While dates may be a global superfood sensation at the moment, in the Middle East, they’ve been a staple part of the diet for thousands of years. While they do have a fairly high calorie count – one cup comes to around 400 – that very same cup will also contain 48 per cent of the RDA (recommended daily amount) of fibre, and 27 per cent of the RDA of potassium. These ultra-nutritious fruits also contain magnesium, copper, manganese, vitamin B, iron, protein, and antioxidants, and thanks to their low glycaemic index, they’re a great way to sweeten foods (or act as a sweet treat) without the sugar-crash and spikes and dips in your glucose levels of other sugary items despite their high natural sugar content. They have been found to help boost the health of the heart, eyes, bones, and brain.
How do you use it?
As many of us know, dates are delicious when eaten on their own, or enjoyed as a gourmet sweet treat when stuffed with nuts or candied fruit, or dipped in chocolate for instance. They are also delicious when paired with nut butters, cheeses, and other fruits – but in the modern day, dates have become an excellent means of sweetening healthy alternatives to traditional desserts. Use them in flapjacks, chocolate and date brownies, homemade granola bars, protein balls, smoothies and shakes, healthier version of chocolate truffles, in cookies and cakes, or even blended with ingredients like avocado to be used in mousse. They’re also delicious sprinkled into savoury dishes, such as chicken stews and tagines, on in cous-cous, or even sprinkled on pizza.
Despite its strong ties to the Middle East, dates’ name actually comes from the Greek word “daktylos”, which means “finger”. Thanks to the truly diverse multitude of uses of the date palm (from food to creating building materials), it’s been nicknamed the “tree of life”, and some scholars have theorized that dates were, in fact, the real “forbidden fruit” in the story of the Garden of Eden rather than an apple. These plants are finicky, however: The seeds of the date palm can actually remain dormant for decades, and only “bloom” when the appropriate light and water conditions present themselves. Thankfully for us here in the plant’s native Middle East, these conditions are abundant in the region.