How Does Date Sugar Compare to Popular Sweetener Alternatives?

Date Sugar vs. Popular Sweetener Alternatives

There is a growing interest in replacing sugars such as white, brown, beet, coconut, stevia, monk fruit, and maple sugar with date sugar, but what are its benefits? What makes it a truly appealing replacement and not just another option for bakers and cooks that are dealing with diet or allergy restrictions? Is there something about the taste of date sugar that heightens the recipe, or a consistency to it that rivals that of more traditional sugars? Perhaps. To begin with, however, date sugar is essentially finely powdered dates and as a consequence shares most of the merits of dates. Most importantly, it is not technically a sugar. That fact alone attracts many people. While the consistency of date sugar can be a little odd in some recipes the drawbacks of date sugar are slight —it is slightly less sweet and does not melt or caramelize all the way. However, despite these minor difficulties, date sugar has more nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals — plus the overall benefits of whole dates—than the previously mentioned sugars (1). While these benefits are small in the amounts of sugar normally consumed it still makes a difference for people who need to count every nutrient and calorie (2). 

Date Lady Date Sugar vs Other Alternatives

Date Sugar: The Nutrition

Dates are full of more natural sugar compared to other fruits, being nearly 80% sugar. However, they also have fiber which helps digest the sugar safely, and, like all fruits, they include vitamins and nutrients. Despite the high percentage of sugar, dates do not seem to cause negative weight gain, spike blood sugar, increase cholesterol, or cause any other negative effects even when large amounts of dates are consumed per day. Yes, dates are sweet, but it is the natural sweetness of fruit, and because date sugar is just ground up dates it has all the nutrients of the actual fruit; vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber (3). The potassium and magnesium can play a large part in maintaining the heart’s health, and antioxidants can promote longevity and protect the body against the development of many chronic diseases. Date sugar is especially high in Beta Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect against cataracts and macular degeneration (4). Also high in tannins, date sugar helps keep your digestive system in good health and fights infection. Its vitamins and minerals include Vitamin A, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, and Phosphorous, which all help maintain the balance of bones, blood, and electrolytes. In summary, date sugar can help protect the heart and brain against inflammation, improves the strength of bones, keeps the digestive system healthy, and over all strengthens and nourishes physical health (5). These are all good benefits to have, but what of it? Many people will argue that few people realistically eat sugar in large enough quantities for these benefits to manifest themselves (6) , but nonetheless, the nutrition is still there and is often a better alternative than other popular sugars (7).

Date Sugar Nutrition

Date Sugar vs. White Sugar

White sugar, for example, is a highly processed sugar that is devoid of vitamins or minerals, and higher in calories. Date sugar, on the other hand, has almost a third less of calories than white sugar and contains more fiber and potassium. While it is a little less sweet than white sugar and will not melt as 8 well, date sugar adds nutrition as well as sweetens a recipe. The same can be said when comparing date sugar to beet sugar. While beet sugar is not completely the same as white sugar, they have nearly identical chemical compositions and can be used almost interchangeably with each other. Thus, changing a recipe from beet sugar to date sugar will have almost the same effect as changing it from white sugar. Date sugar is also less sweet when it comes to brown sugar, although a one on one replacement generally works (9). Both sugars are high in calcium, calories, carbohydrates, and sugar, but date sugar has more  nutrients, including thiamin, riboflavin, and folate, and, once again, is a good source of dietary fiber and  potassium (10).

Date Sugar vs. Popular Sugar Alternatives

For healthier sugars such as coconut sugar, stevia, monk fruit, and maple sugar, date sugar can still be more beneficial and still has more fiber and potassium. Once again, the main difference between them and date sugar is that date sugar will not melt completely or caramelize, but there are some nutritional differences as well. Date sugar has less calories and carbohydrates than coconut sugar and has more calcium and potassium. Stevia has zero calories and therefore has no effect on blood sugar (11) (12). While it was considered as a pretty healthy alternative, studies are beginning to discover that stevia has a deleterious effect on the gut microbes. Date sugar, on the other hand, is healing to the digestive system and even though it has some calories, has not appeared to affect blood sugar negatively (13). When it comes to monk fruit sweetener, date sugar has nutrients and calories that benefits the whole body, while monk fruit passes through the body fairly fast (14). The mogrosides in monk fruit are used for energy by gut microbes and the rest of the sweetener is simply excreted into urine. Maple sugar is sweeter than date sugar and, having nutrients and antioxidants, is perhaps the closest in benefits to date sugar (15). Like dates, it helps prevent blood sugar spikes, supports the immune and anti-inflammatory systems, and keep bones healthy. However, maple sugar is low in potassium and has no fiber, which can cause difficulty in consuming too much and may cause negative weight gain (16).

Why We Love Date Sugar & How to Use it

Compared to these sugars, there is something special about date sugar: the fact that it is ground up fruit and not technically a sugar. Besides sweetening recipes, date sugar also makes food healthier, however slight, in a way that no other sugar can quite accomplish. Rich in potassium and fiber, it is easier to digest than other sugars and offers a myriad of nutrients and minerals that benefit bones, protects the brain against inflammation, and more without any of the negative impacts of most sugars (17). The best way to use date sugar is in baking. Swap for white sugar 1:1 and decrease the dry ingredients called for in a recipe by 25% as the fiber in dates tends to soak up the moisture in your recipe!

Check out these recipes using date sugar!

How to use date sugar 

  13. Gut Microbes, 2015. 

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