New Year's Challenge: Small Changes (Day Five)

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Happy New Year! It’s 2019 (hard to believe) and we’ve come to the final stop on this brief, small changes journey. Sugar. You knew this was coming. After all, this is a challenge. Well, here we go. Sugar is in practically everything, even things it really doesn’t belong in, and is sneaky. It can go by a lot of different names (I’ll do a separate post on that another day). We know that ordinary sugar is addictive and can lead to all sorts of health complications like high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease and all of these things are linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. So, cutting back on sugar, is a really important step towards optimal health. But, eliminating it completely is hard and, let’s face it, life shouldn’t be about complete deprivation. So, here’s a way to have your cake and eat it too.

Wanna date? No, not that kind of date. A Medjool date, silly!

Dates are nature’s power fruit and for good reason. They are a natural sweetener and great sugar alternative. You can eat them plain, buy them rolled in oat flour or shredded coconut for snacking, blend them in a smoothie, soak them in boiling water (or some bourbon...) to use when baking or cooking. The possibilities are limitless. And just like all the other foods and swaps from this challenge, dates are loaded with health benefits:

  1. Decrease cholesterol (when you eat them you increase your insoluble and soluble fiber intake, which can help lower your (bad, LDL) cholesterol

  2. Prevent and relieve constipation--prunes aren’t the only ones up to the task! (thanks again to the high fiber content, these are a smart choice when you are aiming to keep things moving along)

  3. Natural energy booster (high in natural sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose which the body easily processes and utilizes for energy)--snack on them plain or throw a few in a smoothie when you’re looking for a healthy energy boost or afternoon pick me up!

  4. Natural sweetener (these really do taste like candy, but they’re completely unprocessed)

  5. Boost bone health (high in calcium and phosphorus which work together to build strong teeth and bones

So, if you’re aiming to eliminate added sugar (which is a great resolution), but find yourself desperate for something sweet, instead of reaching for a highly processed cookie or scoop of ice cream, pop a date and reap some of the many nutritional benefits. Just like all sweet things, savor and enjoy them, but be cautious not to overdo it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the small changes challenges and learned some new information about cacao, salt, cinnamon, quinoa, and dates. Keep these in mind when you’re grocery shopping and cooking and see where you can add them in to reap all the amazing health benefits they provide. And now that you know how great they are individually for you, imagine what they can do when you combine them! Not literally in a pot together, that would be gross. But, you know, throughout your day, in separate meals and snacks. Cheers to 2019!