5 yummy ideas with Dates

5 ways with…. DATES

For a natual sweetness that won’t send your blood sugar soaring, healthy’s nutritionist Carina Norris has these seasonal pick-me-ups

1 BRAZIL STUFFED DATES

BEST FOR Balancing blood sugars Makes 8 Per date: 72 cals

8 fresh medjool dates 8 Brazil nuts 4 rashers bacon

Preheat oven to 190 C/170 C fan/gas mark 5. Remove stones from the dates and stuff each one with a Brazil nut. Cut the bacon rashers in half, then wrap them around the dates. Place them on a lined baking sheet, tucking ends of the bacon underneath to secure, or use a cocktail stick. Bake for eight to 10 mins, until the bacon turns crisp and golden. Eat hot or cold.

HEALTHY BENEFITS Dates are high in natural fruit sugars, but have a surprisingly low glycaemic index (GI), making them more blood sugar friendly. In fact, dates have the same GI rating as oranges and peaches, and come in lower than bananas at 62. They also contain pectin, a soluble fibre that slows digestion and helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

2 CHOC NUT DATE SPREAD

best for Healthy blood pressure Makes 2 jars 111 cals per tablespoon

130g toasted hazelnuts 4 tbsp water 3 tbsp cocoa powder 6 medjool dates (chopped) 1 tbp coconut oil Pinch sea salt ½ tsp vanilla extract or ¼ tsp cinnamon

Whizz the nuts in a food processor until they form a sticky paste – add the water bit by bit. Pop the remaining ingredients into the blender and pulse until you have a spread. Store in fridge.

HEALTHY BENEFITS Potassium in dates helps counteract the effect of salt, which raises blood pressure – indeed, the American Heart Association issued a statement saying that increasing our potassium intake can lower blood pressure. Five dates provides 835mg potassium, which is 18 per cent of a woman’s daily recommended intake.

3 CREAMY CHOCO DATE DESSERT

BEST FOR Reducing risk of chronic diseases Serves 6 202 cals per serving

2 bananas, sliced and frozen 70g ground almonds 3 tbsp cocoa powder 6-8 pitted dates (you can use hallawi dates, which are the smaller cousins of the medjool, if you prefer) ½ tsp vanilla extract 200-300ml milk

Combine all the ingredients, adding the milk gradually, in a high-speed blender; whizz until you have a smooth, thick mixture. Chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving as a tasty alternative to yoghurt.

HEALTHY BENEFITS Dates are good sources of antioxidant phenol and flavonol compounds. These mop up free radicals, which trigger cell changes and increase our risk of illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research shows phenols and flavonols from dates protect blood fats from being converted to the most clogging and dangerous form, and prevent mutations that can turn cells cancerous.

4 DATE FUDGIES

BEST FOR Digestion Makes around 12 snacks 117 cals each

7 bedjool dates, stones removed 100g walnuts 50g desiccated coconut 3 tbsp cocoa powder 1 tsp vanilla extract Pinch sea salt Extra desiccated coconut or cocoa power for finishing

Place dates, walnuts, coconut, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt in a food processor. Pulse on high speed until smooth (add a little water if needed). Remove mixture from food processor, split in to 12 servings and roll into balls, then roll in reserved coconut or cocoa. Keep in the fridge.

HEALTHY BENEFITS Our daily fibre target in the UK was recently upped to 30g, which means the average woman needs to increase her intake by 60 per cent! Enter dates; they contain around eight per cent fibre, most of which (83 per cent) is the insoluble form, which helps prevent constipation. The rest is soluble fibre, which smoothes digestion, helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and slows absorption of glucose into the blood. Plus, a huge European study found a link between fibre intake and reduced bowel cancer risk.

5 POMEGRANATE DATE PORRIDGE

BEST FOR Heart health Serves 1 274 cals per serving (309 cals if you add pomegranate juice)

35g jumbo oats 2 dates, chopped finely 300ml milk (or milk and water) Seeds from half a pomegranate Pomegranate juice, optional

Add the oats, dates and milk to saucepan, and gently simmer for about 10 mins, until it’s thick and creamy and the milk has been absorbed. Serve with the pomegranate seeds scattered over the top and an optional ‘moat’ of pomegranate juice.

HEALTHY BENEFITS A small study found that eating 100g dates daily for four weeks reduced levels of triglycerides (a harmful type of fat found in your blood) by eight to 15 per cent. They also contain pectin, which studies show can reduce blood cholesterol, while antioxidants help prevent arteries furring up. Combining dates with pomegranates helps reduce ‘bad’ LDL, cholesterol and triglycerides even further. And the oats contain beta-glucan, which also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

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