Dates, in addition to their indomitable nutrients, contain natural sugars, and unfortunately, sugar and diabetes don’t exactly get along, but does this enmity mean that diabetics should utterly discard dates and forgo the health benefits provided by this wonder fruit? Are dates good for diabetics? You’d be surprised to find out the answer.
Can Dates Benefit Your Blood Sugars?
Dieticians say dates are one of the pillar foods to have in a diet as they are loaded with nutrients and rich in natural fibers that boost health and the immune system. However, the burning question is, Are dates suitable for diabetics to consume?
How Does Diabetes Work?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder affecting blood sugar regulation. Metabolism is the chemical process your body uses to convert or transform the food you eat into the fuel that keeps you alive. It involves the breakdown of certain substances like protein, carbohydrates and so on by enzymes and redistributed as energy around your body to take on the plunge of everyday activity.
A metabolic disorder arises when a metabolism process fails which causes the body to have too much or too little of those essential components needed for everyday activity. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder wherein the pancreas develops a problem. The pancreas is an organ that produces and releases insulin; a hormone which helps the body store and use the sugar and fat from the foods you consume.
When the pancreas fails to produce insulin or produce insufficient amounts of insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or fails to respond appropriately to the insulin produced; a case of insulin resistance (Type 2 Diabetes), then diabetes occurs. It can be a shock to find out you have diabetes.
The consequence of this is quite breathtaking when you begin to think about it. The body is made up of a lot of cells and these cells play the part of empowering the various parts of the body with energy.
When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down (metabolism) into a simple sugar called GLUCOSE, which is transported through the bloodstream to the millions of cells in your body where it can then be redistributed as energy for the body.
The glucose levels in your bloodstream are regulated by insulin, which are released by the pancreas bit-by-bit depending on the state of your body. When you have more glucose than is necessary, the pancreas releases more insulin to push more glucose into your cells, causing sugar levels to drop.
When your blood sugar levels are too low, your body signals you to eat (that’s hunger) so you can get a replenished dose of glucose flowing in your bloodstream.
People with diabetes have a problem with insulin which causes them to have unusually high levels of sugar in their bloodstream. As a result, diabetics are advised to consistently monitor their blood sugar levels and take proper care of their diet patterns to avoid a spike. That means staying away from sugar of all forms. But, like every other thing on earth, there’s always the famous exception.
For diabetics, it’s fruits (amongst others). Fruits are essential for health as they are packed with a bucket load of vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed by the body. Dates are one such fruit which have been found to be immensely beneficial to both the body and mind. So, the burgeoning question manifests: ‘How exactly can diabetics consume dates?’
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About Dates and Diabetes
Dates – The Wonder Fruit
Everyone knows that most successful dates begin with a killer conversation and a good first impression. Let’s start our romance by initiating the conversation about the wonder fruit.
Dates are small fruits that grow on the Phoenix dactylifera (the Date palm tree for short), known quite famously as the “Tree of Life” because of its longs shelf life and rich nutritional profile of its fruits (dates).
Dates have been proven to have exited as long as over 50 million years ago and have been cultivated for thousands of years, being a consistent staple in Middle Eastern diets as long as 5320 calbc (that’s a heck of long time!). Dates are usually dried fruits and have the characteristic wrinkled skin. They come packed with essential nutrients like iron, vitamin A, B-complex, magnesium, selenium and important anti-oxidants.
Dates are recommended by almost every dietician because they are so effective at filling the body up with essential nutrients, but what about diabetics? Dates, when dried, contain almost 75% fructose which is a red flag for diabetics. You do not want fructose.
The good news is that a study carried out in 2011 on some varieties of dates, showed that dates did not adversely affect the blood sugar levels of diabetics. It showed that dates had a relatively reasonable Glycemic Index and when taken in moderation could boost the overall well-being of diabetics.
Additional studies gave proved that although dates contained a high amount of sugar (over 75% by weight), these natural sugars do not cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Dates contain no cholesterol, very little fat, and a fleet of nutritional components which provide the body its much needed dose of vitality.
So, is it safe to say that diabetics can consume dates? You betcha! Dates are an important component of daily diet that are not only delicious but healthy. However, the key to maintaining a balance is moderation.
Moderation is the watchword of any diabetic and is of utmost value in making sure that complications do not arise. Now that we’ve made a good first impression on our date, we can proceed to understanding the nutritional profile of this super fruit.
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Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Dates
Dates are very versatile little chums. They contain a host of anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber which are not only easily digestible, but are also fundamental to the overall functioning of the human body. Some of the contents found in dates include:
Dates are about 7-12 percent dietary fiber which helps the body against inflammation and reduces the risk of blood pressure. It also lowers your cholesterol and acts as a sort of ‘pseudo-insulin’ that regulates blood sugar level spikes.
Dates are an excellent source of thiamine (vitamin B) which helps to protect diabetics from nerve damage and diabetic neuropathy; a common diabetic complication. Thiamine also helps in glucose metabolism and plays the key role of improving muscle and heart function.
Consistent intake of dates (matched with moderation) helps to supply vitamin A to the body which improves diabetic retinopathy, a condition leading to loss of eyesight in diabetics. It also helps to control and possible improve early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Dates contain vitamin K which have been proven to activate proteins like osteocalcin and calcium which helps to aid blood clotting and reduce inflammation.
Diabetics tend to have reduced levels of magnesium in the body as elevated glucose levels lead to an increase in the loss of magnesium in the urine. Dates are an excellent source of magnesium which helps diabetics to control their blood sugar levels.
Dates contain a good dose of iron which is important in the production of healthy red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen in your veins (which could help in the healing process of diabetic wounds and ulcers).
Dates contain manganese which plays an important role in blood sugar regulation.
Flavonoids, Carotenoids, Phenolic Acid
These antioxidants found in dates are by far one of the most important components of dates. Flavonoids help reduce the risk of inflammation, Alzheimer’s and diabetes related complications.
Carotenoids are proven to promote heart health and eye related disorders such as macular degeneration, and Phenolic Acid is widely known to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The health benefits of dates are as numerous as the sands in the Atacama Desert. They are a good source of energy, boost and promote brain and heart health, help in bowel movement and constipation problems.
They also provide relief from intestinal disorders like gastroesophageal reflux due to its rich dose of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, give relief from anemia, aid in the treatment of sexual dysfunction, help treat chronic diarrhea and optimize bone health.
They may also aid in the fight against cancer, provide possible relief from Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis, and a host of others (if we continued deliberating the health benefits that exist, we’d most likely have to nap here!).
So the bottom line as far as “Are dates good for diabetics?” is moderation, which is the key to success in the often complicated road down diabetes alley. Too much and complications may arise, too little and…well, complications may also arise. It is paramount that diabetics know what to take and how to take it in order to guarantee a life free from risk and laden with vitality.
Dates are one such food that should be moderated due to its fructose content, but should also be prioritized due to its myriad of nutrients and the roles these nutrients play in regulating glucose levels in the body.
Phew! It’s been a long date with our illustrious dates. Now that we know that dates are good for diabetics and we understand why they are necessary, we can end the conversation with a smile and look forward to a long, promising relationship with sweet chewy friends!
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