In short, dates are not keto friendly – they are high in sugar and fibre, which will significantly boost your carbohydrate intake. However, there is a little more to it than this.
Dates, grown on palm trees, are amongst humanity’s oldest cultivated foodstuffs. Grown mostly in Iraq, Iran, Arabia and North Africa, they form a key part of Islamic culture and the cuisine of these regions.
Date palms themselves have existed for at least 50 million years, and we have been cultivating them for food for the last 7000 or so, since around 4-5000BCE.
There are over two hundred different types of date grown globally. Alongside North Africa and the Near and Middle East, today dates can be sourced in the US, with warmer climates like those of California and Florida proving perfect for cultivation (in fact, about 10% of global production takes place in the US). Organic dates will generally be nutritionally superior, though this needn’t put you off inorganic varieties.
But what are their health benefits, and how appropriate are they for many modern diets, including those looking to elicit ketosis? They are tasty, nutritious, and plentiful. However, if you’re following a keto diet, and trying to keep your carbohydrate intake below fifty grams or so per day, are dates good for you? Are dates suitable for a keto diet?
Dates on a Keto Diet
As above, keto diets generally require adherents to keep their daily carbohydrate intake down below fifty grams. High carb foods are therefore generally verboten.
However, things get a little more involved when we’re talking about fruit. Now, fruits are by no means an ideal keto snack – if you can avoid them, do so. They are full of sugar. In fact, they are simply too sugary to be permitted, as even just a few pieces will spike your carb intake.
But, in moderation, they can be made to work. Dates, in particular, can be made to work. Moderate amounts of sugar are permissible, and dates aren’t as bad in this respect as some other fruits. This is because plenty of the carbohydrates they contain are formed of indigestible fibre.
As fibre is scarce on keto diets, digestive issues like constipation can become common. Including dates can undo this, keeping you regular even as you go without many carbs.
Dates are also packed with plentiful additional nutritional benefits. They have been shown to reduce inflammation, to help overcome symptoms of anemia, to reduce stroke risk, to improve bone health, and to increase and stabilize energy levels.
Regular consumption of dates has been linked to a decreased risk from many chronic diseases, due in part to their anti-inflammatory properties, and due in part to their antioxidant and anti-tumour properties.
Dates are also anti-diabetic, a sex hormone modulator, hepatoprotective, antimicrobial, and nephronprotective. In particular, as 3% of the global population suffers from diabetes, with ketogenic diets often being prescribed to reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes, controlling blood sugar is critical. Dates can help with this.
Their micro nutritional profile is also fantastic. Dates contain, among others:
- vitamin B6
Other dried fruits like figs and raisins have similar nutritional profiles, giving them a similar place in many diets, though dates specifically excel in the fibre content they deliver.
Dates are also considered to be a low GI (glycaemic index) food, meaning that they will not spike blood sugar, despite their sweet taste.
They are, basically, fantastic for your health. If you’re looking to be as fit and healthy as possible, they are well worth consideration as a top-notch snack food.
What To Do
So, we know that fruit should be limited on a keto diet. We know that carbs need to be kept below fifty grams daily, and that dates contain plenty of carbs (a single dates will give you around eighteen grams of carbs).
We also know that they are one of the healthiest fruits going, making them a perfect snack.
Do the maths. You need to keep your carbs below fifty grams per day. Count your macros as you plan your meals. You will have room for these fifty grams over the day, so consider taking some of them from a date or two. Dice them up into a salad, eat a couple stuffed with nuts, or simply go for a whole one as a snack.
It’s a numbers game, ultimately. The margins are slim, but you can very much make room for dates (or, at least, one or two per day). Nor do you have to have them every day to make the most of their health benefits. Have two to three per week.
As long as you log your carbs from them, and maintain a sub-fifty carb intake overall every day, there should be nothing to restrict you from enjoying the odd date.