An important part of the long-term management of diabetes is carefully calculating one’s food intake. This is to properly monitor how the body will behave in terms of its blood glucose production.
Individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes have very strict dietary restrictions because a sudden spike in blood sugar levels can reverse all progress made in terms of improving the body’s glycemic control.
While fruits are generally considered healthy options, fruits also contain carbohydrates and starch that raise blood sugar levels when consumed.
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world. They contain a lot of nutrients which are essentially good for the body. But for a person with diabetes, is there immediate harm in eating bananas?
Bananas and Diabetes
Bananas, like most fruits, contain a considerable amount of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels higher than any other nutrients. A 7 – inch banana contains:
- 105 calories
- 27 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of protein
- 1 milligram of sodium
- 0 gram of fat
A medium-sized banana contains the same amount of carbohydrates as two slices of bread. However, this does not immediately mean that bananas are harmful to people with diabetes. We refer to the Glycemic Index (GI) to determine whether bananas cause an alarming rise in a person’s blood glucose levels.
A food’s Glycemic Index determines how fast a particular food with carbohydrates can increase a person’s blood sugar level. The higher the GI, the more likely the food can trigger a spike in the blood glucose production. The scores range from 0 – 100 with the following indicators:
- Low GI: 55 or less
- Medium GI: 56 – 69
- High GI: 70 – 100
Low GI scores of 55 and below means that the food will not cause a significant increase in a person’s blood sugar levels. Several studies show that diets based on consuming low-GI foods, those with a GI score of 55 and below, are beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Bananas have a GI score that ranges from 42 – 62, depending on the ripeness of the bananas. Unripe bananas have a Low GI score of 42, meaning it has very minimal glycemic effects. Ripe bananas have a low GI score of 51, so it can cause a gradual increase in a person’s blood sugar levels. However, overripe bananas have a GI score of 62, so these should be consumed with conscious moderation.
Bananas contain 3 grams of fiber, which is essential to help ease digestion and slow the absorption of carbohydrates. People with diabetes need to consume a healthy amount of fiber since this can help reduce blood sugar spikes and improve glycemic control.
A study in 2014 showed that fifteen participants who were given 250 – 500 g breakfast servings of banana showed no significant blood glucose increase after eating, and a reduced fasting blood glucose level after several days of having this breakfast routine.
Unripe (slightly green) bananas contain less sugar and resistant starch. Resistant starch is made up of long chains of glucose that are “resistant” to digestion. They function the same way as fiber, so they won’t cause an increase in blood glucose levels and may assist in metabolizing blood sugars after eating.
Due to a banana’s fiber resistant starch content, a banana can give the impression of meal fullness, or satiety. This can help reduce overall food intake.
Health Benefits of Eating Bananas
Aside from the aforementioned, bananas contain a lot of nutrients that can help the body in many other ways. A single banana contains:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
All these nutrients can be used to improve heart health, digestive health, and brain health.
Bananas are rich in potassium and contain very minimal amounts of sodium. A healthy balance of potassium and sodium in the body leads to healthy blood pressure.
Aside from fiber, bananas contain prebiotics, which helps regulate digestion and improve metabolism in the stomach.
Bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan that boosts serotonin production. Serotonin is the hormone responsible for pleasant and positive feelings. Tryptophan is also linked with memory, as it assists with maintaining memory linkages or building new ones with every new learning.
Main Takeaway: Are Bananas Good for Diabetes?
The answer is yes, but in moderation. Bananas must be consumed within the strict dietary regulation for a person with diabetes.
There are many positive effects to the healthy consumption of bananas which include better digestion, healthy blood pressure, and improved brain activity.
Since bananas contain carbohydrates, they can still affect a person’s blood glucose level, depending on the ripeness.
The best way to consume a banana is to be mindful of its size and ripeness. It is also best consumed with a fat or protein source to further control the rise in blood sugar levels. This way, a banana can be incorporated in a healthy, well-balanced diet— an important factor in effective blood glucose management.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.