Whether you’re a self-pronounced foodie, a health-focused eater, or somewhere in between, you’ve probably at least heard of dates. Unfortunately, you probably don’t know much beyond the name and the fact that they’re some type of fruit.
Well, don’t worry. We’re here to help you get up to date because you’re missing out on one of the earth’s most awesome (and underrated) snacks. Read on to learn everything you need to know about pitted dates including how they differ from other dates, what they taste like, their pros and cons, and how to incorporate them into a healthy, varied diet.
So, What Exactly are Pitted Dates?
Pitted dates are essentially just dates that have had their pits (or seeds) removed for better texture and easier snacking. While you can often buy dates already pitted, you can also easily remove the pit at home by slicing lengthwise into the date with a small paring knife.
Dates come from the date palm tree and are a type of tropical fruit. Unlike many dried fruits you might find on the supermarket shelf though, they aren’t fully dehydrated, which is why they traditionally need to be kept in a cool, dry place or refrigerated.
The most common dates are a variety called Deglet Noor dates, which tend to be firmer, thicker, and smaller than other varieties. They are a bit drier in texture and not quite as sweet as varieties like Medjool dates but are still sweet and rich. If you ask us, we say medjools are the perfect choice for snacking on or for use in desserts! That’s also why you’ll often see them mentioned if you’re on the search for a healthier sugar substitute.
What Do They Taste Like?
As already mentioned, pitted dates are sweet and distinctively chewy. On top of that immediate sweetness, they also have a rich, almost caramel-like flavor that lends people to calling them “nature’s candy.”
In many respects, they earn their comparisons to raisins because of their sweet fruit flavor, although they also have some similarities to figs and prunes. Why? Despite their dried appearance and reduced moisture content, they have a “jam-iness” to them that often surprises people. Sticky and delicious, they can satisfy even the most difficult-to-appease sweet-tooth.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Pitted Dates
Despite how naturally sweet they are, pitted dates actually have a huge variety of health benefits that make them a great addition to any balanced diet.
1. They Have Great Nutritional Content
While most fruits have some important nutrients, dates have an even better nutritional profile than many. With just a 100-gram serving providing us with 20% of our potassium RDI, 18% of our copper RDI, and 7 grams of fiber, pitted dates are an awesome way to help give your body what it needs to run its best.
2. They are High in Antioxidants
Dates also provide us with high amounts of those protective compounds we call antioxidants! Essentially protecting us from disease-causing free radicals, these antioxidants are a big deal and there are loads of them in pitted dates including flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid.
This means your delicious snack or meal ingredient can potentially help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more. Great benefits and flavor? Sounds like a good deal to us.
3. They Can Improve Bone Health
Just about anyone who is health-conscious knows that vitamin D and calcium are essential for good bone health. However, other vitamins and minerals are also essential, and many of them are included in dates, both pitted and whole.
This is especially true of magnesium and copper, which play a major role in bone strength and density. Luckily, dates are rich in these and as such can help aid in creating strong bones and warding off the potential for osteoporosis later down the line.
4. They Aid Digestion and Improve Constipation
Not surprisingly, many people who keep a typical Western diet suffer from digestion and stomach issues. With all the highly processed food and lack of fiber, it’s difficult for the body to rid waste in an efficient way.
Dates help relieve some of these issues due to their high amounts of fiber! So, the next time you’re struggling with constipation, perhaps incorporate some dates into a nice dish! Your body will thank you.
While dates have these incredible health benefits and many more, they’re not without their downsides as well. Let’s not forget just because something is natural, it doesn’t mean it’s perfect. What are some of the cons to this chewy fruit? Well:
5. They’re High in Calories
Unfortunately, pitted dates just are not a low calorie food. Like similar fruits, dates have plenty of their fair share of calories. Just one serving of two dates can provide around 110 calories, and just like the candy that some use them to replace, it’s incredibly difficult to eat just one serving.
In real terms? That means pitted dates can easily add up to a very high calorie snack or dish addition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them or should avoid them at all costs, but you do want to be mindful about how many you’re actually eating.
6. Their Cholesterol-Lowering Abilities Have Been Overhyped
Some other articles on pitted dates may indicate to you that they can greatly lower cholesterol, or at least can be a decent ally in controlling it. Unfortunately, this isn’t particularly true. So far, research has found that soluble fiber is what can improve cholesterol numbers, not insoluble.
For as great as pitted dates are, they contain mostly insoluble fiber and only trace amounts of soluble, which means they have little influence on LDL. Here’s what you can eat to improve your numbers instead.
7. They’re High in Sugar
Depending on your specific needs, this could count as either a pro or a con, but we felt it important to mention. They do tend to have a lower glycemic index, but eaten in large quantities, they have potential to raise blood sugar higher than some alternatives. If blood sugar is of concern to you, be aware. Monitor your numbers more closely when eating pitted dates, and maybe stick with them as a more occasional treat than an everyday occurrence.
Including Pitted Dates in Your Diet
If you’ve read along and decided that pitted dates are as awesome as we think they are, then you’ll surely want to know how to include them in your healthy eating plan. Well, you can use them in about any way you can imagine!
One of the easiest ways to use them (and one of the most delicious!) is to incorporate them in healthier desserts. They’re absolutely fantastic in cookies, cakes, bars, and more. They’re also really great in brownies and fudge.
Contrary to popular belief though, pitted dates aren’t only good in sweet, chocolate-y confections. Dates have just as much a place in appetizers, lunches, and desserts, serving as a great contrast against more savory flavors.
Next time you try your hand at a fresh salad, hearty curry, or something else entirely, try incorporating a few pitted dates. The sweetness will go a long way to providing more depth of flavor. Stuffing your dates is also a great way to go. We’d probably caution against using them when baking bread, but hey, you’re your own person.
Nature is beautiful and provides us with so many delicious foods to explore, the date being one of them! Pitted dates just so happen to make the experience all the better equaling a better texture and an easier chew.
Pitted or whole; Medjool, Deglet Noor, Barhi, or any of the other hundreds of varieties; eaten in a dish or as a snack all on its own, dates are delicious. They are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can lead to a healthier and happier you.
Whether you consume them in a tasty muffin, oatmeal, or in an ultra-savory braised dish, you’re in for a treat. As with any other food however, eat them in moderation and consider your dietary/health needs. Oh, and of course, enjoy! Just because they’re nutritious, doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious.