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February 29, 2024
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Dates, the fruit of the date palm tree, have been eaten for over 6,000 years. They are known for their sweetness and are typically sold as fresh or dried fruit. Many people enjoy them alone or in smoothies, desserts, and savory dishes. 

This article will explore how dates may impact blood sugar levels and the health benefits of including this item in your diet.

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Glycemic Index Table

Despite their natural sweetness, dates have a low glycemic index rating. However, the glycemic load of dates is a medium rating due to their high carbohydrate content. Consider eating dates alongside a protein source, such as nuts, to help slow down the natural digestion process. 

Also, there are numerous date varieties, all with a different glycemic index and glycemic load. The most popular date variety in the United States is the Medjool date, known as the “king of dates” due to its caramel taste.

The below glycemic index and glycemic load data is for 100g of Medjool dates, which is equal to approximately four to five medium-sized dates: ¹ ²

Glycemic Index

55

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

75 g

GL per Serving

8.00

Nutritional Facts

Dates are full of fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.³   

The below nutritional information is for 100g of Medjool dates, which is approximately four to five medium-sized dates.²

Calories

277 kcal

Carbs

75 g

Protein

1.81g

Fiber

6.7 g

Cholesterol

Vitamins

A (149 µg), Folate (15 µg), Beta Carotene (89 µg)

Sodium

Total Fat

0.15 g

Are Dates Good for Weight Loss?

Adding dates to a balanced plate can make them a healthy snack option for those looking to lose weight. Eating a few dates as a snack can help curb sweet cravings and boost energy levels. Dates can also be used to sweeten oatmeal, yogurt, or other savory dishes. 

To slow down the digestion process and reduce possible blood sugar spikes, pair dates with a protein source, like nuts or cheese. This will help balance out the natural sugars found in dates and promote feelings of satiety.

It is important to be mindful of portion sizes when consuming dates as they are high in natural sugars and carbohydrates. 

It is also recommended to check with your healthcare professional or a dietitian before incorporating dates into your diet, as dates can have different impacts on individuals depending on health conditions, allergies, and diet restrictions. 

Are Dates Safe for People Living with Diabetes?

While dates are considered a low glycemic food, these tiny fruits contain a high carb count, which may raise some concerns. When eaten in moderation, dates can be a part of a balanced, healthy diet when living with diabetes.

A small 2011 study found that people living with diabetes did not experience significant blood sugar fluctuations after eating between seven to ten dates.¹⁷ Similarly, a 2018 study found that white bread, which has a higher glycemic index than dates, caused greater blood sugar spikes than four types of dried fruits, including dates.¹⁸

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the best fruit choices for those living with diabetes are fresh, frozen, or canned. While dried fruit is a suitable choice, be mindful of portion sizes to avoid significant blood sugar spikes.¹⁹

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Allergies

Some people may experience an allergic reaction to dates. Often allergic reactions to dates stem from an allergy to the sulfites in dried dates. Symptoms can widely vary from skin rashes, eye sensitivity, or respiratory difficulties.

If you suspect an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to dates, please consult a healthcare professional.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Dates Spike Insulin?

Yes, dates can spike insulin levels. Dates are high in natural sugars, particularly fructose and glucose, which can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and trigger the release of insulin. However, the glycemic index of dates is relatively low, meaning that the rise in blood sugar levels is slower and more sustained compared to other high-sugar foods. It is important for individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance to monitor their intake of dates and other high-sugar foods to manage their blood sugar levels.

Is Dates Low Glycemic?

Yes, dates have a low glycemic index due to their high fiber content, which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Dates?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat dates in moderation as they have a low glycemic index and are a good source of fiber and nutrients. However, they should monitor their blood sugar levels and limit their intake to avoid spikes in blood sugar.

