Dates are an excellent choice for sweet and healthy snacks during pregnancy.
To be honest, this dried fruit may not be on your radar. Nonetheless, eating a handful of dates is more nutritious than many people realise.
Here are some of the advantages of eating dates while pregnant, as well as how this fruit may affect labour.
Benefits of eating dates during pregnancy
Dates offers many nutritional benefits during pregnancy.
One day you might feel energetic, and the next day you’re fatigued and can’t think clearly. (Thanks, pregnancy brain fog.) The more nutrients and vitamins you put into your system, though, the better you’ll feel physically and mentally.
Dates are a fruit from the date palm tree, which is a type of flowering plant. Dates are one of the sweetest types of fruits. But don’t worry, it’s a natural type of sugar.
Eating this dried fruit provides a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth than perhaps that traditional ice cream craving. And because it’s a good source of natural fructose, dates may give you energy to fight pregnancy fatigue — a win-win.
The nutritional benefits don’t stop here, though. Dates are also loaded with fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. And as a result, you’re less likely to deal with pregnancy-related constipation.
Dates are also a source of folate, which helps reduce the likelihood of birth defects. They also provide iron and vitamin K.
Getting more iron in your diet can boost your energy levels and fight iron deficiency anemia. In addition, vitamin K helps a growing baby develop strong bones, and it can improve your muscle and nerve function.
Dates are also a rich source of potassium, an electrolyte mineral that helps keep blood vessels relaxed and blood pressure lower.
Precautions when eating dates during pregnancy
Dates are not only healthy, but also safe to eat during pregnancy. There’s no evidence suggesting that dates have a negative effect during the first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy.
Quite the opposite, actually: Eating dates can have a positive effect and help you feel better, especially if you’ve been dealing with low energy or constipation.
Because of the rumors about dates making for easier labor — more on that in a second — some people may try them for the first time while pregnant.
For this reason, one precaution is the (very unlikely) risk of having an allergic reaction to dates. Signs of a reaction include tingling, itchiness, or swelling around your mouth or tongue. If these symptoms develop, stop eating dates immediately.
Keep in mind that dates are also high in carbohydrates and calories, so don’t go overboard if your OB has told you to watch your calorie intake or blood sugar. Limit yourself to six dates a day.
Can dates help your labor?
The date palm tree is a native plant in the Middle East, so while dates aren’t a staple food in the United States, they are in that part of the world — and have been for millennia.
Dates have long been believed to have therapeutic benefits (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor). Another purported benefit is the ability of dates to improve labor.
Eating this dried fruit to enhance the labor experience may seem like an old urban (or, rather, ancient) myth, but according to researchers, there’s some evidence to back up this claim. So depending on how many dates you eat during pregnancy, your labor could start without the help of medication since dates are believed to promote natural induction.
In a 2011 study, researchers had 69 pregnant women eat six dates a day for 4 weeks leading up to their estimated delivery dates. The study also consisted of 45 pregnant women who didn’t eat any dates prior to their delivery dates.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers discovered that the women who ate six dates a day for 4 weeks had a shorter first stage of labor, a higher mean cervical dilatation, and more had intact membranes upon arrival at the hospital. (In other words, their cervix was more ripe for giving birth.)
Additionally, 96 percent of the women who ate dates experienced spontaneous labor compared with only 79 percent of the women who didn’t eat dates.
A more recent study of 154 women compared 77 who ate dates late in their pregnancy and 77 who didn’t. Researchers found that the date eaters had significantly less need for medical intervention to induce or expedite labor compared to those who didn’t eat any dates.
Based on these findings, researchers believe that eating dates could reduce the need for labor induction. More research is needed to confirm it would benefit all women. (But it sure wouldn’t hurt to nibble on a few a day leading up to your due date!)
Eating other dried fruits during pregnancy
Be mindful that dates aren’t the only dried fruits you can eat during pregnancy. Fruit in general is healthy due to its vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. It’s also filling and can help you feel satisfied longer.
But it’s also important to eat dried fruits in moderation. Dried fruits go through a drying process (yes, we know that’s a bit obvious), which causes them to lose water. And as a result, these fruits tend to have more calories and sugar than their non-dried counterparts.
So eating a handful of your favorite dried fruit isn’t the same as eating the same amount of fresh fruit. So if you’re trying to control your sugar intake, stick to no more than a half cup to one cup of dried fruit per day.
You can eat dried fruit alone, add it to smoothies, or sprinkle it over a salad or side dish.
A healthy pregnancy is all about eating a healthy, balanced diet, which can include plenty of fresh and dried fruits. Dates are an excellent choice because they’re fiber rich and have other nutrients and vitamins.
And if research conclusions are accurate, eating dates while pregnant just might improve your chances for a spontaneous, natural induction.