Bananas are probably one of the most popular fruits around, and everyone has their favorite stage of ripeness. If you pass on green bananas in favor of more ripe yellow ones, you're passing up many important health benefits as well. Here's why you should consider eating them when they're green.
Green bananas can have important benefits for your health. The carbs in green bananas can be better for your blood sugar and they’re a source of prebiotic fiber which feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Nutrition in Green Bananas
Both green and ripe bananas have a similar nutritional profile. The main difference is that the carbs in green bananas are mainly in the form of starch. It gradually turns to sugar during the ripening process, which is why most people prefer to eat ripe bananas — they're sweeter.
A medium size banana has 105 calories, about 1 gram of protein, 27 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and just a trace of fat. Bananas also provide various vitamins and minerals. They're an especially good source of potassium, with 422 mg in a medium banana.
All bananas make a great snack. They're tasty, portable and come in their own easy-to-open package. Green bananas can be a healthier, lower-calorie option than snack bars or crackers.
Read more: 19 easy 100-Calorie Snacks That Satisfy
The starchy carbs in green bananas provide long-lasting energy and their potassium helps to replenish electrolytes when you're working out or dehydrated.
Green Bananas and Blood Sugar
Because the carbs in green bananas come mainly from starch rather than sugar, green bananas have a lower glycemic index than ripe bananas. The glycemic index of a green banana is 30, while a ripe banana is 51.
Foods with a lower glycemic index will raise your blood sugar more slowly than high glycemic index foods. Green bananas are a good choice if you have diabetes and want to choose more foods that won't spike your blood sugar.
A May 2019 review study published in the journal Nutrients, found that people who eat green bananas have better glucose control and better insulin metabolism.
Green Bananas For Gut Health
There is also research on the benefits of green bananas for gut health. Much of the starch in green bananas is in the form of resistant starch. Resistant starch also functions as prebiotic fiber. It's a special type of starch that resists digestion in your stomach.
Instead, it passes into your large intestine, where it serves as prebiotic "food" for the healthy probiotic bacteria that live in your colon. Eating more foods that are rich in prebiotic fiber can help your microbiome to thrive, and that can lead to better gut health.
Read more: 10 Prebiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet Today
The study in Nutrients confirmed that most of the health effects of green bananas come from their resistant starch content. One of the main benefits of green bananas for gut health is that it helps to reduce diarrhea and constipation.
It also helps to slow things down in your gastrointestinal tract, so most people feel more full and satisfied for longer when they eat foods with resistant starch. Because of this, eating green bananas is linked to weight loss. If you eat more green bananas for gut health, you might also reduce your risk for colon cancer.
When cells in the large intestine metabolize resistant starch, they produce short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate. According to an August 2015 review in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, butyrate plays an important role in the health of your colon, and it reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Read more: Top Ten Health Benefits of Bananas
How to Eat Green Bananas
Green bananas are a bit harder to peel and less sweet than ripe bananas. However, they do hold up better. Make good use of your green bananas by packing them for snacks when you have to be away from home.
Green bananas are also great to use in healthy smoothies. Just peel and freeze them. Once you add the other ingredients to your blender, you'll never know if they're green or ripe.