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Dates For Diabetes – Benefits and Side Effects

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 appetite, increased 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 tree’s fruits, are usually consumed in dried and pitted form. They are known to pack a lot of 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.

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. 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: Gestational diabetes is not essentially a type. It is simply the temporary increase in pregnant women’s blood sugar levels. Soon after the delivery, the levels come down to normal.

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 UAE alone harvests over 18 different types of dates. The dates’ physical and chemical properties determine their impact on the human body upon consumption. Today, there are ample options when discussing the varieties of dates in terms of price, quality, origin, brands, etc. While people commonly assume that higher-priced dates are better in quality, the nutritional value of these may differ. What remains common is that they all have a low to medium GI level.

One of the oldest grown trees globally, tens of hundreds of varieties are available worldwide. Khodry, Kimia, Omani, Khalas, Ruthana, Sukkary, Sefri, Segae, Ajwa, Hilali and Munifi are the most common dates found around the globe. Their chemical composition makes them a good choice for consumption to prevent various diseases.

Diabetic patients may substitute sugar with Medjool dates when making smoothies, shakes or desserts. In addition, you can use the 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.

Some cultures worldwide make ‘chuhara’ from dates., which is like 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.

The nutritional value of Medjool dates (100 g portion) according to the USDA is as follows:

Water 21.3 gEnergy 277 kcalProtein 1.81 gTotal Lipid 0.15 g  Carbohydrates 75 gGlucose 33.7 gFructose 32 gTotal 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. 

Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

According to a study, fibre in dates reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by regulating the various risk factors that affect cardiovascular health. For example, if your blood sugar is not under control, then the chances of having bad cholesterol levels increase.

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. 

Regulates Blood Pressure

Dates are rich in potassium and also contain many other minerals. Potassium maintains osmotic balance and helps 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.

Manages Potassium Levels

Studies show that low potassium in the body increases the chances of having high insulin and glucose levels, which may mark the first stage of diabetes. Two dates contain 334 mg of potassium, which increases the potassium level in your body. Potassium also helps control blood pressure.

Other Benefits

They are anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and antimicrobial.They have proven to help women relax during labour and post-childbirth.Dates are known to be hepato-protective and nephroprotective in nature.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.

Due to the excessive 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 sugar in the fruit.

They may cause a mild spike in the blood glucose levels, which a person with diabetes cannot restore due to insufficient insulin or resistance to the hormone.

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 characterised 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. The five date varieties were Fara’d, Lulu, Bo ma’an, Dabbas and Khalas. These are the most commonly sold and consumed varieties of dates in the middle eastern countries. However, we are yet to learn about the consequences of long term regular consumption of dates in the case of people with 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.

Its 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. So as you can see, it has no special time of consumption.

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 sugar levels.

Ingredients:

Ghee: ½ tspDates: ¾ cup (chopped)Almonds: 1 tbspPistachios: 1 tbspWalnuts: 1 tbspPoppy seeds: 2 tbsp

Method:

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.Freeze the rolls and consume.

Ingredients

Ghee: 2 tbspDates: 1 cupPistachio: 1 cupJaggery Powder: ¼ cupRagi flour: 1½ cupWheat flour: ¾ cupCorn starch: 2 tbspSalt: ½ tspCardamom: 1½ tspBaking powder: 2 tspBaking soda: ½ tspButtermilk: 1 cupWater:  ½ cup

Method

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.Enjoy the muffins hot and soft when you take them out of the oven!

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 are more nutritious than plain, refined sugar. So it is good to substitute sugar with dates when consuming cereals or smoothies in the morning. The consumer gets the added benefit of dates’ nutritional value and the natural sweetness. 

Thus, dates do not have any side effects specifically for a person with diabetes. There are no particular side effects a person with diabetes needs to watch out for when eating the prescribed amounts. If overeating dates, then blood sugar spikes and constipation occur. 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.

We can conclude that the various types of dates generally generally have a fairly low glycemic index. Furthermore, their consumption by people with diabetes does not result in significant glucose excursions. 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, the fibre present. However, these fruits pose a cause of concern for individuals who have diabetes due to the higher percentage of carbohydrates and calories. Most people don’t know that the carbohydrates in dates are natural sugars such as glucose and fructose.

These natural sugars ensure that dates have a low glycemic index and medium glycemic load despite the sweetness. 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 simply needs to know when, how and how much to consume.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A. Despite the natural sweetness of dates and the high-calorie content, these fruits are a treasure house of benefits. Dates maintain healthy blood and bowel functions and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They also help in regulating and maintaining healthy body weight. In addition, due to the high fibre content, they can cure constipation and stave off hunger pangs. The fruits also contain minerals such as calcium, which helps maintain healthy bones and vitamins such as Vitamin A, B5, C, K, and E, which help keep healthy hair, blood, skin, and eyes. 

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. Therefore, eating them in measured amounts is of utmost importance.

A. Yes, dates can be eaten every day as a part of your daily diet. However, if consumed in small quantities, dates can be very beneficial for your health.

A. Eating dates in large quantities can cause harmful spikes in blood glucose levels due to sugar and constipation due to fibre. In addition, if impure and not washed and processed correctly, people with sulphite allergies could have abdominal distress. 

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. 

A. 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, and bulkier stools are easier to pass. 

A. Researchers say that you should not consume water after eating a fruit that contains a relatively more significant percentage of water. Excessive hydration can modify the pH of your stomach by diluting the enzymes and the acid, thus causing weakened digestion. However, since dates contain a relatively smaller percentage of water, you can drink water after eating them. 

A. Dates can be helpful for weight loss owing to the amount of fibre in them. The fibre adds to a feeling of fullness and controls hunger pangs. High fibre foods are not energy-dense and take longer to eat while also providing lower calories than the same volume of any other food. But, dates are also high in carbohydrate and energy content. To help with weight loss, you should consume them in smaller and moderated quantities and a source of protein such as nuts. It will slow down the digestion of the sugars and prevent a spike in blood glucose levels. 

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. Raisins do not have as much sugar as dates.  

A. Dates contain a good amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Therefore, when you eat them, they keep you satiated and can protect you from hunger pangs. They also work well as a replacement for sweets and desserts and can save you from ingesting all those extra, unnecessary calories. So, in the long run, they can aid in weight loss but will not cause spot reduction of your abdominal fat. 

A. For up to 6 months, dried dates can be stored at room temperature in a dry place without any refrigeration. After six months, they need to be refrigerated where they can last upto 3 years. 

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