Ah bananas. Champion brain boosting, energy ramping superfood. Available in all seasons, they’re the most consumed fruit in the world.
Any fit and active person will testify to the benefits of these badboys, but is there an underlying downside to them?
We’re going to delve into bowel talk today to probe into the fruit’s underbelly: Do bananas make you constipated?
What’s especially confusing for a lot of people is that you’ll hear conflicting arguments: Bananas cause constipation; and that bananas relieve constipation.
So, what’s the right answer?
In truth, the answer is it’s a bit of both. Let’s delve into what causes all the confusion.
Starch is really hard for your body to break down and digest, so it makes sense that a fruit rich in starch will cause problems with constipation. Likewise, a fruit low in starch content should be significantly easier. So which side of the divide do bananas sit?
Under-ripe bananas, often green in color, are rich in starch. However, as bananas start to ripen their composition starts to change. They turn from a starch-rich carbohydrate to a sugar-based one.
Unlike starch, sugar (don’t worry – this is the healthy kind) is digested and assimilated very quickly by the body.
The bottom line: The starch content in under-ripe bananas can lead to constipation, whereas the sugar content in ripe bananas can aid digestion.
#2. Insoluble fibre
Insoluble fibre bulks up in your intestine if you don’t drink enough water, which can lead to constipation. And it just so happens that under-ripe bananas are high in insoluble fibre.
In contrast, ripe bananas contain much less insoluble fibre. In fact, a medium-sized ripe banana can contain as much as 10% of your recommended daily intake of dietary fibre. It’s linked with keeping your bowels healthy and regular, especially when you drink plenty of water too.
Nothing like a bit of dual action to get the pipes flowing!
The bottom line: The insoluble fibre content in under-ripe bananas can make them difficult to pass, especially when you don’t drink enough water.
#3. High sugar content
Due to their high sugar content, bananas are deliciously sweet, and as a result contain large quantities of simple carbohydrates. These come mostly in the form of fructos, maltose and glucose. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, and can act as a trigger for constipation as it has the ability to slow down the time it takes for food to pass through the large intestine.
Pectin is a starch (remember starch from point #1?) that acts almost like a binding agent between the cells of a banana. To get an idea of just how binding pectin is, it’s used in foods like jelly to get them to thicken and clump together.
Ripe bananas produce an enzyme called pectinase, which is fantastic at breaking down the pectin between banana cells, making it far easier for the body to digest.
The bottom line: Ripe bananas produce enzymes that aid digestion
Bananas – ripe and under-ripe alike – are rich in Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), but you knew that – right?
Fructo…olio… FOS is a prebiotic that is a great food source for our gut’s friendly bacteria, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system and… guess what… reduce consitpation.
The bottom line:
The FOS prebiotic seen in bananas can be an effective remedy for helping relieve constipation.
With so much information out there, it’s easy to see where the confusion about bananas and bowel problems came up. So what’s the answer in short? While under-ripe bananas can lead to problems, ripe and healthy bananas do not cause constipation.