- Excess sugar has many negative health effects including increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more
- Dates contain fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
Are dates the healthiest natural sweetener? What's are the downfalls associated with consuming processed sugar? Is it possible to enjoy naturally sweet treats while still avoiding added sugar?
Any time that we can reach for more whole foods while reducing processed foods in our diet, it’s a win! But when it comes to sweets - is it possible to indulge in a delicious sweet treat, while avoiding refined sugar? Let’s explore the options, and find out why dates are our favorite natural option to get your sweet fix!
Why Avoid Processed Sugar?
We have all heard that excess sugar is bad for our health, with negative health effects ranging from increased risk of heart disease and cancer, dental caries, reduced testosterone, diabetes, obesity and more.
Despite the negative health effects and warnings, sugar is difficult to limit or avoid because it’s so addictive! With Americans consuming an average of 57 pounds of added sugar per person, per year (1), it’s clear that this hyper-palatable food is hard to quit. Added sugar is found in processed foods, from sauces, to salad dressings, sweetened beverages, snacks, desserts, candy, and more. Though it may not be listed on the ingredients label as “sugar” - dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose are all forms of sugar.
Added sugar contributes absolutely no nutritional value, and is high in calories. Once consumed, sugar will provide a brief increase in energy - along with a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, followed by a sharp crash. This unstable fluctuation in blood sugar results in an energy crash, and is not sustainable.
Years of excess sugar intake can affect the natural balance of your hormones. When we consume sugar, glucose is elevated in the blood, causing the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin then signals the body to store more calories as fat, which can be problematic over time.
Naturally Sweet Treats
With all of this in mind, there are many reasons and benefits to reducing added sugars in your diet! Swapping refined sugars for naturally sweet medjool dates is our favorite way to satisfy cravings, while nourishing the body with a nutrient dense whole food. Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of dates:
Dates contain 4 g of fiber per 46 g serving (approximately 2 dates). Fiber helps to slow gastric emptying, leading to feeling of fullness, and reducing the spike in blood sugar that results from eating sugar or simple carbohydrates. Adequate fiber intake is essential for blood sugar regulation, maintaining healthy digestion, and heart health. Eating dates can help to increase your intake of soluble fiber, which can contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Optimal daily fiber intake is not only associated with reduced cholesterol, but also reduced blood pressure, and lower weight, and lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke (2).
Dates contain a number of antioxidants including flavenoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid (3). These phytochemicals have many health benefits including helping to neutralize free radicals in the body, revending oxidative damage.
Vitamins and Minerals
On top of their impressive profile of antioxidants, dates also contain a number of vitamins and minerals including: potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, phosphorus, and iron.
Consuming Natural Sweeteners Mindfully
Dates are an incredibly tasty, sweet, and delicious treat. With about 15 g of sugar per date, you only need 1-2 to for a satiating snack. While they certainly are a healthier option to refined sugars, it’s still important to be mindful of your sugar intake and consume in moderation. A quick tip to promote blood sugar balance while still enjoying naturally sweet treats: add a source of protein or fat! Pairing naturally sweet dates with protein or fat is an easy way to enjoy a sweet snack while keeping blood sugar in check and ensuring that energy levels will be sustained. This is why we LOVE the pairing of dates with nuts (hello healthy fats and protein) in our tasty energy bites.