“Is it okay to eat bananas if I have PCOS?” That’s a common question that I get from clients and followers on my social media page. Bananas have been demonized by diet culture as having “too many carbs” or “too much sugar”.
Bananas are looked down on even more in the PCOS space because people are poorly advised to follow a low-carb diet or to cut out sugar – including fruit. So, is there any truth to this? We’ll break down these misconceptions about bananas, potential benefits of bananas for PCOS, and ways to make bananas more PCOS friendly.
Misconceptions About Bananas and PCOS
Most people with PCOS have insulin resistance, and around half develop type 2 diabetes by the age of 40. The misconception that bananas are bad for PCOS comes from the fact that bananas have carbohydrates, and the myth that their glycemic index is too high.
If you’ve ever heard this and avoided bananas because of it then I completely understand why!
Bananas do have carbohydrates, which get converted into sugar in the body. This raises your blood sugar and insulin levels. A medium size banana has about 28 grams of carbohydrates, which is slightly more than most fruits.
When we eat carbohydrates, we want the sugar to enter our cells so that it can be used for energy. With insulin resistance, it’s harder for the sugar to get into our cells. However, there are plenty of ways to manage insulin resistance without cutting out bananas or other fruits! Movement, sleep, and balanced meals/snacks all help with insulin resistance.
Remember that ALL fruits also have carbohydrates, and ALL fruits carry different nutritional benefits. You can learn more about Fruit and PCOS in this blog post.
Bananas are sometimes demonized because of their glycemic index. The glycemic index of a food is a measurement of how much blood sugars go up after eating a particular food. Contrary to popular belief, the glycemic index of a banana is actually fairly low.
Glycemic index is not a reliable way to make food choices for PCOS or insulin resistance. A glycemic index of any food refers to the food consumed BY ITSELF, and NOT when it’s paired with other foods. The way the body reacts to carbohydrates also depends on what you’ve eaten beforehand, whether you’ve gotten good sleep, how stressed you are, etc.
In my practice I often encourage clients to pair carbohydrate rich foods with other foods instead of focusing on the glycemic index. We’ll chat later about pairing bananas with other foods to ease the impact on blood sugar.
My Take on These Misconceptions about Bananas and PCOS
So, should the amount of carbohydrates and glycemic index of a banana be signs that you need to avoid bananas? Absolutely not! Bananas are still full of nutrients, and there are strategies that you can use so they won’t affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Note that bananas did NOT cause your PCOS, insulin resistance, or prediabetes!
Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are full of benefits, some of which are important nutrients for managing PCOS.
- Fiber: This helps you stay full for longer, and prevents big spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels
- Prebiotics: Reach for the unripe bananas for this benefit. Those with PCOS tend to have less healthy gut bacteria, and prebiotics help support healthy gut bacteria.
- Potassium: Helps maintain healthy blood pressure
- Magnesium: Helps with muscle relaxation, sleep, and keeping blood sugar stable
- Vitamin C: Important for the immune system and wound healing
How to Balance Blood Sugars with Bananas
You don’t need my permission to eat the banana by itself, or to eat the whole thing. However, pairing the banana with some fat and protein can help level out your insulin and blood sugar levels. For example, you can pair it with some nut butter, nuts, seeds, or full fat greek yogurt to prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
Typically, pairing carbohydrate rich foods with fiber is also beneficial. But since bananas already have fiber, you don’t have to worry about pairing it with a source of fiber. That’s one of the nice things about eating whole fruit – most already have fiber.
Fun Ways to Use Bananas
Don’t let diet culture ruin bananas for you. There are plenty of ways to enjoy one of the most affordable fruits – even if you have PCOS.
- Dip in melted chocolate: Stick some coconut, nuts, or seeds on the melted chocolate and let the chocolate harden.
- Smoothies: Peel and freeze them to use in a smoothie later. Bonus if you can make your smoothie with protein and fat!
- Banana bread: You’ll want to use some super ripe bananas for this recipe!
- Sauteed: Saute sliced bananas with butter and cinnamon for a fun dessert
- Pancakes: If you’re out of pancake batter, you can use bananas along with eggs and oats! Here are four ways to make pancakes with bananas.
Bananas are often demonized in diet culture and in the PCOS space. But there are plenty of ways that you can enjoy bananas without having a big impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels. In fact, bananas carry a number of nutritional benefits. Some of these benefits are helpful in managing PCOS. Bananas and PCOS can go hand in hand just as much as any other fruit!