Dates, sometimes called palm fruit or date palms, are native to dry, arid climates such as the desert. The fruit of the palm tree, dates can be eaten fresh but are more commonly dried and eaten as is, or they can be used to make smoothies or in stews where they add a rich sweetness. Dates are high in fiber and calories, and consuming too many can lead to weight gain or digestive trouble.
A serving of 1/4 cup of Medjool dates has 111 calories, which is high given the small serving size. If you regularly eat dates as part of your diet -- either as a snack or as an ingredient in a dish -- be mindful of the extra calories they add. A pound of body weight is equal to 3,500 calories, so regularly consuming dates can lead to a caloric buildup, which can in turn cause weight gain.
Dates are naturally high in fiber, and a 1/4-cup serving has 2.7 grams of fiber. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day; men need more fiber than women, which means a serving of dates will give you 7 percent to 13 percent of the recommended intake. Because most Americans consume roughly half of the recommended intake of fiber, a sudden increase in dietary fiber can cause digestive complaints, including excess gas, constipation and bloating.
Dates are naturally sweet, with almost 27 grams of sugar per 1/4-cup serving. The natural sweetness of dates comes, in part, from its fructose content. Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruits and a few vegetables, and some people have difficulty digesting the sugar. Also known as fructose intolerance, poor fructose absorption leads to the sugar passing through your digestive system whole because your body is not able to break it down. When it reaches your intestines, it can cause diarrhea and gas as well as abdominal pain because it reacts with the natural bacteria in your gut.
High Glycemic Index
Because of their high sugar content, dates are considered a high-glycemic food. The glycemic index or GI is a measurement of how quickly a food affects your blood glucose levels. Dates have a GI score of 103, while glucose is measured at 100. They are also a high-glycemic-load food, which is a measurement of how much the carbohydrate content of a food affects blood sugar levels. Because dates are high in carbohydrates, with around 40 grams per 2-ounce serving, they have a high glycemic load, measuring 42. Overconsumption of high glycemic index and load foods can increase your chances of type-2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
- Experience Science: The Remarkable and Useful Date Palm
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Dates, Medjool
- Go Ask Alice!: How Many Calories Does It Take to Lose One Pound?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber
- American Gastroenterological Association: Fructose Intolerance
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load