If you haven't already heard, I'm so happy to be the one to tell you: There is research that shows a dramatic improvement in labor progress for many women who consume date fruit. One group of women had 6 dates a day beginning at 36 weeks gestation and the other group had none. (Fun side note in the research article. In Jordan date fruit is known to improve labor, so they had a difficult time finding women to recruit for the non-date group!)
The study wasn't huge, but big enough to take seriously. And when you hear the results, you will also take it seriously. Like, seriously seriously.
The full study text can be found here, “The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery”. But here's the cool part:
“The women who consumed date fruit had significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers (3.52 cm vs 2.02 cm, p < 0.0005), and a significantly higher proportion of intact membranes (83% vs 60%, p = 0.007). Spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of those who consumed dates, compared with 79% women in the non-date fruit consumers (p = 0.024). Use of prostin/oxytocin was significantly lower in women who consumed dates (28%), compared with the non-date fruit consumers (47%) (p = 0.036). The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510 min vs 906 min, p = 0.044).”
No big deal, just a labor that's THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY SIX minutes shorter.
Pretty cool, huh?
There are also some other fantastic studies coming out, like this one, which looks at “The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Cervical Ripening in Nulliparous Women” (basically, how juiced up the cervix is for first-time moms who consume dates). Another study compared “The Efficacy of Dates and Oxytocin in the Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage” and found that dates managed postpartum hemorrhage BETTER than intramuscular oxytocin/pitocin.
DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION!?
I've been teaching this in my birth classes since 2012, when I first heard about it. I even provide dates at the snack table. But in the past four years, I've heard of a lot of date fatigue among my students. Some women just don't like date fruit to begin with, while others tire quickly. Dates are super sweet and six ends up being a LOT to ingest every day.
SO! I've curated 10 recipes from across the web and tried them all out. I'm also including links to nutrition information so you don't go crazy and accidentally consume 1,000 calories in one sitting. Some of these recipes are so delicious that it's possible.
This became my own personal episode of Iron Chef, secret ingredient: DATE FRUIT.
Unfortunately, they've never used dates on their show. Don't worry. Chef Holly is here to fill in.
If you're ready to get experimenting, order a big ol' bag from Amazon (or this gets expensive fast!). I didn't have that foresight and had to pick some up from the local grocery store. I spent $30 on just the dates for this article.
The wrapped dates
The party staple, the pot-luck guarantee, the first thing you order off of the Tapas menu. Unless your culture, religion or diet precludes bacon, bacon-wrapped dates are likely a sure hit. (And if you don't eat pork, I included turkey-bacon versions.)
I found three awesome variations to make date consumption a delight. A Dates-in-a-Blanket delight.
Bacon Wrapped Dates with Cream Cheese
You can see the original recipe and source at Susannah's Kitchen.
Starting off rather simple here, but do not underestimate the flavor this packs. Rolling the bacon-wrapped dates in brown sugar makes this candy-like. It was definitely very sweet (dates are sweet on their own!) which is likely what kept me from eating the entire pan. Not a bad thing.
Bacon Wrapped Dates with a Honey Balsamic Reduction
You can see the original recipe and source at Honey and Birch.
This recipe involves goat cheese, almonds and an amazing balsamic vinegar reduction. A reduction that I managed to destroy somehow. I ended up with a Honey Balsamic mass stuck to the bottom of my pan.
Luckily, I happened to have some Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze that worked just fine. I did chip pieces of the reduction from my pan to taste it. It was like candy. Mmmmm.
Prosciutto Wrapped Goat-Cheese Stuffed Dates
You can see the original recipe and source at Recipe Runner.
Now we're getting fancy, y'all. Expanding out beyond bacon and into the world of Prosciutto. (Prosciutto is off limits when pregnant, I know. The concern is that cold meats can contain listeria, which is rare but serious for pregnant women. However, I tweaked this recipe by sticking it in the oven to kill off any harmful bacteria. The goat cheese is also made safe by cooking, or by purchasing pasteurized varieties. Cook your conscience and remember I'm not a medical professional.)
When it was uncooked, it was fantastic. Had a lovely melty texture due to the cream cheese and goat cheese mixed together. Cooked, it was also amazing. It crisped the prosciutto and made the cheese even better.
I liked how the prosciutto wasn't as salty as bacon and easier to bite into. The subtle flavor from the Thyme really made this one stand out.
