Are Dates Good For You?

Are Dates Good For You?
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Do the beneficial phytonutrients in dates make up for their high sugar content?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Dates are whole foods, but, by weight, are 80% pure sugar. Just to put that in perspective, Froot Loops are only 40% sugar. Half the sugar content of dates—and has fruit-shaped marshmallows—so it’s got to be healthy. Straight frosting? Only 60% sugar. Jelly beans? Only 70% sugar. Dates: 80%.

Yes, dates have fiber; they have phytonutrients. But the concern about consuming high-sugar foods is that they can raise our blood sugar, raise our triglycerides, oxidatively stress our bodies, and make us fat. So, last year, Israeli scientists took a bunch of people, stuffed them full of dates for a month, and measured what happened.

Are dates bad for us? Do the sugar and fiber kind of cancel each other out? Or are dates good for us?

Dates are fantastic. No adverse effects on blood sugar or weight, and beneficial improvements in triglycerides and antioxidant stress levels. Check out the title of this review: “Possible…best food…?” Concluding that “dates may be considered as an almost ideal food.”

As an aside, one date scored significantly better than the others. They’re both good, but one’s better. Medjool, or the smaller, sweeter Halawi dates? Without a doubt, Halawi is better.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Dates are whole foods, but, by weight, are 80% pure sugar. Just to put that in perspective, Froot Loops are only 40% sugar. Half the sugar content of dates—and has fruit-shaped marshmallows—so it’s got to be healthy. Straight frosting? Only 60% sugar. Jelly beans? Only 70% sugar. Dates: 80%.

Yes, dates have fiber; they have phytonutrients. But the concern about consuming high-sugar foods is that they can raise our blood sugar, raise our triglycerides, oxidatively stress our bodies, and make us fat. So, last year, Israeli scientists took a bunch of people, stuffed them full of dates for a month, and measured what happened.

Are dates bad for us? Do the sugar and fiber kind of cancel each other out? Or are dates good for us?

Dates are fantastic. No adverse effects on blood sugar or weight, and beneficial improvements in triglycerides and antioxidant stress levels. Check out the title of this review: “Possible…best food…?” Concluding that “dates may be considered as an almost ideal food.”

As an aside, one date scored significantly better than the others. They’re both good, but one’s better. Medjool, or the smaller, sweeter Halawi dates? Without a doubt, Halawi is better.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos for more on dates and other fibrous fruits:
Do Fruit & Nut Bars Cause Weight Gain?
Dried Apples, Dates, Figs, or Prunes for Cholesterol?
How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA”

And check out my other videos on dried fruit

For more context, also see my associated blog posts: Best Dried Fruit For Cholesterol and Soy milk: shake it up!

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

112 responses to “Are Dates Good For You?

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  1. I’m Yerba mate Girl, and I am SO thankful about this one!! So dates didn’t raise blood sugar?? And lowered triglycerides? That’s crazy good!!!! So the low fluffing raw fooders may have missed the mark? YEAH!! Going to order from The Date People this year!




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    1. I love the Date People! I’m averse to endorsing any sort of products or brands, but I’m a huge date fan and these are my favorite. But if anyone has another favorite I’ll certainly check them out.




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      1. Needed to hear this so why do so many other nutritionist say that if we eat to much fruit it turns the leptin switch off and we can not burn fat can u plz explain doc this always confuses me.




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    1. You are absolutely welcome! As an aside, has anyone tried barhi dates? I’ve also seen them spelled barhee. They are my favorite. I freeze them (they are one of the moistest dates) and then eat them with apples and I swear it tastes like the caramel apples of my youth! Any other varieties out there people love that I should try?




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      1. Yes doctor, its one of the types that widely produced in my country. But its precious very expensive, especially the big size ones. When its yellow prematured, it will be very delicious. After fully matured its better to freeze it. As being frozen the taste will improved.




