Dates are among the most ancient of fruits, growing along the Nile as early as the 5th century B.C. Perhaps the Egyptians knew dates' sweetness hit a bounty of nutrients. Dates are nuggets of nutrition that satisfy a sweet tooth, making them ideal snacks to stave off hunger. True, dates provide more calories than most fruits, but they make a great substitute for processed sweets, like candy, to help you stick to your weight-loss routine.
California dates are sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and a good source of fiber -- all of which are important factors in keeping the pounds off. Learn about this sweet fruit and how it can help slim your waistline and improve your overall health.
Loaded with fiber -- both soluble and insoluble -- dates are able to fill you up and keep your bowel habits regular. They are an excellent source of potassium and provide numerous other important vitamins and minerals -- quite a powerhouse packed in a tiny, portable package.
Selection and Storage
Most supermarkets stock fresh dates in the produce section and keep dried dates near raisins. For both types, look for plump fruit with unbroken, smoothly wrinkled skins. Avoid dates that smell bad or have hardened sugar crystals on their skins.
Packaged dates are available pitted, unpitted, or chopped. Dried dates keep for up to a year in the refrigerator. Fresh dates should be refrigerated in tightly sealed containers; they'll keep up to eight months. If stored in the kitchen cabinet, they'll stay fresh for about a month.
If dates dry out, they can be "plumped" with a little warm water, fruit juice, or for fancier dishes, your favorite liqueur. Don't store dates near strongly flavored items such as garlic. Dates tend to absorb outside odors.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Dates are great on their own, but for an extra-special treat, try stuffing them with whole almonds or chopped pieces of walnuts or pecans. For a spicy twist, tuck in a piece of crystallized gingerroot.
Adding dates to home-baked breads, cakes, muffins, and cookies adds richness and nutrition to otherwise ordinary recipes. And the natural moisture of dates adds to the quality of the final product.
Dates work well in fruit compotes, salads, and desserts. Chopped or slivered, dates can even be sprinkled on side dishes like rice, couscous, or vegetables. To slice or chop dates, chill them first. The colder they are, the easier they are to slice.
Remember, foods are quite often nutritious because of what they do not have. Fruits, such as dates, are important both for what they offer and for what they do not offer. California dates are sodium-free, fat-free, and cholesterol-free, which makes them a healthy sweet option.
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