Dates are the sweet, fleshy fruits of the date palm tree. They’re typically sold as dried fruit and enjoyed on their own or in smoothies, desserts, and other dishes.
Due to their natural sweetness, their impact on blood sugar may be a concern for those with diabetes.
This article explores whether people with diabetes can safely eat dates.
Why are dates a concern?
Dates pack a lot of sweetness in a relatively small bite. They’re a natural source of fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit.
Each dried, pitted date (about 24 grams) contains 67 calories and roughly 18 grams of carbs (1).
Blood sugar levels can be challenging to manage among people with diabetes, and those with the condition are typically advised to be conscious of their carb intake.
Given their high carb content, dates may raise concerns.
However, when eaten in moderation, dates can be part of a healthy diet if you have diabetes (2, 3).
A single dried date packs nearly 2 grams of fiber, or 8% of the Daily Value (DV) (1, 2).
This is significant, as dietary fiber helps your body absorb carbs at a slower pace, which is especially important for people with diabetes. The slower carbs are digested, the less likely your blood sugar is to spike after eating (4).
Dates boast an impressive nutrient profile but are quite sweet. Yet, they’re packed with fiber, which helps your body absorb its sugars more slowly. When eaten in moderation, they’re a safe and healthy choice for people with diabetes.
How dates affect blood sugar
The glycemic index (GI) is a way of measuring the effect of carbs on your blood sugar levels (5).
It’s measured on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose (sugar) assigned as 100 — the highest your blood sugar can spike after eating a food.
Low GI carbs have a GI of 55 or lower, while those with a high GI are ranked at 70 or above. Medium GI carbs sit right in the middle with a GI of 56–69 (5).
In other words, a food with a low GI causes less significant fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels.
On the other hand, a food with a high GI quickly spikes blood sugar. This can often lead to a blood sugar crash, especially in people with diabetes, whose bodies have a harder time controlling these variations.
People with diabetes should generally try to stick to foods with a lower GI. This helps them manage their blood sugar levels. In those with type 2 diabetes, sugar can accumulate in the bloodstream and rise to dangerously high levels.
Fortunately, despite their sweetness, dates have a low GI. This means that, when eaten in moderation, they’re safe for people with diabetes.
One study examined the GIs of 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of 5 common varieties of dates. It found that they generally have a low GI, between 44 and 53, which may differ slightly depending on the type of date (6).
There was no significant difference in the dates’ GI when measured in people with and without diabetes (6).
Another helpful measure of a food’s effect on blood sugar is glycemic load (GL). Unlike GI, GL accounts for the portion eaten and amount of carbs in that particular serving (7).
To calculate GL, multiply the food’s GI by the grams of carbs in the amount you’re eating and divide that number by 100.
This means that 2 dried dates (48 grams) would have about 36 grams of carbs and a GI of about 49. That calculates to a GL of about 18 (1, 6, 7).
Carbs with a low GL are between 1 and 10; medium GL carbs are between 11 and 19; while high GL carbs measure in at 20 or above. This means a snack comprised of 2 dates packs a medium GL.
If you have diabetes, aim to eat no more than 1 or 2 dates at a time. Eating them alongside a source of protein — such as a handful of nuts — also allows its carbs to be digested a bit more slowly, further helping prevent blood sugar spikes.
Dates have a low GI, which means they’re less likely to spike your blood sugar levels, making them a safe choice for people with diabetes. Moreover, dates have a medium GL, which means that 1 or 2 fruits at a time are a good choice.
The bottom line
Dates boast an impressive nutritional profile and natural sweetness.
Because they’re a natural source of fructose, they might be a concern for people with diabetes.
However, because they have a low GI and medium GL, they’re safe for those with diabetes in moderation — which translates to no more than 1 to 2 dates at a time.
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