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      2. Hadrawi – they are between majhool and halawai. Akmost like best of both in one date. There’s also dekel-noor, which is the dryest date but very sweet (almost like going our with a nredy accountant… ;-) )




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  2. This is great news! Dates are a favorite treat in our household, I buy medjools at the shuk (open air market) here in Jerusalem. I’ll have to try the barhi and khadrawi varieties. Thanks for the tip about freezing, I’ll try it with the medjools, it sounds like a tasty summer treat.




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    1. I’m sure you can get any kind online, but I’ve found locally my best bets are middle eastern and Indian grocery stores (great place to also get cheap spices). And evidently Ramadan is a good time of the year to find great dates. You’re a little late, but maybe you’ll find some bargains!




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  3. Hi Dr. Greger,

    Thank you for this fantastic, resourceful website. I’m a bit confused on how much fruit is safe to consume. The study you quote here says it’s healthy but there are other well known Doctors who say one should not consume more than 2 – 3 fruits per day. Apparently it can harm our liver and raise triglycerides? Thanks for clarifying.




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    1. The only thing I can imagine they’re thinking about is the relationship between rising fructose consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, but the fructose is coming from high fructose corn syrup (mostly from soft drinks) and table sugar, not fruit. See for example this recent article. Fruit may even have beneficial effects, for example this study on prunes and liver function. As far as I (and as far as I can tell the best available science) am concerned, the more fruit the better.




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    2. Hi Dave23, Dr. Gregers articles provide good information concerning this issue. Fructose is metabolized solely in the liver whereas glucose is metabolized by all cells. Most studies of the adverse effects of fructose have been done on intake of HFCS in beverages. It does raise the concern that the fructose in fruits might be an issue. Fruits contain fructose, glucose and sucrose(half glucose,half fructose). Fruits also come with fiber and nutrients. There are some health care professionals that are speaking of fructose as a bad thing. At this time I know of no studies which would support this conclusion. Eating a variety of whole foods seems to be the best approach. Avoiding sweetened drinks and processed foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS) added seems to be best approach.




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  4. I checked and they said that the issue is not just with high fructose corn syrup but with insulin resistance and fruit can still be an issue. Apparently fruit can be problematic with people that have insulin resistance?




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    1. Fruits naturally contain sugar, but most do not have a great affect on blood sugar. Watermelon and pineapple are the exceptions because they have a high glycemic index, which means they rapidly increase blood sugar. Fruits are an important component to a healthy whole-foods, plant-based diet. Check out this video on fruit and vegetable recommendations http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/nine-servings-a-day-minimum/. Find out which fruits are best for cancer prevention http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/best-fruits-for-cancer-prevention/. Here is a video on treating diabetes with diet http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/how-to-treat-diabetes/.




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    2. Please ask for some science to back up their assertions–I’d be happy to review any papers they have, as what I’m seeing in the scientific literature is studies showing phytonutrients in fruits may actually improve insulin sensitivity (see this study on blueberries for instance).




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      1. Would not naturally occurring sugars, in their whole food state be part of the reason why fruit sugars have health benefits while processed and synthetic sugars have health risks?




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  5. Dr greger,

    General question on sugar – if 80%+ of my diet is whole food based veganism, how much harm is there in a serious sweet tooth? Several times a week probably, I have banana ice cream (frozen banana, vanilla, soy milk, cocoa powder in vitamix) with chocolate chips and/or homemade chocolate cake (ie whole wheat flour, now dates). Occasionally (several times a month) I indulge in high sugar candy like jelly bellies or vegan candy corn. Other than that, I don’t drink soda (I use either juice or erythritol sweetened drinks with my citrucel/miralax) or eat high sugar cereal (does kashi crunch count?). With that data, is this sweet tooth a problem, and do I need to cut back? Thanks.




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    1. Iggyputty,

      I don’t want to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong since you addressed your question to Dr. G. So no problem if you don’t want my input.

