- Bananas have a low glycemic index and glycemic load, meaning they shouldn’t raise blood sugar significantly and are healthy to include in a diet for diabetes.
- When eaten with a source of fat and protein, bananas that are under-ripe, smaller, and unprocessed are best for blood sugar management.
- The fiber and nutrient content of bananas gives them numerous health benefits for people with diabetes.
Even though bananas contain natural sugar which can spike blood glucose levels after eating them, they can be safely included in a balanced diet for diabetes due to their low glycemic index, fiber content, and vitamin and mineral composition. A few strategies can help minimize the impact of bananas on your blood sugar, like choosing a smaller, less ripe banana and eating it with foods containing fat and protein.
Bananas are a good source of fiber, resistant starch, potassium, and vitamin C, making them beneficial for health concerns like insulin resistance, heart disease, blood pressure.
Learn more about the health benefits of bananas, how they impact blood sugar, and the best way to eat them if you have diabetes.
Can People with Diabetes Eat Bananas?
Yes, people with diabetes can eat bananas—particularly in moderation and paired with other natural, whole foods.
Bananas contain natural fruit sugar, which will raise blood glucose levels after eating, like all carbohydrates. However, bananas contain fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to minimize spikes in blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommends including fruit in your diabetes meal plan, focusing on fresh, unprocessed fruit.
Processed forms of bananas, like dried bananas or banana chips, tend to have added ingredients like sugar or salt. They also have a smaller serving size because they are more concentrated forms of the fruit. It may take more to fill you up, making it important to be aware of portion sizes and changes in carbohydrate amounts when they have been processed.
Bananas and Blood Sugar
The glycemic index (GI) is one method you can use to learn how different foods might impact your blood sugar levels. Each food is given a numerical value based on how quickly it raises blood sugar, with less than 55 being low, 56-99 being medium, and greater than 70 being high.
Most fruits have a low glycemic index, bananas included. The level of ripeness may have an impact on how it affects blood sugar levels. A ripe banana has a low GI of 51, meaning it should not spike blood sugar. An under-ripe banana has a much lower GI of 31.
While the glycemic index tells us how quickly a food will raise blood sugar, the glycemic load (GL) tells us how much a food will raise blood sugar levels. A low glycemic load is considered less than ten, and bananas range from a GL of five to eight depending on ripeness. Considering the GI and GL together, bananas should not raise blood sugar too much or too quickly.
While GI and GL provide valuable information, carbohydrate counting is the preferred method in determining how much of a specific food should be included in a meal. One carbohydrate choice is equivalent to 15 grams of carbohydrates. Your doctor or dietitian will provide you with the number of choices you may have at each meal or snack.
One very small banana counts as one carbohydrate choice (15 grams), while a large banana counts as two choices (30 grams). You may use this information to determine how a banana can fit into your carbohydrate "budget" for a meal or snack.
To learn more about glycemic index, carb counting, and how to effectively manage blood sugar levels, consider scheduling an appointment with a registered dietitian through Nourish.
Tips for Eating Bananas with Diabetes
The ripeness and size of bananas and what you eat with them can all impact the blood sugar response.
Have it With a Fat or Protein
Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and fat can help moderate the blood sugar response, minimizing spikes. Instead of eating a banana alone, pair it with a meal or snack containing protein and fat to help provide balance.
Here are some foods that contain protein and fat that you can eat with a banana for improved blood sugar control.
- Nut butter.
- Nuts or seeds.
- Hard-boiled egg.
- Greek yogurt.
Research shows that including fat and protein with carbohydrate foods also helps with satiety. Eating a banana alone will leave you hungry much sooner than pairing that banana with some peanut butter.
Try an Under-ripe Banana
Try enjoying your bananas before they get too ripe– greener is better! A 2021 study on how ripeness impacts the nutritional composition of bananas found that the riper the banana, the more sugar and less fiber it contains, whereas under-ripe bananas contain more fiber.
Eat it After a Meal
Eating a banana after a meal can be a great way to minimize blood sugar spikes. The American Diabetes Association recommends eating a small piece of fruit for dessert after a meal balanced with starch, protein, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats.
Eat a Small Banana
Bananas are available in a wide range of sizes, which impacts the number of carbohydrates present. For example, an extra large banana contains almost double the carbohydrates of an extra small banana.
- Extra small banana (<6 inches): 18.5 g carb
- Small banana (6 inches): 23 g carb
- Medium banana (7 inches): 27 g carb
- Large banana (8 inches): 31 g carb
- Extra large banana (9 inches): 34.7 g carb
Try choosing the smaller bananas, or make sure you account for the increased carbohydrate content of larger bananas when including them in your meal plan.
Benefits of Bananas
Bananas contain many beneficial health compounds, like fiber, resistant starch, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
One medium banana contains almost ten percent of the daily recommended potassium intake. Potassium is a mineral shown to help lower high blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of stroke. This is important because people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease than the general population.
The fiber content of bananas helps to slow down digestion and helps prevent big fluctuations in blood sugar. It also has heart-healthy benefits and helps keep you full longer.
Bananas also contain resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that has been shown to help improve insulin resistance and HbA1c levels (the three-month blood sugar average) in people with metabolic syndrome. Under-ripe bananas contain more resistant starch and fiber than ripe bananas, making them a better choice for blood sugar control.
Bananas can be part of a healthy diabetes meal plan. They provide beneficial nutrients like fiber, resistant starch, potassium, and vitamin C. Pay special attention to portion sizes and pair with protein and fat to minimize blood sugar increases.
Managing Diabetes With an RD
The American Diabetes Association recommends all people with diabetes work with a registered dietitian. Consider scheduling a consultation with a diabetes dietitian through Nourish, for an individualized plan to help you optimize your blood sugars.
Visits are virtual, making it easy to get support when you need it. Nourish accepts the most common insurance companies, and 94% of our patients pay $0 out of pocket.
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