Bananas are known for their versatility and high nutritional value. However, despite being a healthy fruit, bananas are often scrutinised given their high sugar content.
The views on the consumption of bananas by people with diabetes also seem to be divided. While some believe it is unsuitable for diabetics others swear by its positive effect on blood sugar levels.
Read more: Banana Nutrition – Calories, Benefits & Recipes
We will try to untangle this enigma and answer the big question: Can a person with diabetes have bananas?
Interesting Facts About Bananas
The scientific name for banana is Musa, and it belongs to the family Musaceae. Musaceae is a family of flowering plants exclusively grown in tropical areas and distinctively showcases the ‘banana hand’ clustered at the top of the plant.
India is the largest producer of bananas after Uganda.
The American Medical Association termed bananas superfoods in the early 20th century.
According to data, nutritionists use bananas as complementary medicine to treat various pathological conditions like celiac disease and diarrhoea.
5 Types of Bananas
This fruit makes up around 50% of banana produce. It is the classic banana type that is mildly sweet when ripe. These bananas are generally clear yellow without any brown spots.
The ripening process will make the peel thinner. Brown spots appear on the peel as the banana gets more and more ripened and becomes progressively larger until they cover the entire peel.
Cavendish is rich in vitamin B6, which helps balance sugar levels in the body. It also protects our nervous system from the possibility of stroke.
Plantain is a larger and less sweet version of bananas which is starchier and used for cooking. It is generally green in colour.
Plantain bananas contain magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and K that support a healthy body. They also have vitamins C and B, including thiamine and riboflavin.
3. Red Banana
This variety of bananas is shorter and plumper with a reddish-purple hue. The ripe red bananas are creamier and often sweeter than Cavendish bananas. It has great nutritional value and is rich in vitamins B6 and C and magnesium.
4. Ladies Finger
They are thinner and shorter varieties of banana, hence called ladies’ fingers. They are higher in potassium and dietary fibre and richer in vitamins C and B5.
It is one of the leading banana types primarily available in Kerala, India. It helps lower cholesterol and reduces blood pressure, and increases metabolism. Nendran banana has a low glycemic index.
Nutritional Values of Bananas and GI value
According to USDA, 100 grams of banana contains,
- Water: 74.9 g
- Energy: 89 Kcal
- Protein: 1.09 g
- Total Fat: 0.33 g
- Carbohydrates: 22.8 g
- Fibre: 2.6 g
- Starch: 5.38 g
- Calcium: 5mg
- Iron 0.26 mg
- Magnesium 27 mg
- Phosphorus 22 mg
- Potassium 358 mg
One medium banana provides about 1.2 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fibre, 0 grams of fat, 14 grams of sugar and 420 mg of potassium.
Bananas and Their Effect on Diabetes and Blood Sugar Levels
If you have diabetes, being aware of the quantity and type of carbohydrates in your diet is essential. Compared to other nutrients, carbohydrates can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels rise without diabetes, your body begins to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released that helps the cells uptake glucose from the blood, subsequently utilised by our body.
Unfortunately, this mechanism is disrupted if one has diabetes as Insulin production is impaired or cells are non-responsive to insulin.
Without proper diabetes management, people with the condition may experience blood sugar spikes after eating high-carbohydrate foods, which is extremely unhealthy.
According to USDA, a medium-sized banana contains about 27 grams of relatively high carbohydrates. However, bananas also have about 3 grams of dietary fibre.
According to a study, fibre helps slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. It, in turn, reduces blood spikes and overall contributes to blood sugar management. Therefore, a better way of determining the effects of bananas on blood sugar levels is by looking at their glycemic index and glycemic load.
Read More: Fibre Meal Plans For Diabetics
Do Bananas Have A High Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) measures blood sugar levels after eating a particular food. It helps identify whether a food is suitable for people with diabetes or not. For example, a GI score of 55 or less is rated as low, meaning that the food will not raise blood sugar significantly.
The glycemic load (GL) is a more specific measure that accounts for not only a food’s glycemic index but factors like the number of carbohydrates in one serving of that food. A score of 10 or less is considered a low GL. According to a meta-analytic study, lower glycemic index foods are considered better for people with diabetes.
According to a study, ripe bananas have a low GI of 51 and a moderate GL of 13. Let’s understand why the glycemic load scores higher when the glycemic index is low. It is due to the higher carbohydrate content in bananas, which increases the glycemic load. However, carbohydrate bananas work as resistant starch, which functions similarly to dietary fibre.
