As often ignored fruits, dates don't receive the recognition they deserve for their valuable nutritional content. They are found on the date palm tree, which typically grows in dry regions like California and the Middle East, though they can be found in grocery and health food stores around the world, in dried or fresh forms. Often resembling long, dried-out grapes, dates may not look all that appetizing. However, they contain a variety of nutrients like fiber
, all of which are beneficial for your health. High-fiber fruits can prevent constipation and help you to stay full after eating, and the potassium levels in dates can provide support for your digestion, heart and muscles. This antioxidant-rich fruit can also boost your body's defense against diseases and free radical damage. To reap some of the amazing benefits of this tiny fruit, try incorporating it into your diet with these suggestions.
Cereal, Oatmeal or Salad Topping
Dried dates can add a burst of natural sweetness to your typical morning cereal or oatmeal. Simply buy some dried dates and pour them on top for a crunchy burst of natural sweetness and fiber content. If you love eating salads, try spicing yours up by slicing fresh dates and adding them into the mix.
Dates are often used in baking projects, as they make for a naturally sweet addition to many staples, like cookies and cakes, for example. To use your own dates in your next baking venture, buy some fresh ones, remove their seeds and dice them. They can be frozen for future use, or you can use them right away in a recipe like date bars.
Date Bars with Oats
2/3 cup chopped, pitted dates, divided
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup fast-cooking oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
With only 100 calories, these oat and date bars make for a sweet and healthy treat. To start, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8 x 8 baking pan. Combine 1/3 cup of the dates and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add one egg and blend again. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and whisk until blended. Then add the mixture of dates and water and the rest of the ½ cup of chopped dates; stir until moist. Next, pour the mixture into your pan and level the top of it with a spatula. Bake until firm and lightly browned around the edges, or about 17 minutes. Once you allow the pan to cool, cut it into 10 bars and enjoy. The bars can also be frozen or even kept in a container, which should be good to eat for about one week.
Syrup Substitute and Natural Sweetener
Date nectar or syrup can be bought and used as a natural sweetener for many of your favorite foods. The thick texture of date nectar makes it perfect to drizzle on food items like pancakes and yogurt. It can even be added to bread recipes or blended into salad dressings for a touch of delightful sweetness.
Date and Prosciutto Wraps
16 thin slices prosciutto
16 whole-pitted dates
Freshly ground pepper
With their sweet flavor and filling texture, dates are great to use as a complementary ingredient to an otherwise salty recipe like prosciutto wraps. Simply wrap a slice of prosciutto around each date and add some fresh pepper for a delicious combo of sweetness and saltiness that is quick, easy and perfect for an on-the-go treat. These prosciutto-date bites only have 39 calories, so you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in a few of them for a hearty boost of fiber and potassium.
Though dates might be the black sheep of the fruit family, they can provide many important health and nutritional benefits that are worth giving them a try. The next time you're out buying groceries, pick up some dates and test out these recipes. We hope you have a great weekend!