By Amy Burkhart MD, RD
Bananas are usually eaten when ripe, yellow, and sweet. But did you know you can eat them in their green, unripe version? Green bananas have a texture similar to a potato and are typically used in savory dishes. They make an excellent substitute for potatoes in recipes and have unique health benefits!
What Are Green Bananas?
Green bananas are the unripe version of the ordinary yellow banana.
When bananas are sold for mass consumption, they are typically picked early in their growing cycle and ripen during transport to their destination. By the time bananas arrive at the local grocery store, they have matured into the yellow bananas we know and love. But, green bananas are often plentiful in the grocery store alongside their yellow companions.
How To Eat Green Bananas
They are typically eaten cooked.
Green bananas are less sweet and more firm than mature, yellow bananas. They are a common ingredient in savory dishes as a substitute for potatoes. In their raw form, they are bitter.
Health Benefits Of Green Bananas
Green bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch and pectin.
Starch is a type of carbohydrate found in foods such as potatoes and grains. Some forms of starch are not completely broken down by the body’s digestive system. When this happens, the starch that is “resistant” to breakdown acts like soluble fiber. We all know fiber is a good thing. It can lower blood sugar, decrease your appetite and help control cholesterol.
There are other health benefits of resistant starch which include lowering the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease (2). Resistant starch is good for you!
Pectin is a form of starch found in fruit, including green bananas. It gives the fruit its structure and breaks down as the fruit ripens—the softer the fruit, the lower the pectin contents (3, 4).
Pectin slows the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine. When this happens, a person is more likely to feel full, decreasing the amount of food a person eats and helping with weight management. Pectin also helps manage blood sugar levels by preventing spikes in blood sugar. Spikes in blood sugar are not good. They increase the risk of mood changes, energy crashes, elevated cholesterol, and hypoglycemia (5). The good gut bacteria feed on pectin in the colon (6). We all want happy gut bacteria. A healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system and better overall health.
FODMAPs And Green Bananas
Green bananas have a lower sugar and FODMAP content than yellow bananas.
FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that contribute to stomach problems in some people, such as those with IBS. People with IBS may find symptom relief after removing or reducing FODMAP foods from their diet.
While ripe bananas are considered a high FODMAP food – green bananas are not (7). The FODMAP content of green bananas is low. As a banana ripens, the starches convert to FODMAP sugars. The riper a banana, the higher its FODMAPs content.
Because of the lower FODMAP content of green bananas tare better tolerated by people with IBS, SIBO, and FODMAP intolerance than yellow bananas.
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Bananas Vs. Plantains
Although they look similar, bananas and plantains are not the same.
Plantains are actually a type of banana but are higher in starch and lower in sugar than typical yellow bananas. Because of their high starch content, they are not usually eaten raw. They are typically fried, baked, or sauteed and are considered more of a vegetable than a fruit.
Plantains are about twice as big as a banana but are used similarly to green bananas. They can also be substituted for potatoes in a recipe and are low FODMAP (1). Both plantains and green bananas are common ingredients in Latin or Caribbean cuisine.
Green Banana Recipes
These green banana recipes are a fun way to mix things up in the kitchen
Mangu is a typical breakfast dish in the Dominican Republic. The bananas are mashed with butter, and sauteed onion, then served alongside fried cheese, egg, and salami. In Puerto Rico, boiled green bananas are served alongside bacalao, a traditional stew. Or, try one of the recipes below.
- Boiled green bananas: a simple Caribbean side dish
- Green banana fries: a typical side dish in Kenya
- Guineitos: road trip food in the Dominican Republic
- Rosie’s Green Banana Stew: a savory curry from Zanzibar
- Green banana mash– a tasty breakfast dish
Give green bananas a try!
Green bananas are healthy, gluten-free, and low FODMAP. The high pectin and resistant starch content help regulate blood sugar and thus inflammation. They may be better tolerated than yellow bananas if you have IBS or other digestive problems. They make an excellent replacement for potatoes in savory dishes and add a unique twist to any menu.