June 19, 2024

A person with diabetes needs to carefully consider the contents of each meal. While fruits and vegetables contain a wide range of essential nutrients, some can cause blood sugar spikes.

For the most part, eating bananas in moderation is safe for people with diabetes.

Bananas grow on plants that can have 50–150 bananas in each bunch. Stores sell smaller bunches and individual bananas in varying sizes, from small to extra large.

Depending on the size of the fruit, bananas can contain 19–35 grams (g) of carbohydrates per serving, which can be an important consideration for individuals with diabetes.

On the other hand, bananas have a low glycemic index (GI). A food’s GI is a measurement of how much it affects blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes that people with diabetes can eat fruits, including bananas, as part of a balanced diet.

This article will evaluate whether bananas are safe for those who have diabetes and what factors people should consider.

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People with diabetes can eat bananas in moderation. Image credit: LStockStudio/Shutterstock

A person with diabetes can enjoy bananas in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

The vitamin, mineral, and fiber content of bananas may even offer health benefits for people with diabetes, as long as an individual does not eat excessive portions.

One small study in 2014 found that eating a 250- or 500-g serving of bananas each day with breakfast significantly reduced blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

However, the researchers also noted that a larger study would be necessary to confirm the effect of bananas on blood sugar levels in a clinically useful way.

A 2017 study reported that although fruits with a lower GI are a better option for people with diabetes than high GI fruits, both can help reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes in the first place.

The ADA notes that people with diabetes can incorporate fruit into a well-rounded diet in many ways, such as by eating a small piece of whole fruit or a half cup of fruit salad as a dessert.

The preparation of some processed banana products might make them less suitable for people with diabetes.

For example, some food manufacturers market dried banana chips as a healthy treat or snack.

However, these may contain added sugars or syrups to enhance flavor, which could increase blood sugar levels.

Additionally, the portion sizes for dried fruits are typically much smaller than those of fresh fruits, so they may not be as filling.

Be sure to carefully read nutrition labels and limit or avoid dried fruits that contain high amounts of added sugar.

The following tips may help a person with diabetes safely include bananas in meals and snacks.

Pair bananas with a ‘healthy’ fat or protein source

Eating a banana alongside a source of unsaturated fat, such as almond or peanut butter, pistachios, sunflower seeds, or walnuts, can have a positive effect on blood sugar and boost the flavor of the fruit.

Another healthful option for people with diabetes is to pair a banana with a protein source, such as Greek yogurt.

This will help a person feel full longer and can support weight loss, which may improve blood sugar regulation.

Consider eating an underripe banana

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Unripe bananas may increase blood sugar more slowly than ripe bananas. Image credit: Igor Alecsander/iStock

Unripe bananas might release glucose at a slower rate than ripe bananas.

According to a review published in PLoS One, as bananas ripen, their content of enzyme-resistant starch increases and their content of pectin, a type of fiber, decreases.

For this reason, unripe bananas usually contain less sugar than ripe bananas. Unripe bananas also contain more resistant starch — a type of starch molecule that resists digestion, leading to a slower, more manageable increase in blood sugar.

Eat smaller bananas

Portion size can determine the amount of sugar a person consumes in a banana.

Bananas are available in many sizes. A person will consume fewer carbs if they choose a smaller banana, which will have less of an impact on blood sugar levels.

For example, a small banana contains about 23 g of carbohydrates per serving, while an extra-large banana contains just under 35 g of carbohydrates.

How many can you eat per day?

The answer to this question depends on the individual, their activity level, and how bananas affect their blood sugar.

Some people’s blood sugar levels may be more sensitive to bananas than others. Knowing how bananas affect a particular individual’s blood sugar can help them manage their medications and insulin injections, if necessary.

Therefore, it’s best to consult a doctor or registered dietitian about including bananas in a diabetes meal plan.

Read more about the relationship between fruit and diabetes here.

Keep track of carbs

One medium, 7–8-inch banana on its own contains approximately 27 g of carbs. A person should work with a healthcare professional to define their target carb intake.

A doctor or dietitian can also provide more detailed information on portion sizes and balancing intake of fiber, proteins, fats, and carbs in a practical way.

A person should follow their diabetes meal plan closely.

Keep in mind that eating a banana alongside another source of carbohydrates, such as a piece of toast or cereal, means that the overall carb intake from that meal is higher. Depending on a person’s meal plan and nutritional needs, a doctor or dietitian may recommend swapping out carbs in a later meal.

Alternatively, after eating a meal that is lighter on carbs, a person can enjoy a small banana as a snack to balance their carb intake.

Do bananas raise blood pressure?

Bananas are rich in potassium, an important micronutrient that can support healthy blood pressure levels.

In fact, one study found that frequent consumption of several types of fruit, including bananas, was linked to lower blood pressure levels.

Furthermore, some research suggests that a potassium-rich diet could reduce the risk of stroke — a condition that is often the result of high blood pressure — by around 25%.

Overall, bananas are nutrient-dense, low in saturated fat and sodium, and rich in fiber.

They are also a key source of potassium, a mineral that helps balance sodium levels in the blood.

Bananas provide a good mix of other nutrients, including:

Individuals with diabetes can enjoy bananas and other fruits in moderation as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

However, a person should be sure to consult a doctor or dietitian before making any changes to their diet plan, especially if they are taking medications for diabetes or other health conditions.

For instance, certain medications used to treat high blood pressure can increase levels of potassium in the blood, which could cause negative side effects if paired with a high potassium diet.

Additionally, people with chronic kidney disease may need to limit their intake of potassium-rich foods such as bananas to prevent an increase in blood potassium levels.

A person with diabetes should include a variety of fresh, whole foods in their diet, such as nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

Bananas are a safe and nutritious fruit for people with diabetes to eat in moderation as part of a balanced, individualized eating plan.

For a more precise diet plan or personalized recommendations, it is a good idea to consult a registered dietitian or diabetes specialist.

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