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Date Sugar – A Healthy Alternative to Regular Sugar?

Despite its name, date sugar is not really sugar; it is simply granulated dried dates. However, these intensely sweet granules do look a lot like brown sugar made from sugarcane, and in fact, you can use date sugar as a substitute for brown sugar in many recipes for baked goods. But is it worth buying or making date sugar? Is this alternative sweetener really a healthy substitute for regular, processed sugar?

Date Sugar

In this article, we take a look the nutrient profile and antioxidant capacity of date sugar and explore the potential health benefits of this whole food sweetener.

A Whole Food Sweetener Full of Fiber

Although date sugar looks a lot like regular brown sugar made of sugarcane, these two sweeteners are very different in terms of nutrient content and health effects. One of the most important differences is that the entire fruit is used to make date sugar, which means it is a whole food sweetener packed with dietary fiber. Regular sugar, by contrast, is a highly processed product that contains no macronutrients other than sugar. Deglet Noor dates, which are a popular date variety among date sugar producers, contain about 3 grams of fiber per 100 calories [1].

Nutrition Facts for Date Sugar

Whole dates contain a lot of potassium, magnesium and copper, with a 100-gram serving of Medjool dates or regular Deglet Noor dates providing over 15% of the daily RDA/AI of these important minerals. Whole dates also provide moderate amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, niacin (vitamin B3) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). [2]. Dehydration does not cause a significant loss of any of the minerals listed above [3]. This means that also date sugar, which is simply granulated dehydrated dates, is a concentrated source of potassium, magnesium and copper, and it contains decent amounts of iron, phosphorus and calcium as well. Dehydration may cause a small loss of niacin and pyridoxine, however [3].

Date Sugar is Rich in Antioxidants

Dates are an exceptionally concentrated source of antioxidants, and date extracts have been shown to exert strong antioxidant effects, both in test tubes and in humans [4, 5, 6 ]. Given that date sugar is just granulated dried dates, it is not surprising that also date sugar has been shown to have strong antioxidant activity. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association compared the antioxidant capacity of over ten types of natural sweeteners, and only blackstrap and dark molasses showed higher antioxidant capacity than date sugar [7].

Health Benefits of Date Sugar

As date sugar is very similar to whole dates in terms of nutrient content and antioxidant capacity, the health benefits of date sugar are likely to mirror the health benefits of whole dates. Minerals like potassium and magnesium play an important role in keeping your heart healthy, while antioxidants are thought to promote longevity and provide protection against the development of a wide range of chronic diseases. [8, 9].

So, Is Date Sugar a Healthy Sweetener?

To sum up, date sugar is a whole food sweetener that contains plenty of fiber, minerals and antioxidants, just like whole dates. As regular sugar is highly processed and virtually devoid of any vitamins and minerals, date sugar is definitely a more nutritious alternative to regular sugar. That said, date sugar is a significant source of simple carbohydrates and calories, so you should use it with caution, just like all other sweeteners.

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