Banana lovers don’t fool around when it comes to how they like the ripeness of their favorite fruit. Some prefer to stick to the under-ripe green bananas, while others like their overripe bananas that are almost completely brown. While taste is a factor to consider when choosing what color bananas you like, so is your health.
Bananas are a healthy choice all around. According to writer Adda Bjarnadottir, MS for Authority Nutrition, they can benefit our digestion, heart health and promote weight loss. They deliver high amounts of potassium along with other vitamins and nutrients required to keep us healthy. Interestingly enough, each banana coloration comes with its own set of health benefits.
Green Bananas contain resistant starch. According to registered dietitian Jill Corleone this type of starch acts more like a fiber in your 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. Their high fiber content means younger bananas keep you full for longer. This helps your appetite stay in check thus promoting weight loss. Under-ripe bananas are also very low on the glycemic index making them an ideal snack for those who need to control their blood sugar levels.
Yellow, firm bananas contain antioxidants that protect our bodies from various illnesses. Bjarnadottir noted one antioxidant present is dopamine, which reduces the risk of heart disease as well as degenerative diseases. She said while dopamine is usually known to act as a feel-good chemical in the brain, you won’t get that from eating a banana, unfortunately. “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 contain more sugar as they age, and so yellow bananas are on the sweeter side.
Yellow bananas with brown spots aren’t quite as healthy as their younger counterparts, but they still contain a lot of antioxidants. They are even sweeter than yellow bananas and are usually the most popular choice when it comes to taste. A group of Japanese researchers from Teikyo University has proven that bananas at this ripeness can actually fight cancer. They found that spotted bananas contain 8 times the amount of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) than green bananas. According to PubMed, TNF helps to break down abnormal cells in our body, namely cancerous tumors. The cancer-fighting substance also benefits our immune system by guiding white blood cells to areas in the body that are inflamed or infected.
Brown bananas, while they are the sugariest, still have high levels of potassium. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, foods high in potassium help prevent conditions like osteoporosis. Brown bananas also contain the mood-altering amino acid tryptophan. In a report by Life Extension, tryptophan is said to regulate your moods. It can help ease depression, anxiety and also help you sleep better. The older a banana gets, the easier they are to digest making brown ones ideal for those with digestive issues. As bananas head to the end of their shelf life, they begin to lose their nutrients. Therefore, brown bananas should be kept in the refrigerator to minimize further loss.
Not only are they super healthy, bananas are also one of the most conveniently healthy snacks out there. You can throw them in smoothies, cereal, baked good, the list goes on. Since they come in their own handy packaging, they’re easy to travel with. Their thick protective peel also keeps them protected from pesticides and pollutants. At the end of the day, bananas are good for you no matter what stage of shelf life they’re at. The right ripeness for you could depend on your personal health goals or your taste preference.