Are Bananas Safe in Diabetes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Tamanna Sayed (B.Sc. Applied Nutrition)

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Bananas are considered healthy fruits, but the amount of sugar in bananas can be worrying to some people, particularly those with diabetes. As people with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels carefully, eating an excess of many types of food can be dangerous. If you love these potassium-packed fruits, but also need to monitor your glucose levels, it is important to understand the risks.

How Bananas Affect Diabetes & Blood Sugar Levels?

Bananas are excellent sources of certain nutrients, including potassium, sugar, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, and protein, among others. When it comes to diabetes and blood sugar levels, the amount of sugar in bananas is the main focus. A medium-sized banana can have approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose and other sugars in the body, which can cause a rise in blood sugar. In healthy individuals, that rise would be mitigated and controlled by insulin, a hormone that is produced in the pancreas.

However, in someone with diabetes, the pancreas either cannot make the proper amount of insulin, or the body cannot use the insulin that is created (insulin sensitivity). Therefore, when carbohydrates are consumed, particularly those made up of simple sugars, the amount of glucose in the blood rises. Thus, when someone eats a banana, their blood sugar will have a tendency to rise. Carbohydrates are an essential part of any diet, in moderation, so bananas are not inherently bad to eat, even for someone with diabetes.

Sliced bananas on a plate with two whole bananas aside

A wide variety of health benefits are associated with the curvy yellow fruit. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

That being said, bananas also contain dietary fiber – a different type of carbohydrate that can actually help to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. It mainly contains soluble fiber that binds with calories and fat in the stomach and the intestines and helps pull them out of the body before they can enter the bloodstream. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, which plays an important role in metabolism. In addition, eating a banana keeps you up with sustained energy levels and also helps with regular bowel movements.

With approximately 6 grams of starch per medium-sized banana, some of the blood sugar problems caused by the sugar will be solved by the fiber.

Are Bananas Safe for Diabetes?

Yes, bananas are safe to eat if you have diabetes, provided you manage your carbohydrate intake well for each day. Essentially, the amount of carbohydrates in a banana is the same as a sandwich with two pieces of bread. On the positive side, bananas also have other benefits for the body, which can help prevent certain risk factors for diabetes, such as high blood pressure.

The potassium, vitamin B6, manganese, and dietary fiber found in bananas make them a good fruit to add to any diet, particularly in the whole form. Another good measurement for food if you are living with diabetes is the glycemic index, which indicates the level of effect the food has on your blood sugar. If a food has a high glycemic index, it is usually not recommended if you have diabetes. Despite the sugar in bananas, a medium-sized fruit only has a glycemic index of 49, so it is generally considered in an acceptable range for people with diabetes.

How to eat Bananas when you have Diabetes?

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of sugar consumed in your banana is to eat them in an unripe or semi-ripe state. At this point in the banana’s development, only a portion of the starch has been converted into sugar. This means higher fiber levels and lower sugar levels, which is an ideal combination for someone who loves the taste of bananas, but also needs to watch their glucose levels!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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