      I’ve eaten the whole gamut of diets (omni, veggie, raw, vegan) and am now vegetarian again. I also have a sweet tooth, sometimes more than others. Moderation with it is definitely a wise move. I know that if I’m not eating a wide variety of veggies especially greens I’m depriving myself of lots of vitamins and minerals. Chlorophyl is our friend.

      All the best…




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  6. Does this information about dates apply to dried dates as well as fresh? I LOVE dried dates but have tried to avoid them because of the high concentration of sugar.




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    1. Indeed, this information is totally relevant to dried dates. There is not much water in fresh dates to begin with. The concentration of sugar does not increase with dried vs. fresh dates.




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  7. Hi Dr. Greger,

    I’m so confused about the date discussion here – as I am regarding all dried fruits for that matter. For example, dried plums or dried apricots have nearly HALF as much sugar as dates. Considering the research study that you mention, how can date sugar be any different than sugar in ANY dried fruit? Isn’t there ample evidence of the dangers of sugar to the cardiovascular system as well as the addictive nature of sugar in the way it stimulates the same region of the brain as does cocaine? Wouldn’t date sugar have the same affect at least with regard to the addiction factor?

    Last night’s “60 Minutes” segment on CBS,
    , presented a compelling case to definitely eliminate processed sugar, but I’m not clear about highly concentrated sugar found in some fruits such as dates.

    There’s also Dr. Lustig’s widely viewed lecture on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM, that he gave at UCSF that goes into detail regarding the dangers of high concentrations of sugar. Have you viewed these videos, and if so, what are your thoughts?

    Furthermore, it is certainly not uncommon for the conclusions from a scientific study to be later refuted as more evidence is collected. Isn’t it premature to draw such a conclusion about dates from this one study that you present?

    I would love to know your thinking on the matter as our family is attempting to follow the healthiest diet possible and cutting out sugar completely won’t fly with most of our members.

    Thank you so much!




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    1. Date sugar is not really sugar, its ground up dates. You would be eating a whole food. I don’t know anybody that would say eating fruits is not good for you!




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  8. Hi Dr Greger,
    i wanted to ask – Does aerobic exercising and sweating reduce the level sodium on our body and can actually balance the sodium levels of our body?




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  9. To anyone who sees this, I wanted to share my healthy “brownie” recipe. After seeing the videos about cocoa, dates, and nuts, I knew I had to give it a try, and they turned out DELICIOUS. You will not miss the old brownies after this! And, the best part is, you can eat as many as you want because every single ingredient is healthy!

    1 c dates
    1 c walnuts (I’m sure any nuts will work though)
    1/4 c cocoa (or to taste – everyone likes different amounts)
    2 tsp vanilla extract

    Put all of this in a high-powered blender (like Vitamix) and blend to desired consistency. We like ours with chunks of walnut still intact, but you could also blend them perfectly smooth.




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    1. Actually the high fat will make you lethargic. I was making something similar to this with coconut shreds instead of cocoa and no vanilla and did not feel as optimal as when I do low-fat. Low fat, high carb, fruit based raw vegan is most optimal.




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    2. No you cannot eat as many as you want just because something is made with “healthy” ingredients…1 cup of dates has 400 calories and 1 cup of walnuts has 800 calories and while these ingredients are healthy ingredients and good for you as opposed to refined sugars and white flour…eating an entire pan of these brownies in one sitting would be 1,200 calories. A healthy calorie is still a calorie and too many calories will make you fat.




