If you like sweets, eating dates is a healthy alternative to eating foods made with processed sugar. Dates are nature’s candy and an ideal replacement for sugar.
The image above is the Medjool date paste that I made last week. Date paste adds a subtle sweetness to foods and can be used to make desserts, energy bars, cookies, homemade granola, yoghurt, smoothies or vinaigrettes.
Last week, I looked through the Global report on diabetes issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report sends a call for action on diabetes. Globally, the disease has almost quadrupled since 1980 and is steadily increasing in all regions of the world.
Research on sugar and diabetes shows a direct link between high sugar consumption and increases in the rate of Type 2 diabetes. To prevent or control the disease, scientists recommend lowering our sugar intake. We can’t eliminate sugar but, there are ways to consume less of it and still satisfy a sweet tooth.
The staggering figures in the WHO report is what prompted me to make the date paste and experiment with new recipes. I’m not diabetic, but I have a sweet tooth and I like to cook. So I take prevention seriously.
Here are some figures from the report:
- In 2014, 422 million adults had diabetes compared with 108 million in 1980.
- In 2014, more than one in three adults over 18 were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.
- In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose.
- Almost half of all deaths attributable to high blood glucose occur prematurely (before the age of 70).
There are three forms of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. The majority of people around the world are affected by Type 2 diabetes, which is largely the result of excess body weight and obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and smoking. In other words, Type 2 diabetes is largely a preventable disease.
For many years, Type 2 diabetes was an adult disease, but it is now seen in children. Poor management of diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, lower limb amputation and kidney failure.
So, whether you’re a sweet fanatic or you simply enjoy sweets, you might want to rethink your sugar intake. Cutting back on sugar is a good way to protect yourself from developing diabetes. Adding dates to your diet is a good way to ease into the sugar cut.
Dates are naturally sweet and nutritious. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. They’re also known for decreasing cholesterol and improving bone health. On the other hand, white sugar and artificial sweeteners have NO nutritional value—they offer nothing but empty calories.
If you are diabetic, fruits should be part of your diet. However, as with any fruit, you need to be mindful of serving sizes when consuming dates. Dates are high in natural sugar and carbohydrates and shouldn’t be used as a treatment for diabetes. However, when used with carbohydrate counting and glucose monitoring, dates or date paste can be safely incorporated in a diabetic diet.
Should you decide to cook or bake with date paste, it might take you a while to get used to it. Nevertheless, it’s worth trying because the results are very satisfying. Making the paste is simple—you only need dates, water and a food processor. Next week, I will post a delicious recipe that I made with date paste.
Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for the paste:
- 12 pitted fresh Medjool dates
- add very hot water – just enough to cover the dates
Cover and soak the dates in hot water for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight. When soft, process with the water with a handheld blender or small food processor until smooth.
If you want to make this quickly, put the dates in a small bowl and add a little hot water, just enough to soften them. Heat this on high in the microvawe for 30 seconds. Process until smooth.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you plan to bake a lot, make a double or triple batch and divide in small portions in individual containers. Store in freezer.