It’s never good to judge a book by its cover, but that isn’t the case when it comes to bananas. Yes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but it’s what’s on the outside of this fruit that lets you know what you’re getting.
All bananas are rich in potassium and help diminish water retention, which is why they are one of the healthiest carbs for your six pack. But that’s where the similarities end.
Depending on how far along it is in the ripening process, each banana offers its own benefits — and drawbacks — so you’d be b-a-n-a-n-a-s if you didn’t use our guide to leave the grocery store with a bunch that best suits your diet. Losing weight is just one of the 21 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat Bananas.
The least ripe of the bunch, green bananas are known less for their sugar content and more for their resistant starch. But resistant to what, exactly? Digestion — since it can’t be broken down by enzymes, this digestion-resistant starch keeps you satiated. As your body works on the fiber-like starch, you feel fuller for longer, which means you’ll avoid those mindless munchies later.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Not quite; under-ripe bananas aren’t exactly easy to peel or super appetizing. But while we’ll admit that green bananas don’t taste great on their own, they are surprisingly versatile; they’re perfect for making smoothies, cookies, and other goodies featured in 17 Amazing Ways To Eat A Banana. That means just a little more effort for a lot of reward.
When you’re out shopping, a standard yellow banana may seem like your best bet. Green and brown ones can look intimidating or just plain gross, and sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. But while a ripe, yellow banana looks fine and tastes fine, its benefits are just that — fine — when compared to the other two extremes. The resistant starch found in underripe bananas has changed to simple sugar by this point so you can say goodbye to satiation. And even though there’s an antioxidant increase in yellow bananas, it’s still not as much as the increase found in overripe ones.
A brown banana is on the other end of the ripeness spectrum and the sweetest option. But that just means as its ripeness increases, so do its fructose levels. And as the sugar content is going up, micronutrients are going down. The riper a banana becomes, the less vitamin C, folic acid, and thiamin it contains.
But don’t be discouraged just because we started with the bad news first. There’s way more to these overripe bananas than meets the eye. When the peels are completely brown, that means bananas are producing the most antioxidants. These help to prevent or delay some types of cell damage. And if the peels are only speckled with dark spots, that means bananas are producing Tumor Necrosis Factor, a cancer-fighting substance that is most powerful at killing abnormal cells when the spots are darkest. According to a Food Science and Technology Research study, ripe bananas actually boost the body’s immune system eight times more than a fresh banana does.
What's the Final Verdict?
That being said, don’t forget that a medium-sized banana of any kind has 105 calories and is still good for you whether it’s soft or firm, polka-dotted or solid. But if weight loss is what you’re after, go for the green next time you’re at the store. Since theses bananas tend to be a bit stiffer than ripe bananas, they're best used in smoothies or microwaved into oatmeal. Like we said earlier, resistant starch and a low sugar content of green bananas makes them your best bet for weight-loss success; it’s one of the reasons why bananas are one of our 46 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss.