Eating dates during pregnancy can provide many health benefits for both mom and baby. Dates are a great source of nutrients and can help promote easier labor and delivery. But when is the right time to start consuming them? Here is a look at when you should start eating dates if you are pregnant.
The first trimester of pregnancy spans from week 1 to week 12. During this time, the baby’s major organs are forming and the placenta is developing. While dates are safe to eat from the start of pregnancy, you may want to introduce them slowly or wait until the second trimester to make them a regular part of your diet. The main reason is that high fiber foods like dates can cause gas or abdominal discomfort, which are already common early pregnancy symptoms. Eating large amounts of dates too soon may worsen these issues. Starting with 2-3 dates a few times a week and slowly increasing from there is a good approach.
The second trimester of pregnancy spans from week 13 to week 27. At this stage, nausea usually subsides and energy levels start to rise again. Appetite also often increases. This makes the second trimester an ideal time to start incorporating more dates into your diet. Dates are a healthy way to satisfy cravings for sweets and provide key nutrients needed for your growing baby. Aim for 3-6 dates per day, or about 60-100 grams. Going beyond this amount is unlikely to provide additional benefits.
The third trimester spans from week 28 to delivery. This is when baby is growing the fastest and pregnant women have increased calorie and nutrient needs. Dates are a great nutrient-dense food to include during this critical period. They provide calories, protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and other essential vitamins and minerals. Consuming 6-8 dates per day, or about 100-120 grams, is recommended during the third trimester. Be sure to drink plenty of water too since dates are high in fiber.
Best Time to Start Eating Dates
The best time to start incorporating dates is during the second trimester, around weeks 14-15. This allows the body time to adjust to the high fiber content. It also covers the period when dated are thought to be most helpful for promoting easier labor. Of course, you can start with small amounts in the first trimester or eat them sparingly from the start. But to really take advantage of the benefits, the second trimester is prime time.
Nutritional Profile of Dates
Here is an overview of the impressive nutritional profile of dates:
- High in natural sugar like glucose, fructose and sucrose. A 3.5 ounce serving has 31 grams of sugar.
- Good source of fiber. Contains 3 grams per 3 dates.
- Provide potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and other minerals.
- Contain antioxidants including flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acid.
- Moderate source of protein and calories. Provide about 2 grams protein and 135 calories per 3.5 ounces.
Health Benefits of Eating Dates During Pregnancy
Here are some of the top health benefits associated with eating dates during pregnancy:
- Reduce Labor Time: Multiple studies have found that regularly eating dates in the last few weeks of pregnancy reduces the need for induced labor and decreases labor time. One study found labor was shorter by an average of 4 hours for women who ate dates.
- Increase Dilation and Effacement: Dates may help the cervix ripen by increasing prostaglandins leading to greater dilation and effacement at time of delivery.
- Prevent Postpartum Hemorrhage: Some research indicates dates may help reduce postpartum hemorrhage after delivery. This excessive blood loss occurs in about 5% of women.
- Promote Latching: Dates contain compounds that stimulate oxytocin which is the hormone responsible for milk let-down reflex and breastfeeding bonding.
- Provide Nutrients: Dates give a boost of calories, protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and other key nutrients for mom and baby.
Tips for Eating Dates
Here are some simple tips for incorporating dates into your pregnancy diet:
- Add dates to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese and cereal.
- Stuff dates with nut butters or goat cheese for a snack.
- Bake dates into energy balls or other no-bake treats.
- Chop and mix into a salad for sweetness.
- Puree dates into a sauce to drizzle over tarts or pancakes.
- Make homemade date paste to use in cooking and baking.
- Drink date shakes made by blending dates with milk and spices.
Recommended Daily Intake
Most experts recommend eating anywhere from 3-8 dates per day during pregnancy. Here are general daily intake guidelines:
- First trimester: 2-4 dates
- Second trimester: 3-6 dates
- Third trimester: 6-8 dates
This provides about 60-120 grams of dates total. Be sure to introduce dates slowly and drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation.
Best Types of Dates
There are many different varieties of dates available. Some of the best types to eat during pregnancy include:
- Medjool: These are one of the most widely available, moist and sweet with a caramel-like flavor.
- Deglet Noor: Drier than Medjool but still soft and sweet. These have a firmer texture.
- Barhi: Smaller and drier than Medjool but with a rich, syrupy caramel taste.
- Honey: These are smooth, creamy and melt-in-your-mouth dates. As the name suggests, they have a honeyed sweetness.
- Halawi: Yellowish dates that are soft and succulent with a distinctive aromatic flavor.
Try a variety to find which you like best. The moister Medjool and Honey dates are ideal for snacking, while drier options work well baked into energy bars and balls.
Eating dates in normal amounts is considered safe during pregnancy and provides many benefits. However, here are some precautions to be aware of:
- May cause mild abdominal discomfort or diarrhea if eaten in excess.
- The high fiber content can worsen hemorrhoids.
- High glycemic index can be harmful for women with gestational diabetes.
- Extremely large doses may have a laxative effect.
Unless a health condition dictates otherwise, moderate intake is considered safe. As always, talk to your doctor about any dietary changes while pregnant.
The Bottom Line
Dates are a highly nutritious fruit that offer many benefits during pregnancy. They provide key nutrients, antioxidants, and compounds that may help promote easier delivery and reduce labor time. The best time to start eating them is during the second trimester, when nausea has improved and fiber is better tolerated. Aim for 3-8 dates per day, depending on the trimester. So enjoy integrating these tasty, sticky fruits into a healthy prenatal diet.