Having diabetes means that either your body cannot produce insulin or it can’t use the insulin that it produces efficiently. This affects the way your body processes sugar. Because of this, it’s important that you keep track of what you eat and how it can further affect your blood sugar levels.
An average sized banana contains around 27 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. More than half of these carbohydrates are made up of sugars. The larger the banana, the higher the sugar content is.
That said, bananas also contain important nutrients, such as:
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin C
They also contain a good amount of fiber, which is an important part of a healthy diet.
What are the benefits of eating bananas if you have diabetes?
Although research is limited, it’s thought that eating bananas may have significant benefits specific to people with diabetes. A 2015 study found that the starch in under-ripe bananas might improve blood sugar levels as well as insulin response.
Bananas contain B-6, which can help reduce stress and regulate metabolism. Both of these play a crucial role in diabetes management.
In general, bananas can help maintain digestion due to their relatively high fiber content. Bananas also contain potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check. Potassium also contributes to the overall health of the cardiovascular system.
Risks and warnings
The glycemic index (GI) measures the impact a certain food has on your blood sugar levels due to its own sugar content. Values of 55 and higher are considered medium and high GI. Foods at these levels should be consumed in moderation. Foods with a GI of 50 and below are considered acceptable.
Although the GI numbers shouldn’t be an absolute deterrent on what you should or shouldn’t eat, it’s a useful tool to understand how food impacts blood sugar. Depending on their state of ripeness. Unripe bananas have a GI of about 42. Ripe bananas with brown specks have a GI of around 48 to 51. As a rule, the riper the fruit, the higher the GI value or sugar content.
Half a banana has approximately 15 grams of sugar and should have a low impact on your blood sugar levels.
Consuming bananas may be a concern if:
- they’re part of a dessert that contains other sugars
- you consistently consume them when they’re overripe
- you consume them in large amounts
- your kidneys have been affected, and you have difficulty getting rid of potassium
How to add bananas to your diet
Follow these tips for adding bananas to your diet:
- Always choose ripe but not overripe bananas. A slight green hue on a yellow banana is ideal.
- For a nutritious breakfast, consider adding sliced bananas to a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with nuts.
- Feel free to use green plantains when cooking. They’re high in potassium, related to the banana, and have fewer carbohydrates if consumed green, which is often the case if they’re fried or baked.
- If you plan to eat banana in a sugar-rich dessert, you may consider compensating with a dinner that’s light in carbohydrates.
- For a diabetes-friendly dessert, you can sprinkle some cinnamon on a sliced banana. Cinnamon contains antioxidants and is also known to help regulate the insulin response and reduce the blood sugar levels.
The bottom line
There are no recommendations against eating bananas if you have diabetes, but moderation is important. Although bananas are considered a sweet fruit, their nutritional profile is complex and beneficial to overall health. Bananas are full of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium. They also contain fiber, which can help maintain proper digestion, provided that you drink enough water and have a balanced diet.