Food That Brings Us Joya: Dates

Dates in a circular formation on a black backdrop, stuffed with various ingredients like nut butter, cheese, pickles, roasted tomatoes, and herbs.
What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night? The only difference is that there aren’t many job interviews where you’ll wind up naked.
 

 - Jerry Seinfeld

Okay, so we’re not really talking about dating here. However, dates — as in the commonly dried brown fruit with a pit — are apparently a top aphrodisiac. Allow us to continue…

Dates:

Energy, Fibre, Heart Health, Nutrient-Rich, Aphrodisiac?!?  

 

Dates, the edible fruit of the date palm tree, are one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. Found in regions including the Middle East, northern Africa, India, and California in the U.S., dates have been a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years and are thought to have been cultivated as early as 4000 B.C.

Agricultural experts estimate that there are over 3,000 varieties of dates. While we have yet to try a date we don’t like, we have a special place in our hearts for the Medjool date, one of the two most commercially produced dates in North America. Under its deceiving wrinkly skin is its soft and chewy flesh with a rich, caramel-like taste. The other popular variety is the Deglet Noor, a smallish, drier date.

These little nuggets of sweetness are nutritional powerhouses! Dates are packed with fibre, which can help manage blood cholesterol levels and prevent (or relieve) constipation. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals, boasting significant amounts of of potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin K — all key nutrients for supporting bone health. Calcium and magnesium also play an important role in maintaining the health of nerves, the heart, and other muscles and systems in the body. 

 

dynamic cheese board shot from above with persimmon full brie dates on wooden board and olives

(Photo from Ful-filled)

An all-natural sweetener, dates are one of the best refined sugar substitutes around. While they contain a high amount of sugar — we’re talking almost 16g of sugar per date! — the sugar found in dates is completely unprocessed, making them a fibre-packed, nutrient-dense alternative.

We’re talking almost 16g of sugar per date! Your typical 12 oz can of Coca-Cola (368g) contains 39g of sugar. However (and this is a big all-caps HOWEVER), unlike sugar in pop and candy, the sugar found in dates is completely unprocessed, making dates a fibre-packed, nutrient-dense alternative. 

A quick Google search will also tell you that sex and fertility experts around the world tout the date’s powers as an aphrodisiac. Not only is this due to certain metabolic effects, but because “The act of eating dates can be very sexual… It’s the kind of thing you would feed to your lover in bed.” Hmmm… and very sticky. 

How to enjoy

So many ways! Here are some of our favourites: 

stuffed dates with raspberries on plate with heaped sppon of tahini
(Photo from Green Kitchen Stories)

Eat them on their own, fresh, dried or sautéed (yup, it’s a game changer).

Throw them in a blender to add a subtle caramely sweetness (and fibre – bonus!) to your smoothies.

They’re also great to stuff for either a sweet or savoury two-bite delight — think nuts or nut butter, cheese, jam, fresh or dried fruit and pretzel or cookie chunks.

Dates’ sticky texture makes them a healthy alternative for binding granola bars, energy balls, tart crusts and other snacks and desserts — just blend them in with all the other ingredients in your food processor.

Blend dates with nuts or nut butter for the most delicious caramel sauce.

close up shot of dates in bowl some split some whole
(Photo from Scaling Back Blog)

Similarly, turned into a paste (Medjool are best), dates can be incorporated into just about any recipe as an alternative, nutritious sweetener: bake into muffins, cookies and cakes, or spread onto toast or pancakes. Making date paste couldn’t be easier:

Step 1: cover dates in boiling water, cover and soak for 30 minutes.

Step 2: drain dates, reserving the soaking water, and blend dates in a food processor or blender, adding one teaspoon of reserved liquid at a time until needed to get a smooth, nut butter-like consistency. (Use any leftover liquid in your next smoothie!)

 

(Header image from Cardamom and Tea)