Dates and Diabetes: What You Need to Know


When you have diabetes, choosing what to eat can be difficult. When it comes to dates and diabetes, you need to know all the information to make the right choice. Have you wondered if dates and diabetes are a safe and healthy combination?

In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about dates and diabetes, including:

  • What are dates and why are they nutritious? 
  • Is it okay for diabetics to eat dates?
  • How many dates can diabetics eat in a day?
  • Which other dry fruits are good for diabetes?

Dates are sweet fruits from the date palm tree. You mostly see them as dry fruits available as a snack or treat. However, because they are so sweet, many believe they are not an option for diabetics. Under the right circumstances, dates will not raise blood glucose levels and can be consumed with diabetes in moderation. Dates are nutritious because they offer a lot of health benefits. In this article, we will talk about how dates can be a safe option for a sweet snack, even if you are diabetic.

Is it okay for diabetics to eat dates?

Dates Nutritional Content​

If you are diabetic and you want to decide on a snack, you might want to look for foods that will not raise your blood sugar. It should also have a low carbohydrate content. This is true when it comes to dates’ sugar, and the way dates and blood sugar interact. When consumed in moderation, dates will not raise glucose levels and will not harm your body. When it comes to dates’ sugar, the following information is key to know:

  • Fresh dates contain between 13.6–24.1 g of fructose per 100 grams.
  • Dried dates contain between 14.1–36.8 g of fructose per 100 grams.

One date (8g) has the following nutritional content:

NUTRIENT NUTRITIONAL CONTENT
Calories
22.6
Protein
0.196 g
Fat
0.031 g
Carbohydrates
6 g
Fiber
0.64 g
Sugar
5.07 g
Calcium
3.12 mg
Magnesium
3.44 mg
Phosphorus
4.96 mg
Potassium
52.5 mg
Folate
1.52 µg

Carbohydrates constitute around 70% of the energy in dates. Considering that one date has only 6 grams of carbohydrates, you can safely eat a couple for a snack or two in one meal. Their high fructose content gives them their characteristic sweetness. Dates contain a high fiber content, which helps slow down the absorption of glucose. You can get almost half of your daily value (DV) for fiber on one large date! It can also improve insulin levels. Fiber can also help lower blood cholesterol levels by removing cholesterol from the gut. 

Aside from carbohydrates, dates have small amounts of protein and fat. They contain several micronutrients. These include selenium, copper, potassium, and magnesium. They also have moderate amounts of manganese, iron, phosphorus, and calcium. They are important for maintaining good bones. They also keep your heart beating and promote cognitive health.

Dates are considered highly antioxidant because of their phytochemicals, which prevent inflammation and cell damage.  Antioxidants help prevent damage from free radicals, unstable molecules, and harmful chemicals. These can cause tissue inflammation, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Dates contain compounds that help reduce the risk for oxidative damage due to oxidation. Flavonoids are known to reduce inflammation and help improve insulin levels. They also protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Carotenoids help keep the heart and eyes healthy. Phenolic acid also helps stop inflammation. It can help prevent heart diseases. Vitamin A in dates can also protect your eyes.

People with diabetes tend to be vulnerable to inflammation, eye damage, and heart disease. Eating dates in moderation can help prevent these conditions. It can also save your body from nerve damage.

Dates Glycemic Index and Dates Glycemic Load

The glycemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. The number is used to determine how quickly the food you eat affects your blood glucose levels. High glycemic foods are those that contain a lot of sugar and starch. When you have diabetes, it is useful to understand what the GI level is. This will help you know what carbohydrates to include in your diet. Dates contain a GI between 44 and 53, which is considered low.

Glycemic load (GL) is a formula used to determine how different portion size affects the blood glucose levels. The formula is GL= GI x carbohydrate grams/100. Glycemic load is sometimes believed to be more accurate. This is  because it helps determine the real glycemic effect depending on the portion size you eat. The serving size of two dates has about 36 grams of carbohydrates. It also has a GL of 18, which is considered medium.

If you wonder whether dates are good for diabetes, studies have shown that low glycemic index foods can improve glycemic control and lower lipid levels in people with diabetes. Diabetics should also know how to do carbohydrate counting to understand how much insulin to infuse and whether food may raise their blood sugar levels.

Using sugar substitutes is important when you have diabetes. So, why not try something natural? The sugar in dates is fructose, which is naturally found in all fruits. They make dates very sweet and almost caramel-like, so using them as a sweetener may be a good idea to avoid using regular sugar.

