People have eaten dates, the fruit of the date palm tree, for over 6,000 years.
However, due to the natural sweetness and high carbohydrate content of dates, people with diabetes may wonder if they are safe to consume. In this article, we investigate the effects of dates on blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes can likely eat a serving of 2–3 dates at a time. However, a person should speak with their doctor to confirm this is safe.
Those with this condition need to limit their carbohydrate intake to keep their blood sugar levels stable.
It is also important to note that dates can come in different sizes. For example, Medjool dates can be about twice as large as other varieties. A person may wish to consider their portion sizes accordingly.
One dried, pitted Medjool date weighing 24 g
- 66.5 calories
- 18 g carbohydrates
- 16 g sugar
- 1.61 g fiber
The fiber in the dates may help the body absorb carbohydrates
Glycemic index and glycemic load
The glycemic index (GI) is another factor to take into account when considering if dates are suitable for those with diabetes. A food’s GI reflects its effects on blood sugar levels.
Foods that cause faster and greater spikes in blood sugar levels have higher GI values. In contrast, foods with a lower GI will cause lower blood sugar spikes. Healthcare providers consider foods with a GI value below 55 to be low-GI foods.
According to research from multiple studies, the average GI of dates is 42. This classifies them as a low GI food and safe for those with diabetes when eaten in moderation.
However, what does “in moderation” mean when it comes to dates? We need to consider a food’s glycemic load (GL) to answer this. The GL considers the serving size of a certain food when calculating its effects on blood sugar.
To determine a food’s GL, multiply its GI by the amount of carbohydrates it contains and divide it by 100. Therefore, two dried dates (48 g) contain 36 g of carbs, giving them a GL of 17, which constitutes a medium GL.
Dates are rich in a variety of nutrients, including magnesium and potassium. They are also a good source of fiber, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. Many studies have investigated their medicinal and nutritional effects.
Several nutrients and compounds in dates may benefit people with diabetes and insulin resistance.
Dietary fiber also helps feed a person’s beneficial gut bacteria, an important part of a person’s health.
Two pitted Medjool dates contain
Magnesium may be beneficial for those with diabetes because it plays a role in blood sugar control.
Studies have found that people with low levels of potassium tend to have high levels of insulin and glucose in those with no other health issues. These are markers of diabetes.
Additionally, potassium is an important nutrient for blood pressure regulation.
Researchers do not know how the phytoestrogens in dates may affect people, but one upcoming study will aim to investigate this.
Dates are a low GI food, with 2 servings constituting a medium GL. Therefore, they should not cause dramatic blood sugar spikes when people eat them in moderation.
Similarly, a small
Moreover, 2015 research studying 15 people with diabetes reported that consuming 15 g of carbohydrates from dates, raisins, or sugar did not affect blood sugar levels 30, 60, or 120 minutes after eating.
However, the researchers noted that dates and raisins are more nutritious than plain sugar, making them a more appropriate snack choice.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the best fruit choices those that are fresh, frozen, or canned. When choosing canned fruit, always try to pick one that comes packed with juice and no added sugar.
The ADA further advise that dried fruit and fruit juice are suitable choices, but people must adhere to the recommended small portion sizes to avoid blood sugar spikes. For this reason, these foods may be less filling.
The following servings of fruit contain approximately 15 g of carbohydrates:
- 1 small piece of whole fruit
- 3/4–1 cup of fresh berries or melon
- 1/3–1/2 cup of fruit juice
- 1/2 cup frozen or canned fruit
- 2 tablespoons of dried fruit, such as raisins
Moderate amounts of fruit are a healthy option for most people, including those with diabetes and prediabetes. The same nutrients that benefit those with diabetes can be beneficial for those with prediabetes.
For example, some research indicates that a diet rich in magnesium can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Other studies show that taking the substance can improve blood sugar status in people with prediabetes and low magnesium levels.
Those with prediabetes should carefully monitor their carbohydrate intake to avoid the blood sugar fluctuations that may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Dates may be an enjoyable and safe treat for many people with diabetes and prediabetes.
The fruit consists of a low GI, meaning it does not cause significant blood sugar spikes when people eat it in moderation. They also contain an array of important nutrients for those with diabetes, including fiber, magnesium, and potassium.
A person can eat dates as a snack or as a sweetener in oatmeal, desserts, and more.