AICR Health Talk
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: I love dried figs and dates, but aren’t they too loaded with sugar to be healthy?
A: The sweetness in dates and dried figs is all natural, it does not come from added sugars. These fruits have low water content which makes the naturally occurring sugars more concentrated. As with other whole fruits, this sugar comes with nutrients. Dates, and especially figs, provide a good source of fiber in a relatively small portion. They also contain natural plant compounds called polyphenols that are studied for their potential to support antioxidant defenses.
Take advantage of their natural sweetness and use them them to replace empty-calorie sugars lacking nutritional benefit. For example, add some dates or figs to smoothies instead of honey or on hot or cold cereal instead of table sugar. Or add some when baking muffins or cookies and cut back on the amount of sugar in the recipe. Stuff pitted dates with nuts for a gourmet appetizer or party food that is healthful. Or if you want to cut back on rich desserts, follow the tradition of the Mediterranean cuisines where figs and dates grow: serve a few plain as dessert along with coffee or tea. Savor their sweetness, and satisfy your sweet tooth with two or three large dates or several figs for less than 150 calories.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).