Dates is a good source of concentrated energy compared to other types of dried fruits

I ABSOLUTELY adore dates! I know they areextremely popular during Ramadan and that’s the time most of you consume them.But it truly is a nutritious fruit that should be a staple in your diet and kitchen all year-round if it isn’t already. Let me tell you why.

A serving of dates is a quartercup, which is roughly 3-4 pitted dates. It gives you about 110 calories per serving.

This makes dates a good source of concentrated energy compared to other types of dried fruit. Dates are rich in other important nutrients such as selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins and vitamin C.

Dates are a good source of fibre. Three to four pitted dates has about 3g of fibre, which contributes 12 per cent of a Malaysian adult’s recommended daily fibre intake.

A fibre-rich diet helps to soften stools to ease bowel movement. Regular bowel movement aids toxins to be eliminated faster from your intestines. This helps to combat constipation and lessen the dependency on laxatives.

For people watching their weight, high fibre dates make a sensible snack, as they will help them feel full, even with a small volume of them. So you can essentially eat less but still stay full. Furthermore, the soluble fibre in dates may help you to control cholesterol, especially when taken as part of a well-balanced, low saturated fat diet.

High blood pressure is the fastest growing non-communicable disease in Malaysia, and the condition is afflicting Malaysians in their prime.

Dates contain potassium magnesium, copper and selenium that make them a recommended food for managing high blood pressure as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. High blood pressure is a risk factor forheart disease and stroke.

Triglycerides are the amount of fat in blood. It’s a known fact that high levels of triglyceride, left untreated, can increase your risk of hardened arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

A study published in the September 2009 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that including dates in a healthy diet reduced triglyceride levels between eight and 15 per cent.

Dates are extremely versatile as a food ingredient. Here are some of my simple date recipes I’d like to share with you. Bon appetite and good health!

DATE PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup pitted dates, chopped roughly

2 cups chopped ripe pineapple, remove the core

½ cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 cm fresh ginger, finely minced

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt and finely ground black pepper to taste

TIP: If you like the chutney spicy, you can slice in bird chillies for some fiery heat.

METHOD:

• Put all ingredients, except the salt and ground black pepper, into a small pot and bring to a boil.

• Once boiling, turn the fire down to low and allow to simmer down for 30 to 40 minutes

• Stir the chutney mixture regularly.

• Once the mixture has thickened and boiled down, season with a dash of salt and ground black pepper.

• Once cooled, store in a clean jar.

• If you like the chutney smooth, blend it in a blender.

SERVING IDEAS FOR DATE PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY:

A side condiment with rice and dishes.

A spread on toasted multigrain bread or crispy crackers.

As a sandwich spread with meat fillings.

As a relish with roasted meats, such as chicken, lamb or beef.

DATES & ALMOND SMOOTHIE

Serves: 2

INGREDIENTS:

250ml low fat milk, chilled

4 dates (pitted and soaked hot water to soften)

2 tbsps ground almond nuts

Dash of powdered nutmeg

TIP: Soak and soften pitted dates, and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator ready to use in smoothies.

METHOD:

• Blend all ingredients till smooth and creamy

• Serve immediately

WHOLE WHEAT DATE MUFFINS

Makes: 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cups wholewheat flour

1 cup plain white flour

½ cup dates, pitted and finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1cup (250ml) milk

1 tbsp baking powder

2 tbsps brown sugar

¼ cup melted butter

2 tbsps grated orange rind

1 tsp vanilla essence

METHOD:

•Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

•Line a muffin tray with paper cups.

•Mix together the wholewheat flour, plain white flour and sugar in a mixing bowl.

•In a separate bowl, combine the milk, beaten egg, melted butter, chopped dates, grated orange rind and vanilla essence.

•Mix the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the flours. Stir just enough to combine and dampen the flour.

•Fill the muffin cups two-third full

•Bake for about 20 minute. Poke a toothpick in the middle of the muffin. If the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.