Dates have always been prevalent in Middle Eastern cultures and rituals, ranging from feeding a woman dates after she gives birth, to breaking the Ramadan and Yom Kippur fast with a date. But how has this Middle Eastern superfood made its way into our kitchens? While the majority of date consumers are from ethnic populations including, Middle Eastern, Indian, Pakistani, Filipino and North African regions, in the past five years, date sales have been seeing double digit growth rates worldwide! Just a decade ago, dates were seen as an exotic luxury perhaps eaten at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Ramadan, but now people are going crazy for dates, why?
As more and more people are becoming health conscious, the need for healthy sugary substitutes is on the rise. In the United States, the per capita consumption of sugar and caloric sweeteners has been declining year after year since 2017. As these consumers are turning away from refined sugars, they set their sights on alternative sweeteners including dates, and guess what?... Manufacturers are noticing! Companies like Bahamii are beginning to manufacture date-based products taking advantage of dates’ natural health benefits such as relief from high blood pressure, poor digestion, high cholesterol, hormone issues, low metabolism, and even osteoporosis. These added health benefits have transitioned the date consumer demographic from primarily older customers to younger health-conscious consumers. This can be seen in the surging popularity of nutrient rich date dishes in both retail and foodservice.
Dates have become increasingly popular in snack and spread recipes as it can be used as a binder while also being a natural sweetener, mold inhibitor, and shelf-life extender. The nutritional profile of dates is also something to be desired, including fiber, potassium, antioxidants, magnesium, amino acids, calcium, vitamins, iron, proteins, and healthy fats. Affectionally known as “natures candy” a single serving size of 100 grams of dates can provide 277 calories, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and 20% of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily potassium consumption. Since dates are a good allergen-free, low glycemic alternative to sugar, honey, agave, and maple syrup, they are finding their way into everyday items like cakes, cookies, muffins, spreads, and sauces.
Popular health food bloggers such as Sarah Britton have also recently been boosting the date craze with date substitutions for recipes like raw brownies that have been mimicked time and time again. Diabetic consumers are also finding that although dates are comprised of 80% sugar, due to the high amount of fiber, their body absorbs it more gradually and their blood sugar levels wont spike as much as other sugary snacks like candy bars.
As dates are joining the ranks of other superfoods such as blueberries, kale, avocados, and garlic, and an increasing number of consumers are making health-conscious choices - dates are certainly here to stay. They days of exotic delicacies are over, and the time for everyday consumption of dates is upon us. Dates are finding their way into our kitchens, our stomachs and our hearts, and we could not be happier!
Riell, Howard. “Consumers Falling in Love with Dates.” Produce Business, 26 Mar. 2020, https://www.producebusiness.com/consumers-falling-in-love-with-dates/.
Siegner, Cathy. “Hot Dates: Why the Sweet Fruit Is Getting More Popular.” Food Dive, 18 July 2019, https://www.fooddive.com/news/hot-dates-why-the-sweet-fruit-is-getting-more-popular/558715/#:~:text=The%20global%20consumption%20of%20dates,likely%20to%20continue%20to%20grow.
“Sugar Rush: How Dates Went from Rare Luxury to Healthfood Sensation.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 Dec. 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/dec/11/sugar-rush-how-dates-went-from-rare-luxury-to-healthfood-sensation.