Which Banana Is Healthiest? Bananas at Different Stages of Ripeness Have Different Benefits

July 14, 2020 Updated: July 14, 2020

Produce shoppers can get picky when it comes to choosing the right ripeness of their bananas, a nutritious fruit famous for its high potassium and convenient packaging.

Some people prefer the starchy fiber of green bananas, while others prefer the sweetness of ripe or browning bananas. Many are looking for just the right amount of ripeness in the middle stages. While taste and texture are factors, the health benefits also vary at each stage of ripeness.

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Green bananas are less sweet and more starchy than ripe bananas. Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which acts more like a fiber in the body, and higher dietary fiber content means green bananas keep you full for longer, thus promoting weight loss by keeping your appetite in check.

Also, because of their high starch content, unripe bananas are harder to digest, which has the benefit of helping to cultivate a healthy gut biome.

Meanwhile, green bananas have very little sugar and are low on the glycemic index. This helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce risk of diabetes, according to Adda Bjarnadottir, a registered nutritionist and Healthline contributor.

As bananas ripen, however, their carbohydrate content changes, as starches transform into simple sugars: sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Remarkably, while unripe bananas are 70–80 percent starch, ripe bananas end up having only 1 percent starch content.

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Yellow, firm bananas are an excellent source of dietary antioxidants such as dopamine and catechins, which are linked to health benefits such as reducing risk of degenerative illness and heart disease, Healthline reported.

Like bananas of all stages of ripeness, yellow bananas contain potassium, which is important in controlling blood pressure and kidney health.

In a 13-year study, women who ate bananas two to three times per week were 33 percent less likely to develop kidney disease, while other studies found that those who eat bananas four to six times per week are 50 percent less likely to develop kidney disease.

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Yellow bananas with brown spots contain more sugar than less ripe bananas and tend to be the more popular choice; however, they, too, have a set of health benefits.

Besides being easier on the digestion, bananas at this stage of ripeness have been found by scientists to have cancer-fighting properties. Japanese researchers from Teikyo University discovered that they contain 8 times higher tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which breaks down tumor cells in the body, than unripe bananas.

In addition, as bananas ripen, they become richer in antioxidants.

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Brown bananas are the sweetest in terms of taste; however, as they get browner, their antioxidant levels also increase.

As they are very high in sugar, brown bananas make an excellent sweetener for smoothies while delivering a large boost of antioxidants at the same time. You can also toss them into the freezer to extend their shelf life, making them a handy flavor enhancer.

Type-2 diabetics should be aware, however, that almost all the resistant starch in unripe bananas gets converted into sugars, and their ripe brown counterparts contain the highest sugar levels.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.