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  10. I know that studies can be wrong, but I’m going to take this one on face value that the high sugar content isn’t a problem. In fact, I’ve even taken to putting a date in my coffee to take the edge off of it (can’t find date sugar). But I have another question, should we be at all concerned about it’s rating as “strongly inflammatory” on the Nutrition Data website. I read somewhere the analytical basis for their ratings is proprietary and many of their inflammation ratings cannot be verified. But is there any reason to go easy based on this rating.
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1882/2




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  11. I am taking it on face value that the results of the study are valid and trump any concern about too much sugar. But I noticed on the Nutrition Data site that dates are rated as “strongly inflammatory. Is there any reason to be concerned about that? As an aside, I have also read from some supporters of that sites, that Nutrition Data’s inflammation ratings are based on secret, proprietary analyses, and therefore cannot be verified.
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1882/2




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  12. Just found a delicious date-based “candy” bar from a UK company – http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk/nakd/

    One of their bars is called “Pecan Pie” – Ingredients:Dates (52%), Pecans (28%), Almonds (20%), natural flavour

    Since I just learned that dates are the healthiest sweet, and pecans are the healthiest nut (thanks Doc!) I’ll be ordering up a case of these bars to stave off the occasional sweets cravings.

    I tried the orange chocolate ones today, they taste like Eatmore bars (or maybe tootsie rolls), only better!




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    1. Perhaps adding fats, in the form of nuts, to your dates creates a new problem; high blood sugar. Fats may interfere with the work of insulin and slows the uptake of sugar into our cells.




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  13. Any thoughts on whether it is worth paying several times more for organic dates? To your knowledge are pesticide etc residues an issue. What about possible toxicity of natural chemicals used on organic produce. Info I have come across confusing. Any insight much appreciated. Thanks, John




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  14. I LOVE your website and great little videos on nutrition, backed up by peer-reviewed literature! I just wandered onto this post on dates. I fell in love with them during my nine years in Egypt and have been fascinated ever since. The dates there are FANTASTIC and quite different than California dates. Eric Hansen, who wrote one of my favorite books ever (On Foot Across Borneo), also wrote two wonderful articles with a lot of good information on dates a few years ago. One on dates in North Africa, the other in California. I have them as PDFs and can send them if you are interested. He mentioned the Flying Disc Ranch and I order from them. The Yellow Barhi (fresh) are my favorites, but I also have about 8 other varieties in my freezer. Thanks for letting us know what I suspected all along; that dates are good for you!

    My favorite is a Barhi date with 1-2 macademia nuts. Sweet and salty mmmm!




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  15. IS USING DATES SYRUP INSTEAD OF SUGAR AS SWEETENER IN MILK, YOGHURT AND TEA A HEALTHY OPTION? HOW MANY MLS OF DATE SYRUP IS GOOD FOR NON DIABETIC OBESE PERSON?




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    1. If your goal is to lose fat… you mentioned that the person in question is “obese” you should be eating less calorie dense foods. Since fat is the most calorie dense food relative to carbohydrates and proteins you should be minimizing refined sugar intake and increasing tea and minimizing and hopefully eliminating yoghurt and milk. Best resources to introduce you to the concepts are the DVD available on Jeff Novick’s website entitled, Calorie Density: Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer and the presentation by Doug Lisle, How to Lose Weight without losing your Mind, available on YouTube. You can check out the calorie density of each food on Cronometer by entering food selecting gram(g) as serving size and entering 454(grams per pound). Check out yoghurt, milk, sugar and dates then check out potatoes, vegetables, brown rice and you will get some information. You might enjoy watching John McDougall’s free presentation on his website entitled, The Starch Solution. Good luck.




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  16. I am new to this site and I enjoy all these videos comparing all these great foods head to head. It is helping me make better decisions. Although I always wondered what is the criteria used to measure a “helpful” or “harmful” foods? because as I suspect, it is a combination of multiple factors that play together to determine how healthy a food is. I get asked that question all the time and it would be helpful to put together a video outlining the test methodology.

    Once again, great effort and thank you for doing this, it helps to bring that information down to the mere mortals of us.




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  17. Hi Doctor. I have a growth in the bladder. I have had tests and seems it is not malignant. I am using molasses and baking soda treatment for cancer anyway. Am wondering if dates would be beneficial to eat.




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  18. I knew my taste buds weren’t lying to me. Too bad that I’ve never seen Hallawi dates in grocery stores around here. On the positive side, I love Medjool dates.




