Dates, the Superfood

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The beautiful fall colors are gone and it is getting very cold. In Ayurveda this is known as a time of Vata. Fall and winter seasons are a time when our environment gets cold, dry, rough and windy- all of which are vata qualities. How do we feel in the fall and winter? Most of us are craving for warmth, wearing more layers, eating heavier foods and tend to have dry skin.  It is crucial to eat and live a vata balancing diet and lifestyle to counter the cold.

One of my favorite foods during this time of year is dates.  Apart from date chutney, I did not know how else they could be used in recipes until recently.  My inspiration stems from sweetening my toddler’s food without adding sugar to it. Jaggery is a great option too, but dates have many other benefits.

Ayurvedic Perspective

According to Ayurveda, dates are a rasayana, nutritive tonic, rejuvenator, immunity booster.

We would call it a superfood in the western world. Dates are a wonderful food to include if you are depleted and undernourished.  If you are trying to conceive, it will help nourish deep into the reproductive tissues for better function and chances of conception. During vata season, the heavy nature of dates helps keep us grounded. Consuming 2-3 sizable dates a day is plenty. Take caution though if you are diabetic. For those that are overweight or obese, best to avoid dates or occasionally eat them.

Recipe Ideas

Dates are Vata and Pitta pacifying.

They are cooling and heavy.

I noticed when using two dates daily in my son’s food, his constipation was completely gone! Too much information maybe, but elimination is a fundamental concept in Ayurveda indicating one’s health. Dates are great in fiber and they add bulk to stool. They are a great source of iron and recommended for those with anemia. Pediatricians emphasize how important iron plays a role after babies are weaned. The composition is unique as they are high in iron, but also work as a laxative because of its fiber content. When I make my son’s oatmeal (a blend of barley and other flattened grains), I boil water with two chopped up dates (pits removed).  I wait for them to become soft before adding the oatmeal and spices. I also use them in his pancakes to reduce slathering on maple syrup on top.

Date as Sugar Substitute

A week back, I made chocolate chip pancakes with a sprouted grain  pancake mix.  I was so confident that my son would love the chocolate chips! Turns out, I was shocked when he refused to eat even a piece. He kept throwing the pieces off of his high chair no matter how hard I tried to get it into his mouth. He loves my usual ayurvedic spiced pancakes, I guess he really become my little Ayurvedic child that I had hoped for!

I realized something. Perhaps, if we introduce and repeatedly try different, yet better options for our children, then they might just ease into wanting those more often than what we anticipated! It is nearly impossible to eliminate sugar in our diet, but if we can use better, nutritious alternatives then why not. Dates are wonderful to use in sweetening foods.

A popular Ayurvedic drink is Ojas Milk, with my recipe here.  Another great way to get dates in.

At night, after I put my son to bed, I like to make myself a cup of ojas milk. I sit in silence, sip on my ojas milk and just be. This most likely might change to herbal tea in the summer, but for now while it is brutally cold. ojas milk it is.

Some Benefits

Dates are great for U.T.Is because of their diuretic action. They take the inflammation down. I noticed if I go overboard and add more than two dates to ojas milk, I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

On the other hand, I make it point to consume more of them when I need to get rid of water retention. It works like a charm.

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