Are Bananas Safe for People with Diabetes?

A common eating misstep most people with diabetes make? Passing on bananas! This versatile fruit doesn't need to be the sugar-spiker many of us mistake it to be, nor do we need to consider it completely off-limits! Here's how to enjoy 'em without worry.

You might believe that bananas are a fruit to avoid if you’re watching your blood sugar. But it’s not necessary to cut them out completely. You can enjoy this delicious, easy-to-find fruit (and even give your health a boost) so long as you know the best ways to eat them.

FYI: The science says it’s important for people with diabetes to eat fruit.

3 Ways to Eat Bananas If You Have Diabetes

Add Bananas to Other Dishes

An easy way to slow the blood sugar rise from any high-carb food? Combine it with other items that contain slower-to-digest nutrients, such as fat and protein. Since Greek yogurt is loaded with protein, for example, adding banana slices to the top—or better yet, layering them together into a beautiful, nutritious parfait—can diminish the impact that the carbohydrates in both foods will have on your glucose level. Peanut butter is another great pairing for bananas since it’s loaded with protein and heart-healthy plant-based fats. Make Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal for breakfast to get your fix.

Enjoy Half

Yes, bananas naturally contain sugar. However, the surprising truth is that the recommended serving (1/2 of a large banana) contains only 15 grams of carbohydrates. To avoid wasting the second half, cut the banana in two before you peel it. Then cover the exposed part of the uneaten fruit in plastic wrap to prevent it from turning brown and store it in the refrigerator.

No plastic wrap handy or prefer not to use it? You can also stand the eaten part upright on a plate so that the flesh is sealed against oxygen exposure.

Opt for Firm Ones

As bananas ripen, the resistant starch starts to turn into a more fast-acting type of sugar. That means the softer a banana and browner the peel, the higher the sugar content. Choosing a banana that’s more firm can mean slightly less of an impact on blood sugar while still providing your body with the same amount of beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber.

While buying a bunch, choose bananas that are entirely bright yellow if you plan on enjoying them immediately. Look for bright yellow with some greening toward each end if it’ll be a day or two before you get to eat them.

Are Bananas Good for People with Diabetes?

Absolutely! All fruits are excellent sources of blood sugar-balancing fiber and disease-fighting minerals and vitamins—and bananas are no exception. Bananas, in particular, are high in potassium, a mineral that is known to help lower blood pressure. How’s it work? By regulating how well fluids move in and out of our cells, which is especially important when it comes to ridding ourselves of excess sodium—another mineral that ratchets up blood pressure. Potassium also helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Bananas also pack fiber, which is known to help those with and who are at risk for type 2 diabetes since it works to slow digestion and help balance blood sugar. Plus, when you enjoy a few slices with yogurt or in a smoothie, you also get a dose of folate, which is linked in research to lowered HA1C, possibly thanks to its ability to reverse insulin resistance.

Snack Ideas for People with Diabetes
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Amelia Sherry, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Amelia Sherry, MPH, RD, CDCES, provides nutrition therapy via a New York-based private practice and has special training in family feeding dynamics and disordered eating. She is also the founder of NourishHer, which supports mothers who want to protect their daughters who have happy, healthy relationships with food and body. She has written for publications including Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Fitness, SELF, Redbook, Latina, Today's Dietitian and Woman's World.