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  19. I Love dates! AND if they only measured fasting blood sugar and not postprandial highs, they were missing a lot of potential long term damage. One month is really nothing in the scheme of things. Load up your diet w/ dates for several years then get back to me. Watch for fungal infections (like candida overgrowth), rotten teeth, gradually increasing blood sugar spikes. Eventually you may well show increase insulin resistance but that could be way down the line for many. The other things are quite common in those who eat “excessive” fruit like 80-10-10 type diet.




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    1. 80-10-10 doesn’t require copious fruit consumption, as this macronutrient guideline is in line with Dr. Gregers message. A low fat whole foods plant based diet should be very high in carbohydrates from whole plant sources, including complex starches as well as fruits. Fruits tend not to spike blood sugars because of the fiber which allows slow release.




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  20. I’m so happy they are. I’m doing vegan cuisine–whole-food, plant-based with no sugar, oil or salt, this year, and without dates I’d have a hard time.




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    1. omnimatty: Congrats on a great diet commitment. You are at a place few people seem able to get to.

      While I can’t claim to be sugar, oil or salt-free, I share with you a great reliance on dates. So versatile and sweet!




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      1. Thanks Thea, Day 58, forget about eating out…good thing I love cooking. I have been making date paste and just putting it everywhere. :) Good thing they are potentially the most healthy food :) Those researchers should study me :)




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    1. Puffs like that are generally from molds. Some can be dangerous-like aflatoxin which grows on peanuts. Don’t know which ones grow on dates (yet). Most aren’t a problem in my experience, I don’t cull the occasional moldy nut/seed/berry any more. My system is strong enough to thrive right on. Heck moldy bread brought us penicillin-and the ancients knew that mouldy bread was a good thing long before we the moderns learned why.




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  21. Wow, Dr. Greger, this is great news from two perspectives. One, I am a whole foods plant-based vegan who eats many dates each day for desserts, snacks and on my bike as energy food ( I am a long-distance cyclist). Dates are to me what energy gels are to most cyclists. Second, I, too, love The Date People. I have been eating their dates for several months now. They are wonderful! I was a bit worried that maybe I was eating too much sugar, but you have put my mind at ease. THANKS!




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  22. So should we just ignore the glycemic index/glycemic load calculations for dates and other fruits? The GL of one date is about 9, depending of course on the variety. I’ve always heard that we should aim to cap GL at around 100/day. Is that correct?

    What do you make of these calculations? http://glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php and http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/7348/2

    Why do you think that 10 healthy subjects eating 4 dates a day for 4 weeks didn’t have increases in fasting blood glucose? Were they eating dates on an empty stomach– or after meals? Were they eating anything else at the same time that could have slowed down release of sugars? How long after eating dates were their bloods drawn? I’d love to read the entire study.




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  23. However, I suspect the biggest impact fruits and veggies have is not on increasing lifespan but on quality of life, especially in old age, like the 90-100 year old Okinawans still tending to their gardens.




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        1. Only where funding is suspect. To assume they are all connected is akin to assuming that all Americans have stock in the fast food industries. Dr. G is really good at exposing such conflicts and letting us know when they exist, even when the conclusions _are_ aligned with the dominant theme of WFPB eating.




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  24. Dr. Greger, a few months ago I ate my first date, it was great. I cut out all my processed crackers and ate dates instead. However, I noticed I would get a really bad migraine a few hours after consumption and sadly had to stop eating them. Could this be an allergy? Thanks.




