Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic disorders characterised by persistently high blood glucose levels. A high blood glucose level is the most prominent symptom of a patient diagnosed with diabetes.
Other symptoms of diabetes include increased appetite and thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, headache, and slow healing of wounds and bruises.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, 537 million adults will be diagnosed with diabetes in 2021. Diet and eating habits play a massive role in the life of a person with diabetes. Generally, people are advised not to consume foods with a high glycemic index and limit their carbohydrate intake.
Dates, the fruit of the date palm tree, are usually consumed in dried and pitted form. They are known to pack a lot of naturally occurring sugar in their deceptively small forms.
Deglet Noor dates and Medjool dates are the most commonly consumed varieties of dates. As a result, there is considerable debate regarding the consumption of dates by people with diabetes due to their high fructose content. So, this article explores how dates can be incorporated by diabetics.
Types of Diabetes
There are two major types of diabetes:
Type-1 Diabetes – This category of diabetes causes the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin due to the loss of beta cells by an autoimmune reaction.
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Type-2 Diabetes – This category of diabetes causes the development of high resistance of the body’s cells towards insulin, which is the hormone that aids in the uptake of glucose by cells. The high resistance causes the glucose to move into the bloodstream and increase blood sugar levels.
Gestational Diabetes – It is a type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. Soon after the delivery, the levels come down to normal. However, 50 % of women who had Gestational Diabetes develop T2D in the future.
In this article, let us learn about the benefits of consuming dates, when and how much to consume, the best ways to eat them, and their side effects for a diabetic patient.
The Different Types of Palm Dates
The UAE alone harvests over 18 different types of dates. Today, there are ample varieties of dates in terms of price, quality, origin, brands, etc. But the dates’ physical and chemical properties determine their impact on the human body upon consumption.
While people commonly assume that higher-priced dates are better in quality, the nutritional value of these may differ. Howwver, what remains common is that they all have low to medium glycemic index levels.
A date is one of the oldest trees growing worldwide, with hundreds of different types. Khodry, Kimia, Omani, Khalas, Ruthana, Sukkary, Sefri, Segae, Ajwa, Hilali, and Munifi are the most common dates found around the globe.
Diabetic patients may substitute sugar with Medjool dates when making smoothies, shakes, or desserts. In addition, you can use Omani dates in baking as sugar substitutes. They both have a rich moisture content and are sweet and delightful. Hayany is another type that you may use while cooking or baking. Although you can choose any type of date that is locally available.
Some cultures worldwide make ‘chuhara’ from dates, which is a mouth freshener. Hallawis dates are the best option for this. Deglet has lower sugar content than other date varieties and can be consumed raw. It is a good choice for diabetic patients.
Probably the most popular pick, Kimia dates are very easily found in the market and are good in quality and taste. But, again, dates are only to be consumed in moderation. Apart from this, it is always recommended to check your blood sugar levels before and after eating on a regular basis. A continuous glucose monitor is the best way to measure post-meal patterns (CGM).
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Nutritional Composition of Dates
The nutritional value of Medjool dates (100 g portion) according to the USDA is as follows:
- Water 21.3 g
- Energy 277 kcal
- Protein 1.81 g
- Total Lipid 0.15 g
- Carbohydrates 75 g
- Glucose 33.7 g
- Fructose 32 g
- Total Dietary Fibre 6.7 g
The most commonly available dates are all rich in minerals and salts. They contain higher protein content than other fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
There is proven research to prove the nutritional and medicinal benefits of dates. They are rich in phenol, antioxidants and even micronutrients that help insulin resistance. Hence, they are beneficial for people with diabetes.
Are Dates Good for Diabetics? Find Out GI Value
Due to the natural sweetness of dates, there is a common misconception that people with diabetes cannot consume dates. The key here is moderation. It can be dangerous for people with diabetes to consume dates in large quantities due to the high amount of naturally occurring sugar in the fruit.
Glycemic Index (GI) is a term used to measure the ability of a substance to raise blood glucose levels when consumed on its own. Also, despite being naturally sweet, dates have a low GI (between 44 and 53) and a medium GL.
Diets with a high glycemic load are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Thus, people with diabetes can consume a diet characterized by a low glycemic load, which accounts for the glycemic index and the portions consumed.
A study compared the difference between GI levels of diabetic patients and healthy participants upon consumption of different varieties of dates. The GI of the dates ranged from 30.5 to 61.6, which puts dates in the low to medium GI category.
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Benefits of Eating Dates for Diabetics
1. Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
According to a study, fibre in dates reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by reducing LDL and total cholesterol.