Resistant starch doesn’t break down in the small intestine, releasing less glucose into the bloodstream. As a result, it produces a lower glycemic index. According to research, resistant starch may also help feed the gut commensals, which improves metabolic health and better blood sugar management. Data also indicates that resistant starch may have beneficial effects for people with diabetes as it improves insulin sensitivity.
As aforementioned, the amount of carbohydrates in a banana varies depending on the ripeness. Green, or unripe, bananas contain less sugar and more resistant starch. They also have a lower glycemic index of 42 and a glycemic load of 11. Therefore, it makes unripe bananas a better choice than ripe bananas.
Can Someone with Diabetes Consume Bananas?
With all the information available to us, it’s safe to say that bananas can be suitable for people with diabetes as they help in improving insulin sensitivity and maintaining blood sugar. However, the ripeness of the fruit and the portion size should always be considered when making the decision.
Bananas are a wonderful source of key nutrients, from potassium and magnesium to phosphorous and a moderate amount of fibre, this fruit can be enjoyed once daily, even by diabetics. Do keep in mind the serving size – the banana length should match that of your palm to the end of your middle or ring finger.
Another interesting fact about bananas is that their glycemic load is more due to the number of carbohydrates it contains, however, a decent amount of it is resistant starch, which breaks down slowly, causing the delayed release of sugar, in turn reducing the Glycemic Index. Thus making them a low glycemic index food.
Healthy Recipes Using Green Bananas
Here are some delicious and healthy green banana recipes for you.
1. Banana Salad
- Coarsely chopped bananas: 2 cups
- Fresh curd whisked: ¾ cup
- Finely chopped fresh mint leaves: ½ cup
- Salt to taste
- Lemon Juice: A few drops
- Peeled and roughly chopped cucumber: ½ cup
- Roasted and coarsely crushed peanuts: ½ tbsp
- Roasted and coarsely crushed peanuts: 1 tbsp
- Finely chopped dill leaves: ½ tbsp
- Finely chopped green chillies: ½ tsp
- Combine the curd, mint leaves, salt and pepper in a bowl for the dressing, and mix well.
- Add banana, lemon juice, cucumber, salt, dill leaves, and crushed peanuts.
- Serve it cold, garnished with peanuts, dill leaves and green chillies.
2. Green Banana Curry
- Apple bananas: 5-6
- Coconut oil: 1.5 tbsp
- Onion, chopped: 1
- Red or green bell pepper, chopped: 1
- Garlic cloves, minced: 4
- Fresh, grated turmeric (or ½ teaspoon dried): 1 tbsp
- Fresh, grated ginger: 1 tbsp
- Mustard seeds: 2 tbsp
- Coconut milk: 15 ounce
- Tamarind sauce/paste: 1 tbsp
- Salt, more to taste: 1 tsp
- Chopped fresh cilantro: ¼ cup
- Chopped fresh Thai basil: ¼ cup
- Separate the banana bunch. Put it into a stockpot and pour enough water to cover it with water.
- Boil and cook for 25 minutes. Bananas will lose their colour and split open. Remove the banana from the water and keep it aside to cool.
- Once cooled, peel bananas and chop them into ½ – inch cubes.
- Heat coconut oil and add onion.
- Cook for 10 minutes or until soft and browned. Then, add chilli, ginger, turmeric, and mustard seeds.
- Toss to mix it well and cook for five more minutes.
- Add chopped bananas, coconut milk, tamarind chutney and salt. Let simmer on low, then reduce the flame and cover.
- Simmer until the bananas are soft (approximately for 10 minutes).
- Stir in cilantro and basil, and add more salt if needed.
3. Samoan Green Banana
- Coconut milk: 13.5 ounce
- Onion (chopped): 1 large
- Unripe (green) bananas: 6 (small)
- Add coconut milk and onion to a bowl.
- Boil water in a large pot over medium heat. Boil bananas in their peels for 30 to 40 minutes. Then filter it.
- To cool the bananas, run them under cold water to make them easy to handle. Next, take out the entire peel of the banana.
- Heat a large saucepan over a medium-high flame and place the bananas in the pan. Pour the coconut milk mixture over the bananas.
- Cook until the coconut milk is foamy. Allow cooling 5 minutes before serving.
You can use green bananas in multiple ways. They are used raw, boiled, fried and in curries.
Bananas are highly nutritious foods which are available in many varieties. You can eat it raw, or you can also cook it. They have high carbohydrate content, and hence people with diabetes are afraid to eat them. On digging deeper, we understand that bananas have a low glycemic index owing to resistant starch.
