Banana lovers don’t fool around when it comes to how they like their favorite fruit’s ripeness. Some love the under-ripe green bananas, while others prefer their bananas overripe to the point that they are almost entirely brown. Though the taste is a significant factor when choosing how ripe you like your bananas, so is your health.
According to writer Adda Bjarnadottir, MS for Authority Nutrition, bananas can benefit our digestion and heart health, while they also promote weight loss. This fruit delivers high amounts of potassium, as well as other vitamins and nutrients that are required to keep us healthy. Interestingly, banana coloration has its own set of health benefits. Take a look to see for yourself:
Green bananas contain resistant starch. Registered dietitian Jill Corleone says that this type of starch acts more like a fiber in our body. “Resistant starch in your diet, like the green banana, may reduce your risk of diabetes by aiding in blood sugar control, and heart disease by helping to lower blood cholesterol levels,” she wrote in an article for Livestrong. The high fiber content in green bananas keeps us full for longer. That helps our appetite stay in check and promotes weight loss. Under-ripe bananas are very low on the glycemic index too, which makes them an ideal snack for people who try to control their blood sugar levels.
Yellow, firm bananas contain antioxidants which protect our bodies from various illnesses. As Bjarnadottir noted, one antioxidant present is dopamine, which lowers the risk of heart disease and degenerative diseases as well. She said that, while dopamine is known to act as a feel-good chemical in our brain, we won’t get that from eating a banana, unluckily. “Dopamine from bananas does not cross the blood-brain barrier. It simply acts as a strong antioxidant instead of altering hormones or mood,” she wrote. Bananas tend to contain more sugar as they age, and so yellow bananas are on the sweeter side.
Yellow bananas with brown spots are not quite as healthy as their younger counterparts. However, they still contain a lot of antioxidants. They’re even sweeter than yellow bananas and are often the most popular choice because of their taste. A group of Japanese researchers from Teikyo University demonstrated that bananas with this degree of ripeness could actually fight cancer. They discovered that spotted bananas contain eight times the amount of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) that green bananas do. According to PubMed, TNF helps to break down abnormal cells in the body, namely cancerous tumors. The cancer-fighting substance also benefits the immune system by guiding white blood cells to areas in the body which are inflamed or infected.
Brown bananas are the sugariest, but they still have high levels of potassium. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, foods high in potassium can prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. Brown bananas also contain the mood-altering amino acid tryptophan. A report by Life Extension showed that tryptophan could regulate our mood. It can reduce depression, anxiety and also help us sleep better. The older a banana gets, the easier it is to digest making brown ones ideal for people with digestive issues. As bananas head to the final period of their shelf life, however, they start to lose their nutrients. Brown bananas should, therefore, be kept in the refrigerator to minimize further loss.
Apart from being super healthy, bananas are also among the most conveniently healthy snacks out there. We throw them in smoothies, cereal, baked goods, and the list goes on. Since they come in their convenient packaging, they are easy to travel with too. Their thick protective peel also protects them from pesticides and pollutants. Finally, bananas are good for us no matter what stage of shelf life they are at. The right ripeness for you should depend on your personal health goals or merely your taste preference.