The demands on the body during pregnancy can make many women crave sweets. Sweets = calories. The body is like, “Yas, bitch, give me 10,000 kcals a day.” Of course, in our modern society, sweets are readily available.
High calorie foods are precious when you're having to work for them like a hunter or gatherer. But when you can waddle to the nearest convenience store and get a king size Hershey's bar, it can be a problem. So I HAD to include some date-based desserts.
Satisfy those sweet-tooths (sweet teeth? Maybe.) and know you're carving minutes off your labor.
(Tastes better than it looks. I promise.)
Original source for this recipe is from Jay's Baking Me Crazy.
It feels a little silly calling this a recipe. It's just hot water and dates all blended up. However, I was amazed at how the process made the paste so fine. This is great if it's the texture of dates that makes date consumption a chore for you.
This paste was life-changing on toast. I might have had three. I feel no shame.
Nutrition information listed here.
Raw Bananas with Chocolate Sauce (Cacao Free)
You can see the original recipe on Shine With Nature.
Oh, this was good. It really feels like a treat, like I was getting away with something. My kids also LOVED this one. We made ours with cocoa powder because carob powder reminds me of the cookies my mother used to
trick me with feed me as a child. Perhaps you can opt for Carob if you don't have emotional baggage to unpack.
We also tried a version with vanilla almond milk instead of water, which gave it a fuller flavor. It was delicious cold the next day. Like, eat-it-straight-from-the-jar delicious.
This recipe is from Lovely Crafty Home.
I was skeptical of this one, I confess. I had my own trendy ride on the paleo bandwagon a few years ago. I remember forcing so many non-dessert foods into the dessert category. I can convince myself they're treats, but my kids don't lie. They would hate every Avocado Pudding or Black Bean Brownie I put in front of them.
But THIS ONE WINS. The kids loved them. They even begged me to make them again as soon as we ran out. I was lucky to nab a photo before we ate the last one.
To be truthful, the ratio of dates to servings is low. You're only getting a little more than one date for each fudgesicle. But hey, it counts towards your total. Or eat five fudgesicles. I won't tell.
Nutrition information is here for you, my sweets-loving friend.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Mousse Stuffed Dates
blame this one on thank Deryn at Running on Real Food for this recipe.
The richest, most decadent bite ever. A fantastic combination of coconut, peanut butter, dates and chocolate. Guh. I die.
They were a little labor intensive but not difficult. I would love to make these up for a party some time, or as a holiday gift to someone I really, really like.
They were soooper rich and needed some milk to wash them down. Later I threw one into the blender with my protein powder and almond milk – THAT was a genius move. It tasted amaze-balls.
I used this chocolate bar from Trader Joe's. It ended up being a little too bitter for this recipe. I wish I had opted for a lighter option. It didn't stop me from eating three.
Nutrition information here, but it's probably better if you don't look.
Many of my students will buy a box of LÄRABARs to get their date allotment in. In fact, I did find several recipes for home-made varieties of Larabars. However, the easier alternative was to make date balls. And man, I found some good recipes.
And of course this scene was playing in my mind the entire two hours I made them.
Healthy Chocolate and Coconut Bliss Balls *snort*
This recipe was so easy to make. It took me ten minutes to mix it all up and roll them into balls. They weren't too sweet but had a nice earthy taste. I loved the hazelnuts and coconut together. They were even better the next day when the flavors settled into each other.
(Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about? You go spend two days making a million recipes using the same ingredient. Then get back to me when you're also a nerdy expert.)
No Bake Coconut Date Energy Bites
Head over to SweetPhi to see the original recipe.
While really delicious, these were a mess. The balls themselves were really sticky and a challenge to form. Coating them in the coconut was a necessity just to make them manageable.
The texture for eating was really nice, though. I did love the flavor of the extra coconut coating. They were even better after a day in the fridge. (I'm eating one now. shhhhh.)
Peanut Butter Cookie Date Bites
This simple recipe comes from Cassie at Back to Her Roots.
It's a great, no-fuss blend of dates and peanuts. The outcome is like a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. I also learned a great tip for making date-balls, in general. Using damp hands to handle the balls makes it faster and easier. (My inner 14-yr-old boy just guffawed)
Cooking all day will make anyone slap happy. I wasn't even drinking.
If you want a quick referral list for all of these recipes (plus others!), follow my Pinterest board “Date Fruit Recipes”.