Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ian's Nutrition - Dates

Okay, I don't want to be preachy about food here. I just want to share some of the things I have been discovering about food and how it is working for me. I find it best when people present things in a way that makes others want to investigate it themselves. Also food is so subjective and the human body so forgiving that what works for some doesn't work for all. But when I find something yummy and handy it seems like a no brainer to share.

Dried dates. Why dried? Well I don't have access to fresh dates, have never eaten a fresh date, and therefore can't comment. But dried dates? Well, I have been there and let me tell you, yum.

I discovered dried dates (from now on referred to simply as dates) not that long ago on one of my many trips to our local Bulk Barn bulk food store. I love that place, as it is full of amazing healthy food choices and candy. What more could I want. Plus the prices are decent and the lack of wasted packaging is so great.

Anyway, I was picking up some grain or flour or something and saw that dates were on sale. Fine I said, I'll grab some dates and give them a try. I had previously tried them years ago as a kid and hated them (I think, I can't really remember). But I thought they might make a nice healthy snack, and I think I am on to something that a huge portion of the world is already privy to.

First off, dates are sweet. Like raisins and so many other dried fruits, dates are mostly sugar. So eating them by the handful is like cramming cups of sugar into your body. Not a great idea. But I find their sweetness really limits the amount I can eat in a sitting. The standard serving size is 100 g or maybe 1/2 a cup. This packs in anywhere from 200-300 calories. But I really have to dole out that portion size into a few dates here and there and frankly, as an amateur athlete  that level of caloric intake isn't that scary to me. And as a food source while training, dates are the perfect size. Throw 5-10 in a zip lock baggy and pop a couple when you are feeling low.

But what else makes a date good. I mean sugar can come from any fruit or drink or bar, so that can't be the sole reason I like them. Well, my basic internet research (and yes, I did at least look up quite a few web sites) shows that dates are rich in fiber (never a bad thing), numerous Vitamins (A, C, E, K), the B Vitamins (great for athletes) and a great source of iron and potassium and a moderate amount of protein. So not only great to have while training, but an excellent recovery food as well.

Now dates are low in sodium, which if you are eating after training isn't a huge deal, but it is something to know about if you are training in hot weather and require a little extra salt to keep the muscles working well. Normally we get plenty in our sports drinks though. Low sodium is a nice thing if you aren't into heavy training or have high blood pressure (just watch the potassium if you take blood pressure meds).

Okay so enough of my new found love of dates. Give them a try though, they really are a great food source, especially for physical activities like hiking, running, or cycling. They travel well, satisfy the sweet cravings and also get me through a hard day at work. But like any food eat in moderation and enjoy. And when buying make sure they aren't treated with sulphur or packed in syrup.

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