Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007.
Bananas are a healthy way to get nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. However, bananas sometimes tend to get a bad rap, even from doctors. In an internet search, you might frequently run into “informational advertisements” with bananas as part of the list of the five foods you should never eat. Never eat? That seems a little extreme, especially if you know your nutrition facts about this fruit.
Get to know your banana
Bananas are fat free, sodium free, and cholesterol free. But it is important to understand that bananas are NOT carbohydrate free! And figuring the carbohydrate content of a banana can be tricky because the content varies with size.
Use this chart when calculating the carb content of the bananas you eat (measure once and eyeball thereafter):
6 inches or smaller: 18.5 grams
6 to 7 inches: 23 grams
7 to 8 inches: 27 grams
8 to 9 inches: 31 grams
9 inches or larger: 35 grams
From small to large bananas in that scale, you will get anywhere from two to four grams of fiber per serving, depending on the size. Obviously the larger the banana, the higher the fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content, but that also comes with higher carbohydrate content. Of the 30 grams of carbohydrate in a “medium” banana, 19 grams are sugar and the other 11 grams are starch, including three grams of fiber.
A fully ripe banana has a glycemic index of 51—this would be considered a low-glycemic index food, as the cutoff is 55. In addition, the ripeness of a banana changes its glycemic index. An under-ripe banana with visible green sections on the peel would have a glycemic index of approximately 42, while an over-ripe banana with visible brown flecks on the peel would have a glycemic index of approximately 48. This glycemic index range of 42 to 51 is not huge, but it may explain why you notice a difference in blood sugar after you eat a ripe banana versus an under-ripe, green banana.
Speaking of green bananas, plantains, members of the banana family, fit that description and contain less sugar and carbohydrate than their yellow counterparts. Plantains are usually eaten cooked or fried.
You can also find dried bananas or banana chips, sold alone or as part of a trail mix, with nuts and chocolate. Be sure to read the label if you are eating banana chips—this type of dried fruit can be packed with added sugar and saturated fat. One serving of banana chips is ½ cup, and contains 20 grams of carbohydrate (including 12 grams, or three teaspoons, of added sugar). Look for dried banana chips with no added sugar, and pair them with a few nuts for a healthy snack.
Bananas can be a part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes as long as you know the banana facts. Frozen bananas can be eaten like a popcicle or blended in a smoothie. And bananas eaten right off the counter can be part of a meal or snack—try this recipe (skip the maple syrup or honey for a less sweet treat with fewer carbohydrates):
Fruit Kabobs with Fluffy Fruit Dip
Ingredients for Dip:
1 cup fruit flavored low-fat yogurt
1 cup fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1 teaspoon honey
Ingredients for Kabobs:
6 to 8 pineapple chunks
6 to 8 whole strawberries
1 banana, cut into 1/2" chunks
6 to 8 grapes
6 wooden skewers
1. In a small bowl, make dip by mixing together yogurt, whipped topping, and honey. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
2. Thread one piece of each fruit on skewer.
3. Repeat until fruit is gone or skewers are full. (If you love bananas, you could make an all-banana skewer with seven pieces of banana.)
4. Serve with dip.
Serving size: 1/6 of recipe (1 skewer plus dip)
Carbohydrates: 16.5 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Protein: 2.5 grams
Recipe courtesy Academy of Nutrition and [eatright.org]