How healthy are bananas? What ripeness has to do with nutrition
Ripe or unripe or somewhere in the middle? However you decide to eat your banana, experts say there are nutritional differences for all three.
After a photo of the different stages of a banana went viral on Instagram last week, social media was left divided as to which stage of a banana tastes the best. But it turns out each stage of banana also has different nutritional benefits.
Abbey Sharp, Toronto registered dietitian at Abbey’s Kitchen, tells Global News, the biggest difference between ripe and unripe bananas is their starch content.
“Unripe bananas contain mostly starch, specifically resistant starch which is not digested in the small intestine,” she says. “Resistant starches are classified as dietary fibre which carries significant benefits, including improved blood sugar control and better digestive health.”
Unripe bananas may also carry a prebiotic effect, she adds, and resistant starch may feed the friendly bacteria in your gut to promote a healthy gut environment. She continues as bananas ripen, they lose their starch and it is converted to simple sugars.
Registered dietitian Anar Allidina adds resistant starch has been linked to several health benefits including improved colon health, increased feeling of fullness, reduced insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels after eating a meal.
“Many people avoid bananas because they are high in sugar and carbs,” she says. “While yes, this is true, you don’t want to have multiple bananas in a day. If you are watching your sugar intake and blood sugars, keep your portions in check. This may mean you may need to have half of a banana (no more than six inches) and try to stick with bananas on the greener side.”
Business Insider notes ripe bananas are easier to digest and are easier on the stomach overall.
And as naturally sweet as they are, both dietitians consider bananas healthy fruit. With 105 calories (in a medium-sized piece of fruit), bananas a good source of fibre, potassium and antioxidants, Allidina adds. “Additionally bananas contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium.”
“Bananas are low in fat and because of their high carb content, are considered an excellent snack to energize you,” Sharp adds. “Because of their high fibre content bananas can help you feel full and promote satiety.”
When to eat them
But when is the best time to eat one? Sharp adds you should start your day with a banana. “When you wake up you’ve been fasting all night long so a good thing to eat would be a food that contains some fibre and sugar for energy. Combine the banana with a source of protein like peanut or almond butter and an egg to make a complete meal.”
She also adds eating them before and after a workout is also beneficial. “Because of its high glucose content, fill up your glycogen stores with some glucose before a workout with a banana,” she explains. “This helps you feel full throughout your workout and gives you enough glucose to get through a workout.”
After a workout, she adds, bananas help replenish glycogen stores and when paired with protein, it helps spike your insulin enough to drive protein into your muscles.
Eating through all stages
For ripe bananas, use them as a sweetener in baking instead or oil or sugar, Sharp says, making it perfect for banana bread. She also recommends ripe banana pancakes, peanut butter cups and smoothies.
“Because bananas don’t have any fat or protein it’s best to add some protein with bananas. Examples include having a handful of almonds, blending with some protein powder in your smoothie, mixing it with some low-fat Greek yogurt or adding some into your morning oatmeal or chia pudding,” Allidina explains.
And if you’re into super green bananas, add them to cereal or yogurt.
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