also be added to oatmeal, or yogurt in place of honey or maple syrup, while whole, pitted dates can be blended into a smoothie mix to sweeten it. Pureed dates can also be used in dressings or sweet potato pie, or as a glaze for lamb or beef.
Recipes to Try
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.