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Should You Eat Bananas If You’re Diabetic?

Bananas pack a punch when it comes to fiber, vitamins and minerals. But they also carry the bane of every diabetic- carbs and sugars. The American Diabetes Association believes bananas can be good for diabetics, if eaten in moderation. Underripe bananas are recommended. Eat different fruits and distribute your banana-eating through the day so that it doesn't wreak havoc on your sugar levels.

Diabetics have to be careful about what they eat, and too many carbs or high glycemic index foods are usually a no-no. On the other hand, fresh fruit and vegetables are supposed to have a beneficial effect on the condition. So where does that leave you when it comes to fruit like the humble banana?

When you have Type-2 diabetes, your body can’t produce adequate insulin, causing glucose to get pulled out of the blood for storage in cells. As a result, your sugar levels go through dips and spikes. This means your diet has a vital role to play in helping regulate the sugar levels. Very high glycemic foods can exaggerate the spikes and the sudden dips after the sugar is burnt through quickly.

What’s In A Banana?

Bananas are a rich source of dietary fiber as well as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium, making them a great healthy snack or ingredient in a meal. While the B6 keeps you in a good mood, vitamin C does wonders for your immune system, potassium helps regulate blood pressure, and the fiber keeps you feeling satiated for longer. One study even indicated that native banana starch (24 g per day) could be beneficial for increasing insulin sensitivity and may help lower body weight in obese Type-2 diabetics.1

It is no wonder then that they are also one of the most popular fresh fruits in the United States.2

What diabetics need to keep in mind though, is that bananas also contain carbohydrates and this must be factored in when planning your meals for the day.

Diabetics Can Have Bananas Too

The American Diabetes Association encourages the consumption of fruit by diabetics and says eating bananas as part of a healthy diet is absolutely okay.3

In fact, one study showed that a banana is actually among the best whole fruit (along with blueberries and grapefruit) you can have if you are trying to ward off Type-2 diabetes.4

Underripe Bananas Vs. Ripe Bananas

As bananas ripen, the starch in them converts to free sugars. As such, when you have a banana that’s not completely ripe, you are in effect having a fruit with as much as 90 percent starch content. Which is why researchers found that underripe bananas produced a lower glycemic response, making them a preferable snack over fully ripened ones.5

Daily Banana Consumption: One Too Many?

While you can eat a banana a day quite safely, you need to carefully work out your portion size. When it comes to bananas, the American Diabetes Association wants you to know how much is too much. According to their estimates, the average carb content for bananas of different sizes varies greatly. For instance, a banana that is very small (6 inches and under) may have only 18.5 gm of carbohydrate. On the other hand, a medium one which is just an inch or two longer (7 to 7 ⅞ inches) can pack in 27 gm of carbs. A banana that’s 9 inches or more can have upwards of 35 gm of carbs in it.6

Individual blood glucose responses can be quite different, so you will need to use your discretion to work out what is right for your body. Adjust the portion sizes until you strike the right balance between the bananas in your diet and other fresh vegetables and fruit. As with any kind of food, moderation is key and variety is always a good idea. So if you can expand your palate to include fruit like apples, grapes, blueberries,7 or avocado8 you may find it easier to regulate sugar levels.

Also, distribute your consumption of fruit and carbs through the day to help keep those sugar levels steady. Get the math and your planning right and you will be able to enjoy a banana a day without having to deal with diabetes-related complications afterward.

References   [ + ]

1. Ble-Castillo, Jorge L., Maria A. Aparicio-Trapala, Mateo U. Francisco-Luria, Ruben Cordova-Uscanga, Arturo Rodriguez-Hernandez, Jose D. Mendez, and Juan C. Diaz-Zagoya. “Effects of native banana starch supplementation on body weight and insulin sensitivity in obese type 2 diabetics.” International journal of environmental research and public health 7, no. 5 (2010): 1953-1962.
2. Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.
3, 6. Can you still eat bananas with type 2 diabetes, American Diabetes Association.
4, 7. Muraki, Isao, Fumiaki Imamura, JoAnn E. Manson, Frank B. Hu, Walter C. Willett, Rob M. van Dam, and Qi Sun. “Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.” (2013): f5001.
5. Hermansen, K., O. Rasmussen, S. Gregersen, and S. Larsen. “Influence of ripeness of banana on the blood glucose and insulin response in type 2 diabetic subjects.” Diabetic medicine 9, no. 8 (1992): 739-743.
8. Lerman-Garber, Israel, Sagrario Ichazo-Cerro, José Zamora-González, Guillermo Cardoso-Saldaña, and Carlos Posadas-Romero. “Effect of a high-monounsaturated fat diet enriched with avocado in NIDDM patients.” Diabetes care 17, no. 4 (1994): 311-315.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.