Dates are the fruits of the date palm tree botanically known as Phoenix dactylifera which is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae. Date palm tree is majorly cultivated for its edible sweet fruit which is grown in many tropical regions of the world.
Dates have become quite popular in recent years because they serve as healthy alternative to refined sugar while still providing essential nutrients for the body.
Date is a delicious fruit with a sweet caramel like taste with many potential health benefits.
Its major components are carbohydrates (mainly sucrose, glucose, and fructose), which may constitute to about 70%. Dates also contain many important vitamins and minerals which include calcium and iron.
Date fruits also contain a number of phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids.
Nowadays, many are adopting a healthy lifestyle and has been searching for how they can sweeten their foods naturally as against the use of refined sugar which has been known to have negative effects on the body.
It is of good news that there are various methods by which one can sweeten foods naturally. The use of dates is one of them.
Click here to read about 5 best natural substitutes for sugar
Let us quickly look at 3 various ways by which dates can be used as sweeteners:
1) As Date Sugar:
Date sugar is simply made from grinding dehydrated dates into powder. Date Sugar is also referred to as Date Powder or Organic Date Sugar. Dates are delicious and healthy and the sugar/powder can be used as sweeteners in oats, smoothies, pap, drinks, and also in baking recipes.
They aren’t soluble like sugar and therefore don’t dissolve in liquid. However, they provide fiber which aids digestion.
2) As Date Paste:
Date fruits can be blended into paste which also works well as sweetener for smoothies and salad dressings.
Process of preparing the paste:
1) Pit the date fruits.
2) Put the pitted dates and water in any food processor – blender or a grinder.
3) Blend or grind until very smooth and your paste is ready.
4) Store the date paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
3) As Date Syrup:
Asides turning dates into powder or paste, they can also be made into syrup which involves boiling the dates.
Process of preparing date syrup:
1) Pit the date fruits, soak in water and boil for about 2 hrs. Then, allow it to cool down completely.
2) Remove the water by sieving using a cheesecloth. Ensure to squeeze all of the water from the cooked dates
3) Pour the cooked date into a pot and allow it to come to a gentle simmer for about 45-60 minutes until the excess water evaporates and the syrup reduces by approximately half. The syrup becomes thicker after cooling.
Although dates also contain sugar but the amount of sugar is less and it has more nutrients and fiber, making it a healthier option. Dates also have less calories and sugar than honey plus more nutrients.
Asides the use of dates as sweeteners, they have amazing health benefits which include the following:
1) Dates can be used especially for women who are close to delivery and at postpartum stage. The consumption of dates by women before and after delivery can act as a tonic to strengthen the uterine muscles. Dates also help in prevention of post delivery bleeding due to the presence of some constricting substances. Not only that, dates have been studied for their potential to promote and ease late term labor in pregnant women.
Eating these fruits throughout the last few days of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labor.
2) Dates are rich source of hydroxyl pope folic acid and therefore eating dates can increase the body’s immunity.
3) Dates are high in polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that can protect the body from inflammation. Dates contain more polyphenols than most other fruits and vegetables.
4) Dates are high in fiber. Fiber aids digestion which prevents constipation. Fiber also promotes regular bowel movements.
5) Dates have a low glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating a certain food thereby being a very food aid in controlling blood sugar.
However, it is essential to note that when dates are consumed in excess, it can lead to weight gain due to high caloric content. So, it is essential to consume dates in moderation. Also, individuals with kidney disease should follow caution while eating dates because of it’s hight content of potassium. Such people should consult their doctors regarding the amount of potassium to be taken every day.