When to Start Eating Dates in Pregnancy
The list of foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy can get pretty long. But some foods are especially beneficial when you’re pregnant, and one in particular may surprise you: dates.
This fruit—which comes from the tropical date palm tree and is usually sold fresh or dried—is jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients beneficial to pregnant people, like fiber and folate. And while dates are fairly high in sugar, they still have far less of it than packaged cookies, cakes and candy. Better yet, there’s some evidence suggesting eating dates during pregnancy may set you up for a smoother labor and delivery.
Here are all the reasons to consider eating dates in pregnancy (and what you should know about their alleged labor-inducing powers).
Yes, you can eat dates during pregnancy. According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, a fertility-focused dietitian and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook, dates are packed with nutrients that support a healthy pregnancy, like magnesium, iron and calcium. They’re also a natural source of fiber, adds Manaker, something that pregnant people often struggle to get enough of in their diets. And, yes, fiber can help quell pregnancy constipation.
There are several reasons why you might consider adding dates into your pregnancy diet. When dried, dates are pretty good at satisfying a sweet tooth, says Kecia Gaither, MD, an ob-gyn and director of perinatal services and maternal fetal medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx. Gaither adds that dates do contain natural sugars (fructose), but also have way more fiber than your typical packaged snack.
In other words, if you reach for a few dates instead of a few chocolate chip cookies, there’s a good chance you’ll soothe your craving and pave the way toward better digestive health.
Dates are also highly nutritious, says Gaither, serving as a good source of folate, which reduces the risk of fetal nervous system defects, potassium, which relaxes blood vessels and can lower blood pressure, and iron, which can decrease the risk of anemia.
Finally, dried dates are full of magnesium, which can help with muscle cramps, sleeplessness and restless nights during pregnancy, says Ellen Smead, CNM, a certified nurse-midwife at Pediatrix Medical Group in Atlanta.
In general, dates are perfectly safe to eat during pregnancy. Although they have a higher sugar content than some other types of fruit, Manaker says they’re still fairly low on the glycemic index (GI). A few studies have found that the variety of date can impact the fruit’s GI value, as can its ripeness, with dried dates having a lower GI value than fresh ones.
That said, dates may not be appropriate for all pregnant people to eat on a regular basis: Gaither says if you have pregestational or gestational diabetes, you should ask your provider or nutritionist about adding dates to your diet. Manaker also says that people with a fructose intolerance might end up with uncomfortable GI symptoms from eating dates, and anyone on a low-fiber diet for medical reasons should also be cautious since they’re so high in fiber.
There’s some research that suggests eating dates toward the end of pregnancy could reduce the need for induction and produce a more favorable delivery outcome. However, both Manaker and Gaither say a lot more data is needed before making any conclusive claims.
“There’s very [weak] data suggesting that eating dates every day during the last few weeks of pregnancy can promote cervical ripening,” says Manaker. “Some [unsubstantiated] data has linked consistent consumption of dates to a reduced risk of c-section delivery and other positive pregnancy outcomes.”
That said, Manaker adds that there’s little to no downside to eating dates on a regular basis throughout pregnancy, including toward the end of those nine long months: “The worst that happens is it doesn’t affect labor outcomes, but you get a boost of fiber and micronutrients.”
Smead says that if you’re looking to eat dates as a way of making labor easier, 37 weeks (or toward the end of pregnancy), is a good time to make dates a part of your daily diet.
But if you just like the idea of boosting your intake of some important nutrients during pregnancy or satisfying your sweet tooth in a more nutritious way, you can eat dates pretty much anytime you want to as long as you don’t have any health conditions that could present an issue. Make sure to speak with your provider if you’re unsure.
Dates are a great pregnancy snack. If you’ve never had dates before, there are many ways to prepare them: Try blending a couple into your morning smoothie, adding them into salads and baked goods or dicing them as toppings for yogurt or oatmeal. Enjoy!
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Kecia Gaither, MD, is an ob-gyn and director of perinatal services and maternal fetal medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx. She earned her medical degree from SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York.
Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, is a fertility-focused dietitian and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook.
Ellen Smead, CNM, is a certified nurse-midwife at Pediatrix Medical Group in Atlanta. She graduated from Emory University in 2011 and is an advanced practice midwife with the American Midwifery Certification Board.
Nutritional Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Fruits and Vegetables, Dates (Fruit), 2020
Nutrition Journal, Glycemic Indices of Five Varieties of Dates in Healthy and Diabetic Subjects, May 2011
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The Effect of Late Pregnancy Consumption of Date Fruit on Labour and Delivery, 2011
Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women, 2017
Produce for Better Health, Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Dates
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