How to Know Which Bananas Give You Constipation and Which, Uh, Definitely Don’t

Photo: Getty Images/ Obradovic
Many different foods cause constipation, like red meat and fried foods, which might be no surprise. Less expected are healthy staples, some of which can cause issues in the bathroom, too. One possible culprit? Bananas.

Experts In This Article

You wouldn’t think that bananas cause constipation—after all, bananas do have some fiber. A medium-sized banana can offer 3 grams of the nutrient (half of the recommended intake of fiber per meal), according to the United States Department of Agriculture. What’s more, they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, says Lauren Bleich, MD, MPH, board-certified gastroenterologist at Gastro Health—which are par for the course in bowel regularity. “Soluble fiber absorbs water, which helps the stools stay large and soft, while insoluble fiber provides bulk and helps stimulate the bowel activity,” she says, with the caveat: “Some people experience constipation when eating bananas.”

This sentiment is echoed by an Instagram post from registered dietitian nutritionist Min “MJ Kwon, MS, RDN, owner of Kid-Friendly Meals—and according to the post, bananas can cause constipation or, conversely, help you poop, depending on their level of ripeness.

When do bananas cause constipation?

In Kwon’s IG post, the image portrays bananas at three stages of ripeness—unripe, ripe, and overripe—and she indicates that unripe green bananas can exacerbate constipation, particularly among kids. While there isn’t much research on whether they have this effect, one 2014 study supports Kwon’s claim, indicating that the tannins and high resistant starch content in unripe bananas can indeed aggravate pre-existing constipation.

Sarah Robbins, MD, MSc, FRCPC, board-certified gastroenterologist and founder of Well Sunday, confirms that resistant starches—a type of dietary fiber and starch—tend to be more constipating. “Because they’re resistant, they’re not broken down in the small bowel, so they end up largely intact in the colon,” she says—and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so don’t be so quick to ripen your bananas too fast. The resistant starches present in unripe bananas have benefits for your gut, too. Even so, “if you have constipation, you might want to avoid these starchy foods because they make it worse,” she says.

When do bananas help you poop?

As bananas turn from green to yellow to brown, the starch content decreases while sugar increases, which goes some way to explain why the fruit becomes sweeter as it ripens. The sugars found in yellow and brown bananas—coupled with fiber—can work to help move things along, too. Dr. Robbins considers ripe bananas as “fruit laxatives,” along with prunes and pears, making them beneficial for people who are plugged up in the bathroom.

That said, ripe bananas are considered a high-FODMAP food, a category of foods that are high in certain sugars, which can aggravate sensitive stomachs and IBS symptoms, says Dr. Robbins—and, in this case, you may want to opt for a less ripe banana. Otherwise, avoid having a ripe banana on an empty stomach, and instead, pair it with other foods such as protein. “If you pair something that’s a little sweeter or more sugary with a protein, it will help to generally slow the rate of emptying and slow digestion, which prevents those peaks and valleys in blood sugars,” she says.

Timing is everything, but Dr. Robbins underscores that yellow or brown bananas aren’t better than green bananas (or vice versa)—it’s more about learning how one type might affect our bodies as opposed to categorizing them as “good” or “bad” foods. Whether green, yellow, or brown, all bananas come packed with nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6—plus, they also come with their own unique health benefits at different ripeness levels.

The benefits of eating bananas at every stage of ripeness


As mentioned, unripe green bananas are high in resistant starches, and since they don’t break down easily, “they act as a prebiotic, meaning they’re great fuel for the microflora,” says Dr. Robbins. Plus, resistant starches have been linked to a host of other health benefits.

Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, RDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition, told Well+Good that resistant starches can boost energy levels and encourage regularity, as well as prevent blood sugar spikes throughout the day.


Ripe bananas offer a combination of nutrients and palatability—at peak ripeness, they are neither too hard nor too mushy, too bitter nor too sweet, but just right. Plus, they offer the added benefits of being more easily digestible among people among people experiencing constipation.


When a banana browns, it might lose the resistant starches and contain more sugar than its greener version. But overripe bananas come with their own health benefits, too. Specifically, these bananas contain the highest amount of antioxidants, as per Kwon’s Instagram post.

This is echoed by registered dietitian Kathleen Johnson, MA, RDN, in a previous Well+Good interview about the differences between ripe and unripe fruit nutrition: “While the conversion of starch to sugar is the most notable change during the ripening process, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants also develop and convert as fruit ripens.”

When is the best time to eat bananas to alleviate constipation?

When you eat a banana might be just as important in some instances. Specifically, if you’re looking for constipation relief, you might want to have a banana before bed. “Most people tend to have a bowel motion first thing in the morning, and so knowing that if we take some laxatives the night before, they have time to work and become more effective so we can take advantage of a morning bowel motion,” says Dr. Robbins. “A few hours before going to bed may be a good time to use those types of laxatives.”

Other foods that can cause constipation

If you have constipation, you might want to steer clear of unripe green bananas, as well as some other foods that are known to press the pause button on your bowel motion. These foods include dairy, processed grains, and chocolate, in addition to red meat and fried foods.

Keep in mind that everybody will react differently to these food choices, but if you’re suffering from constipation—you might want to try to minimize your intake to see whether they’re adding to the problem.

Foods that relieve constipation

Conversely, there are foods that work to relieve constipation. Among them are:

  • Healthy fats
  • Green veggies
  • High-fiber fruits like apples and papaya
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

While not technically a food, drinking plenty of water can offer constipation relief, as well as your morning cup of coffee or tea.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Bae, Sun Hwan. “Diets for constipation.” Pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology & nutrition vol. 17,4 (2014): 203-8. doi:10.5223/pghn.2014.17.4.203

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