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    1. This is most likely not an allergy. Migraine headaches are often triggered by certain foods. In my clinical practice many of my patients with migraines had success with avoiding food high in tyramine. There are a variety of low tyramine diets on line… the national headache foundation has one. Of course, the first step is to make sure the diagnosis is correct… not all headaches are migraines. If they are I would recommend make a list of everything you ate the 24 hours preceding your headache and cross check with foods listed on the low tyramine diet. In my experience most folks who are under stress eat much differently during stressful periods in their life. Skipping meals leads to larger meals and more tyramine. The amount of tyramine in stored foods goes up during storage so leftovers can be an issue. Eating out can pose challenges. You need to work with your physician(s) but if you can determine your triggers it is always best to prevent migraines. I had one patient decrease migraines by eliminating peanuts. Another found that meat tenderizer was a trigger. The interesting thing is that there are some plant foods that are high in tyramines such as snow peas, olives and raw onions. I couldn’t find dates listed on the diets i checked but it doesn’t matter if they are on a diet or not if they trigger your headaches you should avoid. Good luck.




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  25. I make a mock sweet potato pie with microwaved sweet potato(es), dates, cinnamon (preferably ceylon), ground ginger, allspice, and some nutmeg. I may also put some frozen berries on top.




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  26. Phew!! I was almost afraid to open that video :-D, If dates turned out bad it would have been bad for me since I use them in smoothies and munch on a few when I need a snack. Surrounded by Mid-Eastern and Indian stores dates are quite readily available around where I am.




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  27. A friend of mine made me a snack of medjool dates stuffed with cocoa dusted almonds and sprinkled with cayenne pepper after we had spent the day outside and I was feeling very run down and low on energy. Not only were they delicious, but they perked me up within 10 minutes of eating them! I am now eating this as a pre-workout snack and was happy to find this information confirming that I’m not harming myself by doing so. Thank you!




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  28. Dates are like natures energy bar. You can grind them up with some nuts and make a great pre workout and post workout recovery snack. They have lots of potassium.




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  29. Hi Dr.- We heard from one of your fans today who came into our store, the Sphinx Date Co. Thanks for the referral. We have Medjool Dates and Khadrawy, and the rare Black Sphinx Dates. Thanks again !




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  30. I get deglet nour dattes in montreal for really cheap and they taste great, I am not completely sure of the treatment they go through though




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    1. I just bought a 5 pound bag of Deglet Noor dates and I think they would be as good as the Medjool dates. Correct me if I am wrong. :)




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  31. Dr Michael I’m confused why a lot of many other plant based doctors only recommend 1oz of nuts a day ? If your videos states that nuts do not cause weight gain why do they only recommend this example McDougall and many other. Thanks




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  32. It should be pointed out that the Israeli study cited only involved 10 subjects, all male, and as mentioned only lasted for 1 month. They consumed 100 grams of dates every day, which is about 17 dates. I do not know what these subjects average daily sugar consumption before the test period was, and this would be important to know, since what was being tested was the change in their levels. If their daily sugar consumption before the test was high, then the dates may have just substituted for the sugar that they were consuming from other sources (or even from dates, since we don’t know what their average date consumption before the test was) and therefore did not cause bad changes in their levels. 10 people is not a large enough group to make determinations from, and it was not studied what changes happen if people significantly increase their sugar intake through the consumption of dates. I would urge caution to anyone wanting to make decisions based on the Israeli study cited in the video on this site.




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    1. Hi Merna – Dates are great! But, also naturally very high in sugar. One serving would be about 1/4 cup. Hope this helps!




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  33. Are dates OK to eat on a cancer diet? So many alternative experts say sugars feed the cancer, so leave them out of the diet. But if dates are practically “the perfect food”, wouldn’t they help FIGHT the cancer instead of nourishing it?




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    1. You ask an excellent question Lawrence. I don’t know the answer, but I’m hoping someone will answer you. I’d like to know also. I have cancer right now and am watching the foods I eat and I’ve been using dates to cook with and for sweetening up meals. Is it too much sugar for cancer cells?




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  34. Hi I am a moderator in NF team, so this study says that you can eat as much as you can, despite the fact they are 85% sugar. I think that if you eat 1-2 cups is okay. You wouldn want to eat only dates the whole day even though you love it. I would suggest caution in quantity and more studies to come.




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