If you’ve recently started a keto diet, knowing which foods are keto-friendly and which aren’t can be challenging. It can almost feel like learning a whole new language. Since you’ve found your way to this article, chances are you’re wondering if dates are keto or not.
That’s a great question. After all, dates are a type of fruit and some fruits are allowed in moderation on the keto diet. Maybe you’ve even seen a blogger include dates as a sweetener in a keto or low-carb recipe.
Don’t worry—we’re here to clear up the confusion. In this article, we’ll be discussing whether or not this ooey-gooey fruit is suitable for a keto diet, along with sharing other helpful information to support you on your quest for optimal health.
What Is the Keto Diet?
First of all, let’s cover some keto basics for those who aren’t familiar with this diet. The keto diet (short for ketogenic diet) is a high-fat, low-carb way of eating in which you consume about 60 percent of your daily calories from fat, 30 percent from protein, and 10 percent from carbohydrates (carbs). Yes, that means goodbye conventional grains based bread, potato chips, rice, and sugar laden baked goods!
By consuming less than 50 grams of carbs a day (or as low as 20 grams for some), as suggested on a keto diet, the body shifts from burning carbs (its typical fuel source) to burning fat. When the body enters this fat-burning state (called ketosis), it produces molecules called ketones. (Ketones are an alternative fuel made by the liver when there isn’t enough glucose (sugar) to be used as energy.)
As the name suggests, ketosis is the target state of the keto diet, and the way to enter that state is by drastically limiting the number of carbs and sugar you consume.
The Nutritional Basics of Dates
Now that you’re more familiar with the keto diet, let’s turn our attention back to the fruit in question: dates. There are several different types of dates, all of which have a similar nutritional profile. Medjool dates are the most commonly grown type of date and thus, the most widely available, so let’s take a look at the nutritional value of those. Keep in mind, however, that Medjool dates are larger than other types of dates, such as Deglet Noor dates.[*]
One Medjool date contains:[*]
- 67 calories
- 18 grams of carbs
- 16 grams of sugar
- 0 grams of fat
- 0.4 grams of protein
If you eat, say, three dates, you’ll be taking in a whopping 54 grams of carbs.
Are Dates Keto or Low-Carb?
As you can see from the above nutritional profile, dates are high carb, high sugar, low fat, and low protein. By eating just three Medjool dates, you’ll exceed the suggested 50 grams of carbs maximum for a day of keto-based eating—and that doesn’t include any other food! You’ll also be consuming nearly 50 grams of sugar.
Simply put, dates are not keto or low carb. In fact, they’re essentially the opposite of a keto-friendly food.
Problems with High-Sugar Intake
What’s the problem with high-sugar intake, anyway? Consuming a lot of sugar causes your blood sugar to swing up and down. When your blood sugar is high, you might have tons of energy and feel great, but when your blood sugar is low, you crash and experience that dreaded afternoon slump.
By switching to fat-burning mode through the keto diet, your blood sugar becomes much more stable. You eliminate the rollercoaster of highs and lows and find that you have more consistent energy.
Aside from blood sugar spikes, research shows that high-sugar intake may increase the risk of several health issues, including (but not limited to) heart disease, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cavities. [*][*][*][*] Excess sugar intake can also increase hunger and drive cravings for more sugar, increasing the probability of weight gain.[*]
Are Whole Dates Better Than Refined Sugar
While dates certainly aren’t a keto-friendly food, they are a lower glycemic option than refined sugar. Dates are a whole food and contain fiber, which helps slow down the body’s absorption of the sugar they contain, resulting in less severe blood sugar spikes. However, they will still impact your blood sugars and should be eaten with caution if you are metabolically inflexible or have Diabetes for example.
Refined sugar, on the other hand, is a processed food that’s completely devoid of fiber and other nutrients. When you consume refined sugar, the sugar is absorbed by the body all at once, leading to dramatic blood sugar spikes.
Potential Health Benefits of Dates
In addition to being lower glycemic and a source of fiber, dates offer several beneficial nutrients. They’re packed with antioxidants, which help protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cells and are associated with numerous diseases.[*]
Dates also contain several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium, all of which can support good overall health.[*]
Is It Okay to Have Dates Occasionally on Keto?
While dates shouldn’t make a regular appearance in your keto diet, eating a small date here and there shouldn’t derail your progress especially if they can be included in your own personal daily carb content. As with anything in life, you don’t need to be perfect 100 percent of the time to reap benefits. In fact, striving to be perfect can make you feel deprived and stressed, potentially leading to overeating or abandonment of your lifestyle.
It’s also important to note that there are other types of low-carb diets that are less restrictive than a standard keto diet. For instance, some people allow 50 to 100 grams of carbs per day or follow a cyclical keto diet, which involves having days of higher carb intake to bring your body in and out of ketosis.[*] In these cases, you could include dates more frequently than on a standard keto diet (although still sparingly). You will also find that dates are included as part of a Paleo lifestyle.
Alternative Keto Fruits
While dates aren’t the best fruit choice when following a keto diet, there are some other lower-carb fruits that you can occasionally consume to satisfy your sweet tooth. The best option for keto fruits is berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and unsweetened acai. You can enjoy berries in their whole form or use them to make a special keto-friendly treat, such as keto berry ice cream with added MCT oil or a keto chocolate berry smoothie with added collagen peptides. Is anyone else’s mouth watering?
Some other lower-carb fruits include cherries, kiwis, and plums. Overall, however, fruit should be considered an occasional treat, not a regular staple when following Keto.
Find what works for you
While most keto experts discourage including fruit on a keto diet, especially high-carb fruits, whether or not you include dates depends on your unique goals. If you’re trying to stay under 20 grams of carbs per day, then no, you shouldn’t consume dates, as eating just one Medjool date could use up almost your entire daily allotment of carbs. If, however, you’re following a plan that allows 50 to 100 grams of carbs per day (or a cyclical keto diet), you can eat a couple of small dates occasionally without hindering your goals.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not dates are permissible on your diet plan. As a high-carb fruit, they’re not suitable for most people’s approach to keto, but they might be for yours.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.