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 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.