What they are: Fruits from the date palm tree. Dates can be eaten fresh, but unless you live in a region that grows them (such as southern California or the Middle East), you’ll usually find them dried. They’re sticky and chewy and taste a bit like caramel.
Best uses: In smoothies or homemade nut milks, where it’s easy to purée them in the blender.
Is it better for you? “Dates are a whole food, so they actually contribute nutrients, particularly fiber, to the food they sweeten,” Begun says. One 20-calorie date contains about a gram of fiber—not much, but it’s better than other sweeteners, which have none. (But don’t get too excited about the small dose. Many of the foods table sugar is added to already contain fiber.) Dates also have small amounts of calcium and potassium.