I’ve always preferred the taste and texture of green bananas; my husband likes bananas best when they have brown spots all over.
So when we split a banana on our breakfast granola or oatmeal, one of us is usually happy. 😂
But recently I’ve learned that green bananas are actually better for us, or at least better for our gut health.
That’s because the ratio of healthy fiber and unhealthy sugar changes as a banana ripens.
What the peel color tells you
The best (probably only) way to judge the ripeness of a banana is by its peel color. That color can also tell you when the nutrients you want are around their peak.
- Bright green, green stem: Inedible; the peel is very difficult to remove from the fruit, which will be difficult to digest. Don’t eat these!
- Green-yellow, green stem: Underripe; these bananas have a high level of “resistant starch,” which is considered a gut-friendly prebiotic and may prevent or control diabetes, obesity, or colon cancer. Resistant starch is also considered a soluble fiber, which can lower bad cholesterol levels in some people.
- Yellow, no spots, green stem: Ripe; as a banana ripens, the resistant starch is converted into sugar, so an average yellow banana is still a pretty balanced source of nutrition.
- Dark yellow, multiple brown spots, brown stem: Very ripe; the sugar content of very ripe bananas is greater, but the upside is they are richer in antioxidants.
- More brown than yellow, brown and shriveled stem: Overripe; overripe bananas have the highest sugar content and lowest fiber.
To take advantage of the prebiotic benefits of green bananas, at least one GI doc recommends using them as the base for a nutritious, gut-friendly smoothie.
Any banana is a good source of nutrition
Although I’m happy to find out my preferred “flavor” of banana is low-sugar and high-fiber, ripe bananas aren’t all bad.
Both green and ripe bananas are relatively low in calories and high in potassium and vitamin C.
Bananas are relatively affordable, too. My problem is I buy a whole bunch and store them in a fruit bowl on my kitchen counter. They ripen very quickly, especially in the summer, and I usually end up throwing some away.
Here are a few tips I learned to slow down the ripening process and keep my bananas green just a little bit longer.
- At the store, buy bananas that are more green than you want. And it’s okay to split up a bunch and only take 2 or 3 instead of 6 or 8. (I always feel bad doing this for some reason, haha)
- Wrap the stems in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This limits the oxygen to the fruit and slows down ripening.
- Don’t store bananas in a bowl with other fruit. All fruits give off a gas called ethylene as they ripen, and it speeds up the ripening process of any fruits nearby.
- Don’t store bananas in a plastic bag, either, for the same reason. The bag will trap any ethylene gas the bananas give off and make them ripen faster.
- Store bananas in the fridge. Like your bananas on the green side? Cold temps will slow down ripening. The peels may turn black, but that doesn’t mean the fruit is overripe or ruined.
- Freeze bananas for future smoothies. Are your bananas at the perfect stage of ripeness? Peel and slice, place in a shallow plastic container, and brush lightly with lemon or lime juice.
Bottom line: Bananas are an excellent source of many nutrients. Green bananas have a slight edge health-wise as they are higher in soluble fiber and lower in sugar.