One study shows that using dates can substitute sugar or other sweet additives. This  results in a lower higher glucose load. You may not even need the same amount of sugar that the recipe calls for. This is because dates are usually sweeter in flavor.

If you have diabetes, you should avoid food items with added sugars, fats, and sodium. These include sugar-sweetened beverages and  processed meat. Honey, agave, maple syrup, and pastries should also be avoided. Eating dates is a good alternative for these sweets.

How many dates can diabetics eat in a day?

Studies have shown that dates can be consumed in moderation. We recommend eating two dates per meal at most. You can accompany them with a source of protein, like Greek low-fat yogurt. Eating them together can slow down glucose increase. Remember that food recommended for diabetics include lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. The sugar in dates  is not necessarily a bad thing. The amount of carbohydrates and fiber you should eat to keep diabetes under control vary. However, there are some guidelines to follow. In one study, a group of type 2 diabetics consumed three dates daily for 16 weeks. After that they had a significant decrease in total cholesterol and no increase in blood sugar or hemoglobin A1c. 

Three dates (72g) contain about 199.5 calories, 54g carbohydrates, and 4.83g of fiber. The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates per meal is around 15-30 grams. So an appropriate amount of dates per day for diabetics is two to four. You can also mix your dates with a protein source, such as low-fat Greek yogurt or a protein shake. We recommend limiting the number of dates per snack to one and two or three per meal. For best glycemic control, make sure not exceed four small dates a day. 

When it comes to dates vs. sugar, dates are a good option to sweeten your foods naturally. You can mix them with water and boil them down to make syrup. The date syrup’s  glycemic index and load will be the same. This is because you are not adding any new sugar, just the natural amounts of fructose from the fruit. We recommend adding a splash of the syrup to your smoothies, juices, and even coffee. It is a more natural source of sugar that you can use, even with diabetes!

dates and diabetes: what you need to know

Which other dry fruits are good for diabetes?

There may be times when you want to find other dry fruits to mix with your date. You may also want to substitute dates when these are not available. In that case, you should be mindful of their glycemic index and load. By nature, the best dry fruits are almonds, dates, walnuts, raisins, and pistachios. This is because they contain a high fiber content.

The glycemic index of some common dry fruits are found below. Remember that GI has a scale of 0 to 100. This means the lower the GI, the better:

FRUIT GLYCEMIC INDEX
Dates
53
Apples
29
Apricots
30
Peaches
35
Plums
29
Figs
61
Raisins
59
Prunes
38

Before you make a decision you should also take into account the nutrient content of the dry fruit. In general, fruits lose their nutrients when they are dried, unlike dates. Only some dry fruits, like the plums, prunes, and raisins, are about the same in terms of nutritional content. 

As with dates, whatever dry fruit you choose, accompany it with a source of protein. This will help slow down absorption. In doing so, it will prevent a spike in blood sugar levels. We also recommend limiting your dry fruit intake to around 30 grams per serving.

Are dates good for diabetics? Yes, dates can be good for diabetes! However, you should keep in mind their nutritional content, glycemic levels, and serving size. We recommend eating only about three dates per day to be safe. Make sure to accompany them with high-protein food. You can also eat them with other dried fruits, like plums, prunes, and raisins. However, be sure to check their carbohydrate content too.

Summary

Dates are a very nutritious fruit, full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. You should be aware of how many to eat, how to eat them, and what other dried fruits to include in your diet. Dates and diabetes can be a good match if you pay careful attention.

Scientific Information

  • Antioxidants – compounds that help fight free radicals, chemicals, and harmful toxins that cause damage in the body.
  • Daily Value – percent of food a person should consume based on a 2,000 calorie diet for healthy adults.
  • Flavonoids – a group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Carotenoids – pigments in plants, algae, and fruits that are yellow, red, and orange and have antioxidant properties.
  • Phenolic Acid – a type of phytochemical found in fruits and vegetables that is antioxidant.
  • Glycemic index – the value assigned to foods based on how slowly or quickly they raise blood sugar levels.
  • Glycemic load – a measure of the amount of carbohydrate in a portion of food along with how quickly it can raise your blood glucose levels.
Written by:

Juliana Tamayo, MS

Nutritionist

Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian
Share:
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on email
Email
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on tumblr
Tumblr

Related post

dates
Thank you for subscribing to our 7DVARIETY Daily Newsletter
Trusted Source

PubMed Central

Go to source