Can I Eat Bananas If I Have Diabetes?

Medically reviewed by Ariana Fiorita, RDN Ariana Fiorita Ariana FioritaRDN linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years

Knowledge is power. But, it can be dangerous too.

The wrong kind of knowledge, I mean. The wrong information – when you think something is true, but, in fact, the truth lies elsewhere.

Like the case of bananas and diabetes – can people with diabetes eat bananas? A case of gross misinterpretation and lack of proper knowledge.

But worry not, we are here to take care of that.

Banana – A Brief

A fruit so ‘everyday’ (and delicious) that there wouldn’t be a soul that doesn’t like it. Botanically speaking, banana is a berry.

Usually elongated and curved, the soft flesh is rich in starch and is covered with a rind that can be yellow, green or brownish-red.

Banana is grown in over 135 countries worldwide. The fruit is also cultivated for its fiber, banana wine, and banana beer. There is no distinct difference between bananas and plantains, except that plantains tend to be a little firmer and starchier.

Yes, banana is a lip-smacking fruit that improves any dish that you add it to. It has superb benefits and helps prevent numerous diseases.

…is that the case with diabetes too? Let’s find out.

Diabetes And Bananas – The Connection

Why bananas?

The fruit is considered to be one of the healthiest and most potent. What does it have to do anything with diabetes? Why the link?

Let’s have a glance at diabetes – it is a condition where your body cannot efficiently use the insulin that it produces. This ultimately leads to the accumulation of glucose in your blood, resulting in high blood sugar.

And now, for the link – the average banana contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates. And most of these carbs come from sugars. Hence, the connection. The larger the banana, the more the sugars.

So, is banana good for diabetes?Can people with diabetes consume this fruit?

[ Read: Benefits And Uses Of Green Bananas ]

Can Diabetics Eat Bananas?

A small banana has 8% of the RDA of potassium. It also contains 2 grams of fiber and 12% of the daily value of vitamin C. More importantly, banana is a medium glycemic index food, and hence, it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes as much as other ‘sweet’ foods would. The trick is to have bananas along with foods that are low in glycemic index or contain little or no carbohydrates. These include nuts, beans, non-starchy vegetables, eggs, meat, and fish.

If you are planning to have a salad, have a banana with cherries, apples, and grapefruit – these have a lower glycemic index. You can also include some protein and fat with each meal as they help keep the blood glucose levels under control.

Basically, it’s the serving size. It is the portion that matters the most (1). Though bananas aren’t high in glycemic index, ensure you limit the portion sizes. Also, you can test your blood sugar two hours after eating the fruit. This will help you figure out what serving size works best, and if it works fine at all in the first place.

As per a study, regular consumption of banana (or 250 grams per day) is harmless for diabetics (2). It is important for diabetics to consume fruits that are lower in fructose, and banana is one of them (3).

Okay. So, banana for diabetic patients is completely safe. But, is it beneficial? Does consuming banana help you manage diabetes well?

Benefits Of Banana For Diabetes

(a) The Resistant Starch

In certain ways, banana can be quite beneficial in helping to manage diabetes. The first of those ways being its glycemic index, which is moderate to low – making the fruit useful in managing diabetes.

Banana (especially the greener ones) also contains good amounts of resistant starch, which, as the name suggests, is starch that cannot be broken down in the small intestine and hence passed on to the large intestine (4). And as per an Iranian study, resistant starch can improve the glycemic status in individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes (5).

Another study has stated that resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity. It also helps manage blood sugar spikes associated with meal consumption. All of these are particularly beneficial for people who are at a risk of diabetes or suffering from it (6).

As per another study, resistant starch has shown promise in treating chronic illnesses, with diabetes being one of them (7). With respect to bananas, it is the unripe ones that have higher levels of resistant starch (8). Hence, you can also include unripe bananas in your diet for maximum benefits.

A Taiwanese study has also reported that foods with lower glycemic index are rich in fiber and resistant starch – both of which could be beneficial for diabetics (9).

The consumption of whole fruits, including bananas, was found to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. But this isn’t the case with fruit juices as their consumption seemed to increase diabetes risk by 21%. On the other hand, consuming whole fruits lowered the risk by 7% (10).

[ Read: Amazing Health Benefits Of Red Banana ]

(b) Fiber

Another reason bananas can be good for diabetics is the presence of fiber. An American study stated that fiber intake could slow down digestion and carbohydrate absorption, thereby improving diabetic conditions (11).

A study conducted in Germany has stressed further on the importance of dietary fiber for diabetes. As per the study, consumption of dietary fiber improves insulin sensitivity and modulates the secretion of certain stomach hormones – both if which can aid in the treatment of the disease (12).

It also has been found that diets including foods with low glycemic index are good for individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes (13). And, as we have already discussed, banana is a low-GI food.

(c) Vitamin B6

Bananas are also rich in vitamin B6, which has its own benefits. Diabetic neuropathy, a severe condition associated with the nervous system that occurs due to high blood sugar levels, was found to be linked to vitamin B6 deficiency (14).

As per a Japanese study, diabetic individuals might need to intake vitamin B6 as the disease causes a deficiency of the vitamin (15). A Mexican study states that the deficiency of vitamin B6 can negatively effect the progression of diabetes (16).

Another study stresses the importance of vitamin B6 in preventing diabetes in depression (17).

These are a few ways bananas can be beneficial for diabetics. And now, coming to the most important part – how to eat them or include them in your diet?

How To Add Bananas To Your Diet?

  • You can choose either an underripe or a ripe banana. But never an overripe banana.
  • You can add sliced bananas to a bowl of oatmeal and nuts – this makes for a nutritious breakfast.
  • Watch the portion size. Because portions matter, you see. You can have a smaller banana so that you will be able to reduce the amount of sugar you intake in one sitting.
  • You can also have a little bit of the fruit several times in a day. This way, you will be able to spread the glycemic load and allow your blood sugar levels to stay stable.
  • Eat the fruit with other foods. You can have it along with nuts or full-fat yogurt – this slows down the digestion process and the absorption of sugar.
  • If you want to have a dessert, this is what you can do – sprinkle cinnamon on a sliced banana. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and helps regulate insulin response, thereby keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
  • If you end up eating a banana with a sugary dessert, compensate for it by reducing carbs in your dinner. You can also try banana ice cream. You need 4 ripe bananas cut into chunks, 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk, 2 tablespoons of toasted flaked almonds, and 2 tablespoons of readymade chocolate sauce. Simply pop the banana chunks onto a flat tray and cover properly. Freeze for about an hour. Add the frozen banana chunks and milk to a food processor and whizz until you get a creamy mixture. Scoop in bowls and top with almonds and sauce.

[ Read: Benefits Of Banana Oil For Your Skin And Hair ]

Risks And Warnings

The only thing to be kept in mind is to completely avoid bananas if you are strictly following a low-carb diet to control your diabetes. Otherwise, bananas can be a healthy addition to your diabetic diet.

However, don’t forget to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet. He/she knows the best about your condition.

Contrary to popular belief, bananas are harmless for people with diabetes and might even supplement diabetes treatment. So, include this wonder fruit in your diet today and live a healthy life.

Also, tell us how this post has benefited you. Do comment in the box below. We would love to hear from you!

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Ariana is a Registered Dietitian with 17 years of experience, specializing in functional medicine and sports nutrition in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition sciences from Ohio University and went on to complete her dietetic internship at The Cleveland Clinic. She has been featured in Health Magazine, Live Science, Rally Health, YouBeauty, full bio

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