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References

  1. University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. USDA FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). Food Details - Dates, medjool. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients
  3. ALFaris, Nora & AlTamim, Jozaa & Almousa, Lujain & Albarid, Najla & AlGhamidi, Fatima. (2023). Nutritional values, Nutraceutical properties, and health benefits of Arabian Date Palme fruit. Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture. 10.9755/ejfa.2023.v35.i6.3098.
  4. Howarth, N. C., Saltzman, E., & Roberts, S. B. (2001). Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Nutrition reviews, 59(5), 129–139. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2001.tb07001.x
  5. Lattimer, J. M., & Haub, M. D. (2010). Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients, 2(12), 1266–1289. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2121266
  6. Tucker, L. A., & Thomas, K. S. (2009). Increasing total fiber intake reduces risk of weight and fat gains in women. The Journal of nutrition, 139(3), 576–581. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.096685 
  7. Hairston, K. G., Vitolins, M. Z., Norris, J. M., Anderson, A. M., Hanley, A. J., & Wagenknecht, L. E. (2012). Lifestyle factors and 5-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS Family Study. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 20(2), 421–427. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2011.171 
  8. Siddiqi SA, Rahman S, Khan MM, Rafiq S, Inayat A, Khurram MS, Seerangurayar T, Jamil F. Potential of dates (Phoenix dactylifera L.) as natural antioxidant source and functional food for healthy diet. Sci Total Environ. 2020 Dec 15;748:141234. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141234. Epub 2020 Jul 30. PMID: 32798862.
  9. Xu H, Luo J, Huang J, Wen Q. Flavonoids intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 May;97(19):e0686. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000010686. PMID: 29742713; PMCID: PMC5959406.
  10. Mossine VV, Mawhinney TP, Giovannucci EL. Dried Fruit Intake and Cancer: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies. Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):237-250. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz085. PMID: 31504082; PMCID: PMC7442373.
  11. Bakhtiari M, Panahi Y, Ameli J, Darvishi B. Protective effects of flavonoids against Alzheimer's disease-related neural dysfunctions. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Sep;93:218-229. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.06.010. Epub 2017 Jun 20. PMID: 28641164.
  12. Neelam K, Dey S, Sim R, Lee J, Au Eong KG. Fructus lycii: A Natural Dietary Supplement for Amelioration of Retinal Diseases. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 16;13(1):246. doi: 10.3390/nu13010246. PMID: 33467087; PMCID: PMC7830576.
  13. AlFaris NA, AlTamimi JZ, AlGhamdi FA, Albaridi NA, Alzaheb RA, Aljabryn DH, Aljahani AH, AlMousa LA. Total phenolic content in ripe date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera L.): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2021 Jun;28(6):3566-3577. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2021.03.033. Epub 2021 Mar 17. PMID: 34121900; PMCID: PMC8175999.
  14. Roleira FM, Tavares-da-Silva EJ, Varela CL, Costa SC, Silva T, Garrido J, Borges F. Plant derived and dietary phenolic antioxidants: anticancer properties. Food Chem. 2015 Sep 15;183:235-58. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.03.039. Epub 2015 Mar 18. PMID: 25863633.
  15. Kordi M, Meybodi FA, Tara F, Fakari FR, Nemati M, Shakeri M. Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2017 Sep-Oct;22(5):383-387. doi: 10.4103/ijnmr.IJNMR_213_15. PMID: 29033994; PMCID: PMC5637148.
  16. Razali N, Mohd Nahwari SH, Sulaiman S, Hassan J. Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Jul;37(5):595-600. doi: 10.1080/01443615.2017.1283304. Epub 2017 Mar 13. PMID: 28286995.
  17. Alkaabi JM, Al-Dabbagh B, Ahmad S, Saadi HF, Gariballa S, Ghazali MA. Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects. Nutr J. 2011 May 28;10:59. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-59. PMID: 21619670; PMCID: PMC3112406.
  18. Viguiliouk, E., Jenkins, A.L., Blanco Mejia, S. et al. Effect of dried fruit on postprandial glycemia: a randomized acute-feeding trial. Nutr & Diabetes 8, 59 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-018-0066-5
  19. American Diabetes Associationl. (n.d.). Fruits. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168191/nutrients

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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