Diabetes impacts one’s blood sugar levels. Being a diabetic comes with ongoing concerns, especially what you eat. That is what makes eating fruit so complex. Can people with diabetes eat bananas?
Diabetics can consume bananas in moderation if it’s part of a provider’s suggested meal plan. Bananas are high in nutrients while being low in calories. Fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables, should be added to an individual with diabetes’ diet.
Before I go over the details of the banana and people with diabetes for you, let’s discuss the impact of fruit on blood sugar (blood glucose or BG) levels.
Do Bananas Raise Your Blood Sugar?
Carbohydrates and sugar impact your blood sugar levels and can fluctuate based on the portion. Bananas are high in sugar and carbs, meaning that regardless of it being a healthful food option, over-consumption will increase blood sugar levels.
Foods with a low GI (glycemic index) cause less of a rise in blood sugar levels than foods with a high GI. A slightly green banana has a lower GI than a ripe banana.
Green bananas, also known as “unripe” bananas, have resistant starch that prevents blood sugar levels from increasing. Because yellow, ripe bananas have more sugar than green bananas, they may cause a more significant rise in blood sugar levels.
When you eat carbs alone, the glycemic index (GI) shows you how rapidly they alter your blood sugar level. Lower GI fruits include grapefruit, strawberries, cherries, and apples, while ripe bananas and watermelon are found in the higher glycemic fruit spectrum.
Bananas contain simple carbohydrates, which means that at some point, they can cause blood sugar levels to rise faster than other nutrients.
How Does Fruit Impact Blood Sugar?
Fruit is a carbohydrate. Sugar and carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine when we consume them. Glucose is released into the bloodstream, where it is carried and turned into energy by tissue cells in our muscles and organs.
As a result, fruit can cause an increase in blood glucose levels. Fructose and glucose are the two forms of sugar found in fruits. Although the quantities of both differ, most fruits contain approximately half glucose and half fructose.
Fruits hold diverging quantities of fructose, glucose, and fiber, so the type of fruit you eat will have different affects on your blood sugar.
Fruit contains a different type of sugar than the simple sugars that are added to processed foods such as soda, candy, or ice cream.
Postprandial (after eating) BG results will not have dramatic spikes due to the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content of the fruit, compared to eating foods with added sugars.
When your blood sugar increases and then drops rapidly and unexpectedly after eating, this is a blood sugar “spike.” Spikes can produce lethargy and increased appetite in the short term. They often occur if someone consumes a lot of simple sugars at once, such as a large regular soda or candy.
Bananas have 3 g fiber and other nutrients, so I don’t expect a drastic spike in blood glucose after a banana is consumed. However, eating your banana with a protein source, such as nuts, will likely prevent an undesired blood sugar spike.
Can People With Diabetes Eat Bananas?
Like any other disease, diabetes needs to be treated and seen from an individual standpoint from person to person. Therefore, in the majority of cases, eating a moderate portion of bananas is safe for people with diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends fruit as a dessert option, with an emphasis on low carb fruits.
Bananas hold simple carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise faster than other nutrients. A medium banana (about 7 in or 126 g) contains about 3 g fiber in addition to sugar and starch.
Due to bananas’ naturally kept components, sugar in bananas is digested and observed at a lower speed, consequently preventing a large spike in blood sugar for most people with diabetes.
Are Bananas Okay For Type 2 Diabetes?
Bananas have a high resistant starch content.
Starches, fruits, milk, starchy vegetables, and sweets are all examples of carbohydrates. If you have diabetes, starch (a complex carbohydrate), will cause your blood sugar levels to rise. However, starches should not be regarded as the enemy.
Greener bananas have a higher resistant starch content than the ripe ones. Resistant starch cannot be broken down in the small intestine while being passed onto the large intestine.
The GI of a banana ranges from 30-89, depending on how ripe the banana is.
Green bananas have a GI of 30-50. They have less sugar and more resistant starch. The resistant starch is more likely to help type 2 diabetics, as it can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
There is not much research on green bananas and type 1 diabetes. (MedicineNet.com)
How Many Bananas Should A Diabetic Eat Per Day?