Increased intake of dates can provide the required amount of fibre to the body and lower blood cholesterol levels. The fibre particles bind with cholesterol molecules in the blood before they are absorbed, thus passing them out of the body and faecal matter.
Fibre is also known to reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Thus, consuming dates may regulate your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes.
2. Regulates Blood Pressure
Dates are rich in potassium and magnesium. These help in maintaining osmotic balance and help maintain osmoregulation, thus regulating blood pressure.
In layman’s terms, ‘osmotic balance’ is the balance of fluids in the human body that avoids the dilution or concentration of any fluids. The fibre present in dates also controls the sugar level and slows down digestion.
If taken with curd, it also controls the glycemic levels, making it healthy for people with diabetes.
3. Manages Potassium Levels
Studies show that low potassium in the body increases the chances of having less insulin and high glucose levels, which may mark the first stage of diabetes.
50 g dates contain around 300 mg of potassium, which increases the potassium level in your body. Potassium also helps control blood pressure.
- They have anti-inflammatory and anti microbial properties.
- They have proven to help women relax during labour and help support natural birth.
- Dates are known to promote digestive health
- A study reflected that it helps in lipid control of diabetic patients.
- Consumption of dates is also known to impact patients suffering from infertility issues positively.
Effect Of Dates On Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetes
In 2009, a study was conducted to examine the effect of two types of dates (Medjool and Hallawi) on blood glucose levels. Ten subjects were given 100 g of either of these dates every day.
The research revealed that none of their blood sugars or triglycerides had increased after 4 weeks. Despite dates’ high sugar content, the study revealed that regular ingestion of dates has no effect on blood glucose levels in healthy adults.
Is it acceptable to state that diabetics can also consume dates without worrying about their blood sugar levels?. However, all diabetics should monitor their blood sugar levels and learn how their bodies react to different diets.
This is critical. Despite the lack of data on the recommended daily intake of dates, most physicians advise their diabetes patients to consume no more than three dates each day.
The Best Time to Eat Dates for Diabetes
Dates are so versatile that you can eat them in different ways at different times for optimal benefits. They make an excellent pre workout snack, a great bedtime snack and can also form an integral part of your breakfast when you combine them into your porridge or cereal.
It’s important to note that dates work better as a snack than a part of a heavy meal. Along with nuts, they make an excellent mid morning or evening snack.
What is the difference between fresh and dried dates?
Dates that are beneficial for health and may be consumed by people with diabetes have been overlooked due to the notion that more expensive is better.
However, all dates are nutrient-dense and due to high shelf life and low perishability, dried dates are one of the most accessible dried fruits. Dates are most commonly encountered dried in India. Fresh dates are either sun dried or oven dried to produce dried dates.
The dried ones have more calories and less vitamin C. The fresh ones should be consumed as soon as possible. The phytoestrogen concentration of dried dates is the second highest of any fruit.
Nevertheless, both fresh and dried dates can be safely consumed by diabeticsNew evidence reveals that dietary phytoestrogen may be advantageous for those with diabetes and obesity.
Palm Dates Recipes for Diabetics
There is enough evidence suggesting that the consumption of Khalas dates and yoghurt as a mixed meal has no significant impact on the GI.
There are multiple recipes one can try to make the most out of the nutritional value of dates without compromising on the healthy blood sugar levels.
1. Healthy Dates Rolls
- Ghee: ½ tsp
- Dates: ¾ cup (chopped)
- Almonds: 1 tbsp
- Pistachios: 1 tbsp
- Walnuts: 1 tbsp
- Poppy seeds: 2 tbsp
- Cook the chopped dates in ghee on a non-stick frypan on a low flame.
- After 5- 7 minutes, you should start seeing a lumpy texture.
- Turn the stove off and add all the nuts to form a mixture.
- Make rolls out of the semi-solid mixture and top the rolls with poppy seeds.
- Chill the rolls and consume.
2. Dates and Pistachio Muffins
Serving Size- 12
- Butter: 2½ tbsp
- Dates: 1 cup
- Pistachio: 1 cup
- Jaggery Powder: ¼ cup
- Ragi flour: 1½ cup
- Whole Wheat flour: ¾ cup
- Salt: ½ tsp
- Cardamom: 1½ tsp
- Baking powder: 2 tsp
- Baking soda: ½ tsp
- Buttermilk: 1 cup
- Water: ½ cup
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Start by mixing the butter and jaggery powder until the texture is creamy.
- Add all the dry ingredients except dates and pistachios and mix well. Ensure that there are no lumps.
- Now, add the water and buttermilk to make a smooth muffin batter.
- Add the dates and pistachios to your batter.
- Grease your muffin tray with butter.
- Pour the batter equally into all the moulds and bake for 25-30 mins.
