One of the tricks to healthy baking is to find a natural, unrefined sweetener to substitute for refined sugar. Ripe bananas, unpasteurized honey, coconut palm sugar, real maple syrup and dates are my top choices. Dates have a sweet caramel flavour with a moist, dense texture and they’re loaded with health benefits. Here’s why I love dates:
High in Fibre
Refined sugar is just sugar, which means it is absorbed quickly into your blood stream, causing a spike in blood sugar and the release of insulin. That’s your body’s way of trying to balance things out. The problem with a diet high in refined sugar is that your body only listens to the insulin response for so long until it starts to tune it out. This is called insulin resistance, and can lead to type 2
diabetes and a build-up of excess sugar in our bodies, which of course turns into fat. This is why it’s important to choose natural sugar sources, like dates, that don’t elicit this type of response. Dates are high in sugar, but also high in fibre (2g of fibre in a single date), which slows down the release of sugar into the blood stream, and keeps you feeling full longer.
Good for You!
Dates are a great source of magnesium, calcium and potassium, minerals that are important for the health of your bones. Magnesium is a key player in healthy liver function. And as we all know, a healthy liver is one of the keys to good overall health.
I love whole, real foods with no additives. When I make something my goal is to try and use all whole, fresh, unprocessed ingredients as much as possible. Dates fit that description 100 per cent. They are a completely natural, unrefined sugar source.
Dates can be used as a healthy sugar substitute for baking, but also as a dessert or mid-day snack. If I feel like something sweet after lunch or dinner I’ll reach for a date with a square of dark chocolate. And they make for a healthy, yummy snack when mixed with almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. You can also add them as a sweet topping on Greek yogurt, oatmeal or quinoa porridge.
Medjool dates are a popular brand, but a bit on the pricey side. My favourite brand is Parnoosh pitted dates, which are available at most major grocery stores. I buy the big container, which lasts in my pantry for months.
While I’m waiting for the ice to melt, here’s the recipe I plan to make today using dates:
Carrot and Date Breakfast Muffins
(adapted from Alive magazine)
1 cup whole, pitted dates
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup grated carrot
3 large organic eggs
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened, sulphite-free)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 F
Line a muffin tin with paper cups or grease with coconut oil.
In a small pot, simmer dates with water until very tender. Stir in the vanilla. Puree (using a food processor or hand blender) to form a smooth paste.
In a bowl, beat date puree with carrots and eggs; gradually beat in coconut oil.
In another bowl, combine the flour with coconut, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in date & carrot mixture until combined. Fold in raisins. Spoon into muffin tin.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Test doneness by inserting a toothpick into the centre of a muffin; it should come out clean.
Makes 12 muffins.