Bananas are high in potassium and fiber value, and adding nuts will make them a substantial snack option, but how many bananas can a diabetic eat?
As a general rule, one half of a banana is safe as it contains about 15 grams of carbs, which is considered 1 carb choice if you are counting carbs for your meal plan. Despite having a low GI of 51, you should be cautious about the amount of banana you consume.
As previously mentioned, different foods will affect each individual differently. If you have noticed that you can incorporate bananas into your diet without problem, it is a nutritious “healthful carb.”
If you discover undesirable blood glucose readings as a result of eating bananas, try eating your banana with more protein foods, such as 2 T (33 g) peanut butter, and less additional carb (bread, pasta, additional fruit).
The amount recommended for people with diabetes will be individualized by age, by the individual, activity level, desired weight, and how the fruit affects their blood sugar levels.
A registered Dietician can help you develop a meal plan.
How Much Sugar Is In A Banana?
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a medium banana has 105 calories and 14 grams of sugar. A banana’s sugar content is less than a medium apple but more than a cup of diced watermelon.
There are a lot of nutrients in a medium banana. The fruit contains 3 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber, making it a good source. You also get 422 milligrams of potassium, which helps with blood pressure. The banana also contains 10 grams of immunity-boosting vitamin C.
Ethylene is the molecule that bananas produce; this molecule works on processing the sugar within the fruit with its end goal of softening and changing the fruit’s color. This process is called ripening.
I mention the ripening process since the sugar content will increase with the maturity of the banana, meaning that a banana that is overly ripe will have a higher sugar content than a greener one.
FACT: A good source of fiber has 2.5-4.9 g fiber per serving. An excellent source of fiber has at least 5 g fiber per serving.
How Much Fruit Can Somebody With Diabetes Eat?
When someone consumes carbohydrates, such as those in bananas, the beta cells in the pancreas secrete insulin. Insulin is a hormone that allows your cells to absorb glucose and serve as energy.
When a person has diabetes, this process does not work as well as it should. Instead, the body either does not produce enough insulin, or the cells are resistant to the insulin that is produced.
Current guidelines recommend 2-4 servings of fruit per day for diabetics. This is the same recommendation for the general population.
Keep in mind that every body is a different body, and everyone may have a different BG (blood glucose) response to different fruits and foods. For this reason, some people with diabetes will restrict their fruit intake further because they are worried about the sugar content.
Schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian, who will help individualize a meal plan that suits your lifestyle.
Healthful Ways To Incorporate Fruits Into A Diabetic Diet:
- Keep in mind that fruit juice is not a fruit. Regular fruit juice has added sugars and it does not contain the fiber of a whole fruit. Studies show that drinking excess fruit juice has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Diet fruit juice, although not a fruit, has less calories and carbohydrates than regular fruit juice. See my article on diet cranberry juice and see how it compares to regular juice.
- Refrain from purchasing canned fruits and vegetables because they possess higher carb and sugar content for increased sweetness and shelf stability. If canned items are something you frequently enjoy, remember to read the label on the can. Many times, there is more than one serving per can. When purchasing canned fruits, I recommend those that are packed in light juice. They will have less calories with a lower carb content.
- Making fresh or frozen fruits and food products a priority is critical for people with diabetes. Canned goods are packed in sugar or sodium.
It’s important for someone with diabetes to understand the effects of carbohydrate foods on their blood sugars. The banana might be a good snack for one person with diabetes, and cause frustration for another. Being cognizant of appropriate portion sizes will help you manage your blood glucose level, as well.
Bananas are a tasty addition to any meal plan. They provide a nutritious and flavorful fruit option to consume in moderation as part of a balanced, individualized, diabetic meal plan.
Bananas, like other foods, should be consumed in appropriate amounts with proper portion sizes. Plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, should be included in the diet of someone with diabetes, along with whole grains, lean proteins, and healthful fats.
If you are wondering how to get started, check out my article the plate method for meal planning.