- Cool muffins in moulds for 10 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack
Potential Side Effects of Consuming Dates When You Have Diabetes
If you take dates in moderation, it does not increase blood sugar. Since dates have a low to moderate GI, consuming two dates a day is not harmful to a person with diabetes. A study shows that a person with diabetes can eat 7-10 dates a day.
Researchers found that consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates from dates did not affect their blood sugar levels. Also, dates have more fiber and minerals than plain, refined sugar.
They are an excellent substitute for refined sugar in oatmeal, cereal and smoothies and do not have any side effects when consumed in moderation.
Also, it is essential to check that your dates aren’t packaged with additional sugar and preservatives, as that would be detrimental to your health. So, always make sure to read labels.
We can conclude that all varieties of dates generally have a fairly low glycemic index. Furthermore, their consumption by people with diabetes does not result in significant glucose spikes.
These findings suggest that dates may benefit diabetic subjects when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet. Dates hold a wealth of benefits due to the rich treasure of vitamins, minerals, and, most importantly, fibre.. Most people don’t know that the carbohydrates in dates are natural sugars such as glucose and fructose.
Despite the sweetness, these natural sugars ensure that dates have a low glycemic index and medium glycemic load. In addition, Combining unsalted nuts and dates ensures an even slower release of sugar from the dates since nuts are rich in protein and fat, which bind to the sugar and don’t let it release quickly into the bloodstream. Therefore, the consumer needs to know when, how, and how much to consume.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and share awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice by professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritions Here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the benefits of eating dates?
A. Help in diabetes management, boost energy, strengthen bones, relieve constipation, promote heart health, reduce inflammation, manage anemia, and encourage healthy weight gain.
Q. What happens if you eat dates every day?
A. Eating dates every day can provide you with a good amount of fibre, thereby helping you to avoid eating junk and regulating your bowel movements.
Q. Can I eat dates every day?
A. Yes, dates can be eaten every day as a part of your daily diet as they have many proven health benefits. However, make sure you have them in recommended quantities only.
Q. What are the disadvantages of eating dates?
A. Eating dates in large quantities can cause harmful spikes in blood glucose levels due to sugar and constipation due to excess fibre. In addition, if impure and not washed and processed correctly, people with sulphite allergies could have abdominal distress.
Q. What is the difference between a fig and a date?
A. Dates are from the Date Palm, and figs grow on Ficus trees and are two completely different species. Their appearance is different, with figs being plump and round and dates being oval and wrinkled. Dates tend to have a higher fibre and sugar content than figs.
Q. Do dates help you pass faeces?
A. Yes, dates contain a lot of fibre, which can aid in clearing out the colon and relieve constipation by softening the mass of faeces and increasing its size and density, making stools easier to pass.
Q. Can we drink water after eating dates?
A. Yes you can have water after eating dates. It has no negative effect and helps hydrate and improve digestive health.
Q. Are dates good for weight loss?
A. Yes, adding dates to your diet can actually help shed weight, as dates are high in fiber, they keep one full for longer and help to better manage weight.
Q. Is a dates a raisin?
A. No, dates are not raisins. Dates are stone fruits derived from the date palm tree, whereas raisins are dried grapes. Although they contain a similar amount of fibre, they differ in terms of appearance and taste.
Q. Can dates reduce belly fat?
A. Yes, if combined with a healthy diet and exercise, they help reduce your belly fat. Furthermore, they have a good amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre which will keep you satiated and can protect you from hunger pangs.
Q. Do dates need to be refrigerated?
A. Yes, dates should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator to help them retain their moisture.
- 537 million adults will be diagnosed with diabetes in 2021 https://www.idf.org/aboutdiabetes/what-is-diabetes/facts-figures.html
- Nutritional Profile of Dates https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients
- Date Fruit Effects in Type 2 Diabetes
- Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3112406/
- Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses
- Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity
- Effects of date ( Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels and on serum oxidative status: a pilot study
- The glycaemic index of dates and date/yoghurt mixed meals. Are dates ‘the candy that grows on trees’?
- Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects
- Effect of Date and Raisin Snacks on Glucose Response in Type 2 Diabetes http://nfsr.sbmu.ac.ir/article-1-59-fa.pdf
Our Review Process
The entire review process entails levels of screening and evaluation by efficient groups of writers, editors and accredited medical experts. With the aim to establish long-lasting healthy lifestyle habits, we are committed to writing concurrent, medically backed and evidence-based articles. Read more
Our Editorial Team
By – Aditi Shenai, M.Sc in Dietetics and Applied Nutrition
Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Poonam Sharma
Latest Reviewed On: Apr 5, 2023