Dates are well known for their excellent nutritional value and high iron content. This Mediterranean and Middle-East-based wrinkly fleshy fruit is usually available in dried form.
People suffering from anaemia often add dates to desserts, smoothies, and other dishes. However, owing to its natural sweetness, people with diabetes often wonder if it’s safe for them.
There is also a concern regarding the effect of dates on blood sugar levels. However, contrary to popular belief, you can eat dates in moderation without causing a spike in blood sugar levels.
Let us find out how dates help manage blood glucose 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 in dates helps increase haemoglobin levels in people with anaemia.
Dates are also rich in health-protective antioxidants, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin K. However, they can be high in carbohydrates, with 100 grams of dates containing nearly 75 grams of carbs. That can be an area of concern for people with diabetes.
Dates are not empty-calorie foods like artificial sweeteners. Instead, dates have soluble and insoluble fibre, which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels.
The fibre in dates slows digestion and the absorption rate of carbs. As a result, it prevents a rise in blood glucose. If you are experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms (low blood sugar), dates are a perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy.
Does Dates Increase Blood Sugar?
To determine if dates raise blood sugar levels, look at their glycemic index. Food’s Glycemic Index (GI) tells you how quickly the sugar in the food absorbs into your bloodstream. Your bloodstream absorbs food with a high GI more rapidly than food with a low GI, causing a quick blood sugar spike.
A few common varieties of dates have a glycemic index between 44 and 53, which is not too high or too low. Therefore, dates are less likely to cause an increase in blood sugar levels when consumed in moderate quantities. Moreover, a study shows that date fruit is beneficial for glycemic control among patients with diabetes.
Another study shows that eating the five common dates (Fara’d, Lulu, Bo ma’an, Dabbas and Khalas) does not result in a significant postprandial glucose rise. However, overconsuming dates will not guarantee the same effects.
The glycemic load (GL) is another factor to consider. It measures the rise in blood sugar based on the number of carbohydrates the food contains in an average serving. Here, the Glycemic Load of dates is approximately 18, which falls somewhere between a high GL and a low GL. So, if consumed in moderation, they are safe for even individuals with diabetes.
The HealthifyMe Note
Dates have a low glycemic index and a medium glycemic load, so they don’t tend to cause big spikes in blood sugar levels when eaten in moderation. However, if you eat too many dates at once, the high carbohydrate content can cause your blood sugar to spike.
Ways to Consume Dates for Better Blood Sugar Management
Eating dates can help to keep you energised and full for longer due to the fibre and natural sugars they contain. Try snacking on a few soaked almonds or dried dates before or during a workout or in the afternoon when you may start to feel sluggish.
Remember that dates are high in calories and carbs, so moderation is key. For example, if you have diabetes, 2-3 dates per day are usually acceptable, but eating more than that or adding other sugary snacks to your diet could cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Here are some healthy ways to consume dates:
- Eat a couple of dates with a handful of nuts, like walnuts and almonds, to balance the energy boost.
- You can skip the sugar or the other sweetener and use dates to provide enough sweetness. For example, add one or two chopped dates to oatmeal for a highly nutritious breakfast.
- Blend low-carb fruits with a couple of dates for a refreshing, nutritious smoothie. It can be a dessert or sweet drink for people with diabetes.
- You can eat dates as it is, add them to salad, or make a date puree for shakes and smoothies.
You shouldn’t experience a spike in blood sugar levels from eating dates as long as you moderate your intake to 2-3 dates per day. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, or have issues regulating blood sugar levels, be mindful of how many dates you’re eating. It’s also important to remember that dates come in different sizes, so consider that when portioning out your snack. Eating too many dates at once can result in sudden blood sugar level spikes, especially in people with diabetes.