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While the yellow fruit might seem like a no-brainer when in a rush, some experts are quick to point out the side effects of eating a banana without anything else in your stomach.
- Jennifer Maeng, MS, RD, CDN, CNSC, clinical dietitian and founder of Chelsea Nutrition
The Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are a fantastic food because, as NYC-based dietitian Jennifer Maeng, MS, RD, points out, they’re a nutritious fruit that’s both delicious and affordable. “Bananas are also high in potassium which is one of the electrolytes that is essential for bodily functions such as pH balance, water balance in our bodies, blood pressure, digestion, and even muscle contraction,” she says—hence why they’re a particularly popular snack for health- and fitness-oriented folks.
Should You Eat a Banana on an Empty Stomach?
It’s not a simple yes or no answer—it depends on the shelf life of the banana. Starting out (think: when the peels are green), Maeng says that bananas contain more resistant starch (and for some folks, unripe bananas can cause constipation or aggravate the problem). “As they ripen, the fiber content decreases, making the banana mostly simple sugar which can spike your blood sugar and potentially cause a sugar crash or mild fatigue.” So, while it might seem like a great idea to reach for that bright yellow banana for your mid-day pick-me-up snack or 30 minutes before a workout, you might want to rethink it. After all, feeling fatigued while trying to work or work out is never ideal.
That said, eating a banana on an empty stomach first thing in the morning isn’t a great idea either, according to Maeng. “Your body naturally boosts your blood sugar in the morning and if you are not diabetic, your body will make more insulin to balance out your blood sugar,” she explains. “For this reason, morning (or on an empty stomach) is not the best time to eat high simple carbohydrate and low fiber foods such as bananas.”
Surprising as it may be, Maeng says that that includes within popular breakfast items such as fruit smoothies, acai bowls, or servings of oatmeal topped with bananas. “They can all have a negative impact on your blood sugar and energy levels,” she warns.
The Best Way To Consume Bananas
That’s not to say you can never eat bananas though. It’s just best to pair them with other foods and eat them at the right time to avoid an unintended sugar spike-fatigue effect. (That said, a banana might help you fall asleep faster at night.)
“Fiber, protein, and fat can help slow the absorption of sugar in your body, preventing sharp blood sugar spikes and crashes,” Maeng explains. “Sometimes your body can produce too much insulin following a large simple carbohydrate meal [like those containing bananas], making your blood sugar drop too low. This reaction can lead to more sugar cravings as your body tries to bring your blood sugar back up to a safe level.” As such, the next time you crave bananas in the morning, she suggests pairing them with nut butter or blending them into your protein smoothies.
Got a few overripe bananas? You know what that means—banana bread:
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