Can Diabetics Eat Dates?

Being a diabetic means that you have to say a big ‘NO’ to all things sugary and sweet. Many people with diabetes often wonder about whether or not this rule also applies to dates. Dates are the sweet fruits of the date palm tree and are typically available as a dried fruit. They can also be added to desserts and smoothies. Dates are naturally sweet, and due to this, there is a concern in people with diabetes about the impact this fruit will have on their blood sugar levels. Most people firmly believe that eating dates is a big no-no for diabetics. But, how much truth is there in this? Read on to find out about can diabetics eat dates.

Can Diabetics Eat Dates?

Dates are naturally sweet, even if you take a small bite. Dates contain fructose, which is the ordinary sugar found in most fruits. However, let us not forget that these sweet little fruits are a powerhouse of various nutrients, which makes them one of the best snacks for people, but only when consumed in moderation.

Take a look at the nutritional information for one average-sized Deglet Noor date, which is the most common type of dates that can be found in supermarkets.(1)

  • Total Calories: 20
  • Sugar: 4.5 grams
  • Total Fat: 0.03 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 5.33 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 0.6 grams
  • Protein: 0.17 grams
  • Potassium: 47 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 3 milligrams
  • Iron: 0.07 milligrams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.012 milligrams

Another commonly found variety of dates is the Medjool date, which also has similar nutritional content. These are usually bigger than the Deglet Noor dates.

In people with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is the biggest challenge. Diabetics are also advised to keep a close watch on how much carbohydrates they are consuming.

Since dates are high in carbs, there are many concerns about whether or not people with diabetes can have his fruit.

However, the fact is that when consumed in moderation, dates can prove to be extremely healthy for those with diabetes.(2) In fact, when you eat a single dried date, you are getting almost 2 grams of fiber, which is nearly eight percent of your daily recommended value.(3)

Dietary fiber is required by the body as it helps absorb carbohydrates at a slower pace. This is particularly important for people who have diabetes since the slower the carbs get digested, the less likely it is that their blood sugar levels will spike suddenly after eating.(4)

Dates contain vitamins and minerals, protein, and carbohydrates. Not only do they taste great, but they are also extremely beneficial to our health. Apart from being rich in dietary fiber, here are some other benefits of having dates for people with diabetes.

  1. Dates are High In Potassium: Dates are rich in potassium, which is an electrolyte that the body requires for maintaining good heart health. The body also needs potassium for building muscles. It is also the building block of proteins.(5) If you are deficient in potassium, then you can experience many symptoms such as muscle cramps to more severe conditions such as seizures. A study carried out by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found an association between low levels of potassium with increased levels of glucose and insulin in otherwise healthy adults.(6) Low levels of potassium combined with high levels of glucose and insulin are markers that doctors commonly link with diabetes. This is why it is all the more important to ensure that you are not deficient in potassium.
  2. Rich in Polyphenols: Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant substances that help protect the body from inflammation. Dates are a potent source of polyphenols as compared to other fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that a diet rich in polyphenols can help protect against diabetes. Not only can polyphenol-rich foods help prevent type 2 diabetes, but in people who already have diabetes, polyphenols can help manage the levels of blood glucose effectively.(7)
  3. Great Alternative To Sweets: Dates are low in calories and are full of natural sweetness. They are a good option for satisfying your sweet tooth, while also getting a healthy dose of the essential nutrients such as iron and vitamin B6.
  4. Great Replacement To Processed Sugars: People with diabetes can easily replace sugar, candies, or chocolate chips in their baking recipes with dates. This will ensure that you are getting natural sugars instead of refined and processed sugars.

Are There Are Risks Of Having Dates?

Dates do have a high sugar content as compared to the rest of the beneficial nutrients they contain. If you have diabetes and are trying to control your blood sugar levels, then you need to be mindful of your total sugar intake if you have dates.

It is good to eat dates in moderation. This is unlikely to increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. According to research, dates have a low glycemic index.(8)

Foods with a low glycemic index do not cause any dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. The study found that when had in moderation, dates do not cause any significant increase in blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes.

Conclusion

Even if you have diabetes, you can still enjoy having dates in moderation. Dates are rich in many essential nutrients including magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron. These nutrients are important for everyone, not just for people with diabetes. Many people with diabetes get concerned about having dates because they contain fructose. However, having one to two dates at a time is considered to be absolutely safe for diabetics.

References:

  1. Anon, (2020). [online] Available at: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/09087?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default%E2%84%B4=asc&qlookup=09087&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing= [Accessed 7 Feb. 2020].
  2. Rahmani, A.H., Aly, S.M., Ali, H., Babiker, A.Y. and Srikar, S., 2014. Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity. International journal of clinical and experimental medicine, 7(3), p.483.
  3. Dreher, M.L., 2018. Whole fruits and fruit fiber emerging health effects. Nutrients, 10(12), p.1833.
  4. Lattimer, J.M. and Haub, M.D., 2010. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients, 2(12), pp.1266-1289.
  5. Weaver, C.M., 2013. Potassium and health. Advances in Nutrition, 4(3), pp.368S-377S.
  6. Hopkinsmedicine.org. (2020). Potassium Levels Possible Key To Racial Disparity In Type 2 Diabetes – 03/02/2011. [online] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/potassium_levels_possible_key_to_racial_disparity_in_type_2_diabetes [Accessed 7 Feb. 2020].
  7. Xiao, J.B. and Hogger, P., 2015. Dietary polyphenols and type 2 diabetes: current insights and future perspectives. Current medicinal chemistry, 22(1), pp.23-38.
  8. Alkaabi, J.M., Al-Dabbagh, B., Ahmad, S., Saadi, H.F., Gariballa, S. and Al Ghazali, M., 2011. Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects. Nutrition journal, 10(1), p.59.

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