Kitchen & Garden

dategate: are your raw desserts just junk food in disguise?

Close your eyes and think of your favourite oozy, caramelly, melt-in-your-mouth sweet treat?

What are you thinking of? You might go all out with a Snickers bar. Or you might try to be virtuous and picture a natural and “healthy” date.

Yep, Medjool dates are definitely “nature’s caramel” and provide a gooey sweetness to raw desserts (or even savoured on their own).

And, because they’re a whole food, they’re also healthy, right? Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Before you launch into a box, it’s time to read the fine print.

  • Dates are loaded with sugar! Just one Medjool date can contain 16g of sugar, or a whopping four teaspoons. That’s more than half the World Health Organization’s recommended daily intake!
  • And a lot of that is fructose. Dates are more than one third fructose, which studies show is the sugar causing us problems. It’s been linked to numerous metabolic conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
  • The sugar is concentrated. The fructose content wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the water wasn’t drained out, because you wouldn’t be able to eat as many! Drying fruit makes it much, much easier to gorge on. You wouldn’t eat a whole bag of fresh dates, but it’s easy to chow down a bag of the dried versions. You’ve been warned!
  • Dates can contain yucky stuff. Dried fruit is often preserved or even coated in rancid oil. These can cause horrible digestive and respiratory problems and many kids don’t tolerate them well.
  • The mineral content is negligible. “But dates contain iron!” we hear you cry. Yeah, that’s true, but we choose to get our iron from other sources that aren’t accompanied with a mound of sugar. Try red meat, eggs, dark leafy greens – so much more nutritious!
  • They’re not sweet enough for cooking. You need lots of dates to achieve the same sweetness as sugar. This means you end up eating more than you should in any given recipe (including blending up entire cups for raw vegan cakes and “datorade” smoothies). Sneaky little dates.

Keep your dates for special occasions.

We know it’s tempting to throw a handful of dates into all your sweet recipes, but try to keep them for special occasions.

We prefer to sweeten our foods with fresh fruit and naturally sweet veggies, adding some fructose-free sweeteners like rice malt syrup if we need that little bit extra.

This article was featured on Endeavour College’s blog.

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