Dates are well known for their excellent nutritional value and high iron content. This fleshy, wrinkled fruit of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origin is usually available in dried form.
People with anemia often add dates to desserts, smoothies and other dishes. However, due to its natural sweetness, people with diabetes often wonder if it is safe for them.
There is also concern about the effect of dates on blood sugar. However, contrary to popular belief, you can eat dates in moderation without causing your blood sugar to spike.
Let’s find out how dates help manage blood sugar despite being a natural sweetener.
Dates – An overview
Dates are a sweet and versatile fruit that has many impressive health benefits. The high iron content of dates helps to increase hemoglobin levels in people with anemia.
Dates are also rich in health-protecting antioxidants, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin K. However, they can be high in carbohydrates, with 100 grams of dates containing almost 75 grams of carbohydrates. This can be a concern for people with diabetes.
Dates are not empty calorie foods like artificial sweeteners. Instead, dates contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar.
The fiber in dates slows the digestion and absorption rate of carbohydrates. As a result, it prevents an increase in blood sugar. If you meet hypoglycemia symptoms (low blood sugar), dates are an ideal snack for an immediate energy boost.
Do dates raise blood sugar?
To determine if dates raise blood sugar levels, look at their glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) of foods tells you how quickly the sugar in foods is absorbed into your bloodstream. Your bloodstream absorbs high GI foods faster than low GI foods, causing blood sugar levels to rise rapidly.
A few common varieties of dates have a glycemic index between 44 and 53, which is neither too high nor too low. Therefore, dates are less likely to cause blood sugar to rise when consumed in moderate amounts. Additionally, a to study shows that dates are beneficial for glycemic control in diabetic patients.
Another to study shows that the consumption of the five common dates (Fara’d, Lulu, Bo ma’an, Dabbas and Khalas) does not lead to a significant increase in postprandial blood sugar. However, overconsumed dates will not guarantee the same effects.
Glycemic load (GL) is another factor to consider. It measures the increase in blood sugar based on the number of carbohydrates the food contains in an average serving. Here, the glycemic load of dates is around 18, which is somewhere between a high GL and a low GL. So, if eaten in moderation, they are safe even for people with diabetes.
Note from The Fitness Freak
Dates have a low glycemic index and medium glycemic load, so they don’t tend to cause large spikes in blood sugar when eaten in moderation. However, if you eat too many dates at once, the high carb content can spike your blood sugar.
Ways to Consume Dates for Better Blood Sugar Management
Eating dates can help you stay energized and full for longer thanks to the fiber and natural sugars they contain. Try snacking on some soaked almonds or dried dates before or during a workout or in the afternoon when you might start to feel sluggish.
Remember that dates are high in calories and carbohydrates, so moderation is essential. For example, if you have diabetes, 2-3 appointments a day is usually fine, but eating more than that or adding other sugary snacks to your diet can cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Here are some healthy ways to consume dates:
- Eat a few dates with a handful of nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, to balance out the energy boost.
- You can skip the sugar or the other sweetener and use dates to provide enough sweetness. For example, add a chopped date or two to oatmeal for a very nutritious breakfast.
- Mix low carb fruit with some dates for a refreshing and nutritious smoothie. It can be a dessert or a sweet drink for people with diabetes.
- You can eat the dates as is, add them to salads, or make a date puree for shakes and smoothies.
You should not experience a peak of blood sugar levels to eat dates as long as you moderate your intake to 2-3 appointments per day.
If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, or have problems regulating blood sugar, be careful about how many dates you eat. It’s also important to remember that dates come in different sizes, so take that into account when portioning out your snack.
Eating too many dates at once can lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar, especially in people with diabetes.