There’s a famous saying about avoiding buying green bananas…
But it’s pretty morbid. It’s all to do with whether or not you’ll live to see them ripen.
When you dig a little deeper, though, there is an actual chemical difference in buying bananas at variant stages of their development.
Most food changes in appearance and composition as it ages having had its growth cycle truncated – in other words, once we kill it. Usually, that change is a slow process of ripening, rotting, or becoming rancid.
Sometimes, as in the case of fermentation or preserving, it’s the process of mixing ingredients that brings about this change.
Other times, the causes are a little bit more mysterious, as in the case of bananas. We know what happens – bananas ripen, and ripen, and ripen… turning from green to yellow…accruing brown spots that slowly take over the whole yellow surface.
Once this happens, we’re faced with several choices. Eat the squishy brown sugar-y banana, toss it, freeze it, or turn it into banana bread.
However, we’ve been missing something important. Green and brown bananas actually offer profoundly different health benefits. They’re made up of different stuff, and affect your body differently.
In fact, some argue that brown bananas are actually better for you.
Let’s take a look at the facts…
What Can Green Bananas Do For You
Bananas are very high in potassium – we know this. Frequently touted for being able to raise a diabetic’s blood sugar in a pinch, or working to dull painful menstrual cramps, there are plenty of reasons to keep bananas in your hanging basket.
When bananas are green and waxy, they are pretty bitter.
That’s because they’re made up of about 40% resistant starch, which involves a slow-burn digestion. (Note for Type 2 diabetics: this is the kind of banana you want to eat, not the brown kind.) Resistant starch takes long to digest and so keeps you feeling full for longer. If you need to make it through the day until your next meal, a green one will sort you out.
They also include a probiotic bacteria that’s been shown to aid in colonic health…
But they’re lacking in antioxidants, because they haven’t had a chance to age, and in some individuals can cause bloating and gas discomfort due to their resistant starch.
And Yellow Bananas?
As the banana ripens and changes color, it loses starch content and gains sugar.
Because there is less starch to break down, your blood sugar rises more quickly since you’re able to digest the banana and absorb the nutrients faster.
Since the banana is aging, and losing micronutrients in the process, it’s gaining antioxidants, which helps give the immune system the kind of boost it could always use.
What About… Brown and Spotted Bananas?
At this point… when you see those brown spots adding up, you know that all of that so-called resistant starch has been converted to sugar. It begs the question, how resistant could it really have been to begin with?
But those brown spots don’t just mean sugar.
They signify antioxidant content as well. The browner the banana, the more powerful the immune punch and the sweeter it’ll taste.
However, the high pectin (dietary fiber) content that was great for digestion in green bananas is almost entirely absent in brown or spotted bananas.
And that 40% starch content? It’s down to 1%.
So while bananas at every stage of their journey offer plenty of health benefits and nutrients, they’re distinctly different.
Looking to improve your gut health with micronutrients and slow-digesting starch? Grab a green banana and power through the bitterness.
Interested in boosting your immune health with antioxidants and a quick sugar rush? Let ‘em get a little brown and mushy. It’s the good kind of sugar – the sort that feeds your brain and gives you energy!