Are you wondering if bananas and PCOS mix well together?
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how you need to avoid certain foods and even entire food groups. Let me help clear up one thing: bananas are definitely good for PCOS.
This article is going to outline the health benefits of bananas for PCOS. It will also provide you with some tips on how to include them in your diet to get the maximum benefit.
If you’re new here, hi! I’m Alyssa, a registered dietitian who specializes in PCOS (I also have PCOS myself!). My goal is to make eating well for PCOS less overwhelming and more realistic for you.
Before we dive into everything you need to know about bananas and PCOS, let’s recap what PCOS actually is.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common medical condition that affects approximately 6-12% of women of childbearing age (1). This hormonal imbalance is commonly associated with irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and weight gain, but it can present with various symptoms.
Some common symptoms of PCOS include:
Now that we covered what PCOS is, how does all of this relate to the foods you eat?
Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. In fact, up to 80% of those with PCOS have insulin resistance, or impaired insulin sensitivity (2).
Insulin resistance is when your body’s cells don’t respond well to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating your blood glucose levels (aka blood sugar levels). This causes hyperinsulinemia, or high insulin levels, long after eating.
High insulin levels can impede regular ovulation and increase the amount of testosterone that your ovaries produce. This leads to many of the unpleasant PCOS symptoms we commonly see.
Although various factors can contribute to insulin resistance, our food choices can make a big difference. In particular, carbohydrates can have a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels.
Simple carbs, such as those found in white bread, white pasta, candy, cookies, fruit juice, or soda, can cause a rapid blood sugar level increase which will result in higher insulin levels.
A better choice would be complex carbs, which are carbohydrates that have fiber. Fiber is a type of carb that doesn’t get fully digested, so it slows down digestion and leads to longer lasting energy levels. Fiber also drastically slows down the blood sugar increase, which allows your body to respond with an appropriate amount of insulin.
Some complex carb examples are foods like potatoes, corn, peas, whole fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains like whole grain toast, brown rice, and quinoa.
If you’d like more information about which foods should be on your shopping list, be sure to check out this post: A Dietitian’s PCOS Grocery List & Pantry Staples
One of the common myths about PCOS is that a low-carb diet is the only way to manage this condition, especially if you’re insulin resistant. In reality, carbs can absolutely be included as part of a balanced diet.
Yes, carbohydrates will increase your blood sugar levels but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid them entirely. Instead, being intentional about which types of carbs you choose to eat and how you eat them is more important.
Choosing complex carbs more often and pairing them with other nutrients, such as protein and fat, will help to prevent blood sugar spikes. This will keep you feeling full for longer and give you more sustained energy levels.
Since this article is mainly focused on bananas for PCOS, it’s impossible to go over everything that is part of a healthy PCOS diet in this blog post. For more info on what a healthy diet for PCOS looks like, be sure to check out this post that also includes a PCOS meal plan: A Dietitian’s 7-Day PCOS Diet Plan.
Yes! I cannot stress this enough. Bananas are good for PCOS. Let me first address why some people demonize bananas and then we’ll get into the health benefits of bananas for PCOS.
One of the biggest issues with bananas that people point out is that they have a lot of sugar in them. Yes, there’s no denying that bananas do have sugar in them. A medium-sized banana has 105 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates, including 3 grams of fiber and 14 grams of sugar (3).
It’s important to point out though that bananas contain a higher amount of a naturally occurring sugar called fructose. Fructose gets digested primarily by the liver and doesn’t have as much of an impact on blood sugar levels or insulin levels as something like table sugar does.
Another argument is on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how high and how quickly a food will raise blood sugar levels. Some people may tell you that you need to choose only low glycemic index (GI) foods. Depending on their ripeness, bananas have a GI score of anywhere between 42 to 62, making them a low GI to a medium GI food. Over-ripe bananas have a higher GI score than unripe bananas.
The glycemic index is relatively flawed in a few ways and I don’t usually recommend relying on it when choosing your foods. First off, GI doesn’t necessarily account for normal portion sizes that are consumed. And second, it doesn’t take into account other factors that can mitigate blood sugar spikes, such as including protein and fat (more on this later).
Now that we’ve gotten the glycemic index and sugar debate out of the way, lets talk about all the health benefits that bananas have and how those may influence PCOS!
Bananas are filled with many essential nutrients that are great for managing PCOS symptoms and improving your overall health.
Here are some of the health benefits that bananas have:
Needless to say, bananas are a fruit that I would recommend for PCOS. For other fruits I recommend eating if you have PCOS, check out this post: PCOS Fruits Guide: PCOS-Friendly Fruits to Eat & Avoid.
Now lets dive into the best ways to include bananas in your diet without spiking your blood sugar levels.
Since bananas are mainly carbohydrates, they do have the potential to increase your blood sugar quickly if you eat them by themselves. For this reason, I always recommend giving your banana a friend!
For a good snack, pair your banana with some protein or healthy fats. This is a great way to keep blood sugar levels stable and keep you feeling full for a significantly longer period.
Some examples of protein and/or healthy fats to add to your banana include:
Be sure to check out this post for more healthy snack ideas for PCOS.
Additionally, here are some of my favorite PCOS recipes that use bananas:
When it comes to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), bananas can be included as part of a healthy diet.
Bananas are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These nutrients are beneficial for managing PCOS symptoms and improving your overall health.
If including bananas in your diet, be mindful of the serving size and pair it with some protein and healthy fats for optimal blood sugar control.
Learn the most common nutrition mistakes I see women with PCOS making and what to do instead!