Medjool Dates:The Nutritious Natural Sweetener
I recently discovered the Medjool date. I know, I know, where have I been–people have been devouring this delicious treat since 6000 BC. The Medjool date has been granted the nickname “king of dates” and for good reason–It is an enormous, chewy orb of saccharinity. In the past it was a delicacy only royalty got to enjoy but luckily now one only has to visit the bulk-bin aisle at their local health food store or put in an order online.
Medjool dates are high in sugar so rather than eating them as a fruit snack I recommend using them as a natural sweetener in recipes because they are nutritious and full of antioxidants. Each date has 2 grams of fiber, 167 mg of potassium and is rated low to medium on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how much the food affects blood sugar and insulin levels so the lower the glycemic index, the better. The glycemic index of this date is about 50% less than white and brown sugar making it a great replacer of sugar in many recipes. To make 1 cup of date sweetener (sugar replacer) take about 10 dates, remove pits and cover and soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Then toss the mix into a food processor and blend. You will need to reduce wet ingredients in a recipe by ¼ cup if you are replacing sugar with dates.
Dates are also great when thrown in the food processor with the nuts or seeds of your choice to make a yummy snack. Walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds are all great choices. There is really no wrong way to do this—any combination will end up delicious. (A good ratio is about 1 cup pitted dates to 1.5-2 cups of nuts/seeds but you can experiment to your taste). You can add 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil, a drizzle of vanilla, a tsp. of cinnamon, ginger or cocoa powder and form them into balls. You can dip them in cocoa or grated coconut if you want and put in the refrigerator to harden. Or if you would prefer bars you can flatten the mixture down into an 8×8 pan, put in the refrigerator to harden then cut into bars. If you do not want to experiment with different combos yourself there are plenty of delicious recipes to try which can be found online. Here is one to get you started.
Sunflower Seed Balls
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
Put the seeds, salt, and cinnamon into food processor with the S blade. Process until seeds are ground. Add the pitted dates and melted coconut oil and process. Form balls with mixture and store in the refrigerator.