My excitement toward dates is not normal! Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of eating a date; today, they’re a staple food in my house. I love them for a few reasons: they’re naturally sweet (and I love sweets), they’re portable (we are always on the go) and they’re easy to cook with (and I love to experiment with new recipes).
If you love sweets- but you’re trying to eat clean- you need dates.
Health and Nutritional Benefits:
Dates are fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free and contain ~21 calories a piece. The nutritional data for dates is often based on a 40 gram serving (5-6 dates) which is calorically higher than most fruits. To see how dates compare to typical servings of other fruits, we’ll need to consider a 3-4 piece serving. Here’s a look at the nutritional breakdown:
|40 gram serving (5-6 pitted dates)||~28 gram serving (4 Deglet Noor dates)|
|Potassium||260 mg (6% DRI)||186 ( ~4% DRI)|
|Total carbohydrates||30 grams||21|
Though the amounts are not significant, dates offer a variety of other nutrients, such as B-vitamins, iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium. They also rank high, among commonly consumed fresh whole fruits, in antioxidant polyphenols. That makes them a heart smart addition to a healthy diet.
Cooking with Dates
Dates are nature’s only naturally dried fruit? While most fruits range from 75-95% moisture, fresh whole dates are less than 30% moisture. That means unlike other fruits, they are not a great source of fluid. They do however work great in cooking and as an ingredient in many dishes.
Dates come in two basic classes, soft and semi-soft. Two of the most popular varieties of commercially grown dates in the US, Deglet Noor and MedJool, are both considered to be semi-soft varieties. They have a rich, caramel like flavor and a smooth creamy texture. They’re versatile with sweet and savory foods and complement everything from meat fish and poultry to other fruits and vegetables. Because they are considerably less acidic than many other fruits, they won’t significantly alter the characteristics of other ingredients they are mixed with. Plus, they have a long shelf life.
For optimal freshness, store dates in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. According to the California Date Commission, chopped dates can be stored in cool, dry storage for several months and they can also be frozen.
1.) End your meal with 1-2 dates as a sweet treat.
2.) Use chopped dates as a topping for cereals, bagels, breads or crackers
3.) Pair dates with protein. Try sautéing them with seafood, roasting in pork and (for all the bacon lovers out there) they taste great wrapped in bacon.
4.) Make date paste by pureeing dates and mixing them with chopped nuts or other whole ingredients to make energy balls or bars. Try this recipe for “Lara-like” bars
5.) Chop dates and add them to salads
6.) Make a caramelized onion and diced date flatbread pizza! The flavors mixed together are amazing.
7.) Make stuffed dates as a great appetizer or pre-workout snack! Slice open a few dates and stuff with whatever ingredient you want. A few examples are walnuts or almonds, a sliver of cheddar cheese, a tsp. of feta and chives or (my favorite) a tsp. of nut butter
8.) Make a date and yogurt smoothie. They are amazing!