It is the type of starch that is resistant to enzymes in the small intestine and leads to slower absorption of blood glucose, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.
It has positive effects on the maintenance of blood sugar. Hence it is entirely safe and recommended to consume bananas for people with diabetes. However, it would help to consider the portion size and ripeness of bananas before using them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are the benefits of eating bananas?
A. Nutrient-rich bananas are very beneficial for health. They support digestive health due to dietary fibre. They have a positive effect on the gut microflora. According to a study, they are also full of antioxidants. Since bananas are rich in potassium, they also help control high blood pressure.
Q. Is it OK to eat bananas every day?
A. Yes, regulated daily consumption of bananas may improve cardiac health, lipid profile and blood glucose levels. However, eating too many bananas a day may cause detrimental health effects, such as weight gain, poor blood sugar control, and nutrient deficiencies.
Q. Who should not eat bananas?
A. All age groups can consume bananas. You should, however, consume it in proper portion sizes as too many bananas are detrimental to your health. In addition, you should avoid eating bananas in case of hyperkalemia, wherein the body’s potassium levels are high. Bananas are rich in potassium and can worsen the condition.
Q. Do bananas make you fat?
A. Bananas are a calorie-rich food. However, customarily recommended portions do not make you fat. Weight gain only happens due to excess consumption of bananas over a prolonged period of time.
Q. When should you not eat bananas?
A. You can eat bananas at any time of the day. They are a great snack during the day time as their fibre content keeps you full during the day and prevents unhealthy snacking. They can also be a great option post meal when you’re craving something sweet given their soft, mushy texture. Bananas also help you sleep better because they contain nutrients like magnesium, potassium and tryptophan.
Q. What do bananas do to the brain?
A. Yes, it is true that bananas are suitable for your memory because they contain vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 boosts the production of your neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which help you concentrate and enhance your memory. However, there is no concrete evidence to prove the same.
Q. What happens if you eat a banana every morning?
A.Eating bananas before breakfast or as part of a balanced meal help promote satiety and aid digestive health. In addition, bananas contain several essential micronutrients, including potassium and vitamin C.
Q. Do bananas make you poop?
A.Bananas are rich in several essential vitamins and minerals. Bananas are also relatively high in fibre, with one medium banana containing about 3.1 grams of fibre. As a result, it may increase your bowel movements.
Q. Why are bananas unhealthy?
A.Bananas are inherently not unhealthy. On the contrary, they are highly nutritious and considered superfoods. Eating bananas becomes significantly risky only if you eat too many.
Q. What are the side effects of bananas?
A.Side effects of bananas are rare but may include bloating, gas, cramping, softer stools, nausea, and vomiting. In addition, bananas might cause high blood potassium levels in very high doses, for example, in the case of hyperkalemia.
Q. Are bananas good for you before bed?
A. Yes, you can consume bananas before bed. They can help you sleep better by containing nutrients like magnesium, potassium and tryptophan.
Q. Can you eat bananas on an empty stomach?
A. We find that bananas, despite being full of potassium, fibre and magnesium, are not a good option to consume on an empty stomach. The high amount of natural sugars in bananas that boost energy could also make you feel drained after a few hours.
- Let’s Go Bananas! Green Bananas and their Health Benefits: https://sciendo.com/article/10.1515/prilozi-2017-0033
- Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/
- Low-glycemic index diets as an intervention for diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31374573/
- International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008: https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/31/12/2281/24911/International-Tables-of-Glycemic-Index-and
- Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/
- Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity in metabolic syndrome: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20536509/
I would like to receive advice on diabetic my blood sugar is always high
Hello. Please do reach out to our experts at HealthifyMe for personalised advice. However to give you some general information, blood sugar levels can be controlled if you ensure your diet is healthy, you are exercising daily, sleeping enough, managing stress and taking medications suggested by your medical practitioner on time.
There is only 1 definitive way for any diabetic to know if any food is safe – test your blood, eat the food, test again. As a T2 diabetic I would never take any advice like this without testing it for myself. That’s how I know I can’t eat bananas – even just 1 spikes my blood sugar fairly high.
If you keep a check on your total carbohydrate intake and blood sugar levels, bananas will do you more good than harm. Keeping a tab of your other food intake and blood sugar and insulin levels is very important while including foods you think may affect your sugar levels. Portion size is also incredibly important.
Greener bananas are rich in resistant starch and are safer for diabetics with the additional benefit of improving their blood cholesterol levels as supported by this study. Research also shows that greener bananas have less total sugar and thus can be consumed by diabetics in moderation.