Pelster's Magazine

Myth: Dates are just sugar?!

Mythos: Datteln sind auch nur Zucker?!

Sugar

The term sugar is used simultaneously for many different types of sugar. Classic household sugar consists of sucrose, a disaccharide, and is obtained from sugar beet or sugar cane. The types of sugar differ in their sweetening power. Sucrose is assumed to have a sweetening power of 100%, of which pure glucose from glucose has a sweetening power of 70%, fruit sugar from fructose has a sweetening power of around 120% and lactose has a sweetening power of 30% (1).

Sugar also comes in different forms and is intended for different purposes. There is the classic white sugar, but also brown sugar, sugar cubes, powdered sugar, rock candy, sugar granules and many more (1).

The production of sugar consists of a multi-stage process in which the sugar beet is first crushed, the raw juice is extracted, cleaned and concentrated. This is followed by crystallization, which is carried out several times depending on the degree of purity (1).

In food production, sugar is used on the one hand to sweeten products, but on the other hand also to keep flavors fresh and round off or to stabilize and preserve foods (2).


Dates

Dates, on the other hand, are the fruit of the date palm and ripen until they are ready for harvest. They are then cleaned, sorted and freed of insects. They are then washed and sorted again so that they can then be treated with heat. Drying allows the moisture content in the dates to be adjusted, after which they are pasteurized and packaged (3).

Fresh dates have a high proportion of phenolic compounds (e.g. flavorings and colorings), antioxidants and carotenoids, although the antioxidants and carotenoids are lost in the drying process, but the phenols are formed in greater quantities. Fresh dates also have a higher moisture content and therefore a lower sugar content. In dried dates, this ratio is reversed and the sugar content is higher (3).

In addition to dried and fresh dates, there are many other date products, including date paste, date powder, date syrup, date juice, liquid date sugar, and date-based jam and sweets. Processing produces by-products such as date kernels or press cake, which can be used, for example, to make alcohol or animal feed (3).

Dates are very high in energy, with almost 300 kcal per 100 g. However, they are not just made up of sugar, but also contain a lot of fiber, B vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium (4). They provide the body with more than 10 minerals in total, with 100 g of dates covering over 15% of the recommended daily requirement of these minerals (5). Dates also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is present in 1 g per 100 g of dates. The body converts it into melatonin, the sleep hormone, which means that dates can help you fall asleep (4).


Nutrient comparison


Groceries

Raw dates

Dried dates

Sugar white

Quantity (g)

100

100

100

Energy (kcal)

280.6

278.4

405.6

Protein (g)

2

1.9

-

Fat (g)

0.5

0.5

-

Carbohydrates (g)

65

65.1

99.8

Total sugar (g)

63

65.1

99.8

Dietary fiber (g)

8.7

8.7

-

Vitamin C (mg)

3

3

-

Vitamin A (µg)

6

25

-

Niacin (mg)

2

1.9

-

Calcium (mg)

65

63

1

Potassium (mg)

650

650

2

Magnesium (mg)

50

50

-

Iodine (µg)

1

1

-

Iron (mg)

1.9

1.9

0.3

Zinc (mg)

0.3

0.4

-

Sodium (mg)

5

35

-

Phosphorus (mg)

60

57

-

Copper (mg)

0.3

0.3

-

Differences and similarities

The sugar consists of almost 100% carbohydrates or sugar and has more than 400 kilocalories per 100 g. According to the nutritional analysis, the only other nutrients present are calcium, potassium and iron. However, these are present in significantly smaller quantities than in dates (Table 1). The types of sugar contained in table sugar are mainly sucrose, glucose and fructose as disaccharides and monosaccharides. The breakdown of these short-chain sugar molecules during digestion happens very quickly, which means that the sugar can be transported quickly into the blood. This causes a rapid rise in blood sugar and then a short time later, blood sugar falls again. This quickly leads to cravings (2).

Dates, on the other hand, consist of far more ingredients than just sugar. In addition to protein and fat, they also have a relatively high fiber content (Table 1). This fiber ensures that the volume of food is increased, which means that satiety lasts longer. This also leads to a slower rise in blood sugar levels and a gentler fall, which means that the body is supplied with energy more evenly (2). Dates are also rich in micronutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin A, with dried dates containing four times as much vitamin A as raw dates. Minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium are also present in larger quantities in both types of dates. The sodium content in dried dates is also seven times higher than in raw dates (Table 1).


conclusion

Commercially available sugar and all its variants have one main ingredient and that is sugar. Dates are also made up of almost two thirds sugar, but this is broken down more slowly, allows blood sugar levels to rise more gently and thus prevents cravings. Dates also have many other ingredients that have positive health properties. In addition to antioxidants and phenols, dates are rich in micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. - This means that unlike sugar, dates are real nutrient packages!

Sources

(1) Maschkowski, G., Lobitz, R., Rempe, C. (2022). Sugar. BfE. [online] https://www.bzfe.de/lebensmittel/lebensmittelkunde/zucker/ [last accessed: 21.12.2023]

(2) Consumer Center. (2023). What is sugar and how much is allowed? Consumer Center. [online] What is sugar and how much is allowed? | Verbraucherzentrale.de [last accessed: January 16, 2024].

(3) Ashraf, Z., Hamidi-Esfahani, Z. (2011). Date and date processing: a review. Food reviews international, 27(2), 101-133.

(4) Kreutz, H. (2023). Dates for sweet and savory dishes. Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE). [online] Dates for sweet and savory dishes- BZfE [last accessed: January 16, 2024].

(5) Al-Farsi, MA, Lee, CY (2008). Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 48(10), 877-887.

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