Dried dates, aka “Nature’s Candy,” may seem like a bad choice for those of us who have prediabetes. That’s not true: People who watch their blood sugar can enjoy the intensely sweet fruit.
In the past few years, researchers have studied the impact of dates on blood sugar; the results so far show that dates do not have a negative effect. Additional studies are needed, however, to have definitive results.
In the meantime, a nutrition expert gives dates a green light.
“If someone with prediabetes or diabetes wants to incorporate dates into their diet, they absolutely can!” said Amy Kimberlain, RDN, a certified diabetes care and education specialist in Miami.
More Nutritious than White Sugar
Kimberlain, who is also spokesperson for the Chicago-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, explained that dried dates (unlike white sugar) contain a decent amount of nutrients: B vitamins, vitamin K, calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Additionally, dried dates contain antioxidants and fiber. “They’re a great fruit to add in for sweetness,” she added.
There are many types of dried dates, the most popular in the United States are Medjool dates and the smaller Door Neglect dates. Medjool are intensely sweet and moist, while Noor Deglect are drier and have a nutty taste.
How to Enjoy Dates in a Healthy Way
The way someone eats food affects the food’s impact on blood sugar; dates are no exception. “Dates paired with a nut butter are quite different from just a date by itself,” Kimberlain said. She advises her patients to aim to pair a carb with a protein. For instance, a good way to eat dates would be stuffed with a nut butter, paired with cheese or combined with nuts.
It’s also important to note the type of dried date you eat. A large, moist Medjool date contains 66 calories, 18 grams of carbohydrates and two grams of fiber. Deglect Noor dates are smaller and less sweet than Medjools. Three dates contain 60 calories, 16 grams of carb and 2 grams of fiber.
Since dates contain a lot of sugar, portion control is important. Each person who has prediabetes will metabolize food a bit differently than another person, Kimberlain noted.
Date Filled Energy Bites
Kimberlain, who blogs at Amy’s Nutrition Kitchen, has created a date-filled recipe for Almond Butter Energy Bites, a vegan confection that contains protein, carbs and healthy fat.
(Note: when I tried the recipe I halved it, but kept the original 2 teaspoons of vanilla and added a dark chocolate chip on top. The bites are large, chewy and mildly sweet. They freeze well.)