*written by Melanie Reese, Dietetic Intern University of MN – School of Public Health
Even though dates are sold next to and look similar to dried fruits such as prunes and raisins, dates are actually fresh fruits! Originally from the Middle East, dates grow on date palm trees and grow in dry climates. These fruits have an extremely long shelf life due to being adapted to grow in the desert.


Dates are naturally very sweet yet contain no added sugar and have a low glycemic index. They are also a good source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Dates are also high in antioxidants, which may protect the body and reduce risk of several diseases.

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes blood sugar levels to rise. Foods that have a high glycemic index cause blood sugar spikes which causes the body to produce more insulin. This can lead to drops in energy and mood. Over time, this cycle can lead to diabetes and other diseases. Examples of foods that have a high glycemic index are white sugar and sugary foods like pop. 

Mackenthun’s is selling Joolies™ California Superfruit Medjool Dates for $6.49. These organic dates are sold whole and pit free. They are wonderful to snack on plain. Another simple way to enjoy dates is to remove the seed and stuff the date with a nut butter. Almond butter pairs especially well with the flavor of the dates. 

The two types of dates commonly sold in the US are Medjool dates and Noor Deglet Dates. Medjool dates are sweeter, larger, and chewier than Noor Deglet Dates. Medjool dates are very sweet, so they are a great substitute for sugar when baking and cooking. There are many recipes online that use dates as a natural sweetener. You also may be able to replace date paste with white sugar in your favorite recipes. Choose soft dates and blend them with water in a blender to make a paste that blends easily into baked goods. Just make sure to remove the pit first! If your dates are hard you can soak them in warm water for a few hours first. This date paste can be used to replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for a ½ cup sugar, use ½ cup date paste. 

Date Squares

By Ricardo Cuisine



  • 2 1/2 cups (425 g) Medjool dates, pitted and chopped (lightly packed)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda


  • 1 3/4 cups (175 g) quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup (150 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (160 g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) semi-salted butter, softened


  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Line a 20-cm (8-inch) square baking dish with a strip of parchment paper, letting it hang over both sides. Butter the other two sides.


  1. In a pot, bring the dates, water, lemon juice, and brown sugar to a boil. Add the baking soda and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, or until the dates have fallen apart. Let cool.


  1. In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, and baking powder. Add the butter and stir to combine.
  2. Spread half the crisp in the baking dish and press firmly. Layer with the date mixture. Cover with the remaining crisp and press lightly. Bake for 55 minutes or until the crisp is golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack for 4 hours. Unmould and cut into 16 squares.