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Should I Avoid Bananas During Pregnancy?

Bananas are a snack super-food in many ways. They are chock full of nutrients and essential vitamins, require no special preparation, and come in their own packaging—perfect for when you need a quick, healthy snack. So, why do some sources recommend avoiding bananas during pregnancy?

Exploring the Safety of Banana Consumption During Pregnancy.

This article explores what we know about this ubiquitous fruit and delves into the belief that eating bananas may not be suitable for pregnant women. We are all a little different, so if you are pregnant talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about the best diet for you and your baby and your banana intake.

Understanding your diet during pregnancy

We all know that a healthy and balanced diet is important and contributes to our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. In pregnancy diet becomes even more important as both the mother and her developing baby need proper nourishment to see them through the process.


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When you become pregnant you may find that your diet changes. Certain potentially harmful products such as alcohol and raw meat are universally considered unsafe for pregnant women and therefore are recommended to avoid during pregnancy, and the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy influence how you feel about food in the first place.

Additionally, health conditions such as gestational diabetes, low iron levels, high blood pressure are a common problem among expectant mothers. Personalized dietary recommendations may be needed in such cases.

The cravings and food aversions many pregnant women experience are well known and often show up early on in the first trimester. And each culture has its own recommendations for the best diet containing all the important vitamins and essential nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

Bananas are inexpensive, flavourful, and provide many health benefits, so why do some practitioners recommend avoiding them during pregnancy? Let’s see what’s inside this sweet, fleshy popular fruit (which, we were surprised to learn, botanists consider to be a berry because it grows from a single ovary, has a soft skin, soft flesh, and many tiny seeds).

The Nutritional Profile of Bananas

Bananas are mild, nutritious, and easy to digest. Eating bananas is often recommended for people recovering from surgery or gastrointestinal issues as they do not cause irritation and support regular bowel movements. Bananas are a healthy snack option in daily life.

The essential vitamins and minerals found in bananas can help prevent heartburn and stabilize blood pressure among other things. Consuming bananas also helps regulate fluid balance.

Bananas are rich in nutrients and fibre and are well-known for their high potassium content. They are also a great source of energy due to their carbohydrate content. This also means that they are rather high in sugar, especially ripe bananas.

What’s in a banana?

One medium-sized banana, on average, contains:

  • 90–110 calories
  • ~1 g protein
  • ~ 0.4 g total fat (including 0.1 g saturated fat)
  • 27–28 g total carbohydrates, including 14–15 g natural sugars and 3 g dietary fibre)
  • ~ 400 mg potassium
  • ~ 30 mg magnesium
  • ~ 10 mg vitamin C (~10% of the US RDA or recommended daily allowance)
  • ~ 0.4 mg vitamin B6 (~ 25% RDA)
  • ~23 mcg vitamin B9/folate (~6% RDA)
  • other trace vitamins and nutrients, including folic acid and other important nutrients.

Carbs

In green bananas the carbohydrates are mostly starches that transform into the natural sugars fructose, glucose, and sucrose as they ripen. A very ripe banana can contain up to 16% sugar.

Fibre

Most of the starch in green bananas (unripe bananas) is resistant starch, which behaves like a fibre because it passes through the small intestine undigested into the large intestine where bacteria transform it into butyrate through fermentation. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the cells lining the colon and promotes a healthy gut barrier, which helps reduce inflammation.

Bananas also contain pectin, another beneficial prebiotic fibre. As they ripen the proportion of water-soluble pectin increases, causing the bananas to get softer.

Vitamins and minerals

The top three nutrients bananas offer us are potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. More on potassium below.

Other bioactive compounds

Bananas also give us dopamine, which when consumed acts as an antioxidant, and catechin, an antioxidant flavonoid that has been shown to improve heart health.]

The essential nutrients found in bananas can help stabilize blood pressure, reduce nausea, ease acid reflux, and help prevent heartburn which are all very important in a healthy diet. Eating bananas infuses the body with positive health effects and they are usually considered safe to eat during pregnancy.

Potassium—the Humble Banana’s Most Abundant Asset

When we say that bananas are rich in potassium, we mean it. The high amount of this mineral is what makes bananas a superfood, but it also carries some potential risks. Too many bananas can indeed contribute to an increased risk for potential complications.

What is potassium?

Potassium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in the body’s physiological functions. It is vital for the proper functioning of our muscles, nerves, and hearts. Potassium is also an electrolyte. These are ions that carry an electrical charge.

For the human body, the most important electrolytes we need to consume in our food are potassium and sodium because the body does not produce them on its own.

Benefits of potassium

Potassium and sodium work in tandem to maintain a balance of ions within our cells. When a sodium ion enters a cell, a potassium ion leaves and vice versa. This pump mechanism helps the body regulate fluids and blood pressure, transport nutrients into cells, and relay signals across tissues.

When the body doesn’t have enough sodium and potassium in the proper ratio, essential body functions can become impaired. A diet high in processed foods can easily skew toward excessive sodium and insufficient potassium intake. Those of us who survive on take out or frozen meals would do well to eat more bananas.

General dietary guidelines in the United States suggest a daily intake of 2,500 to 3,000 mg of potassium per day for adults. So, one medium banana provides more than 10% of the recommended daily dose.

Assessing the Benefits of Eating Bananas During Pregnancy


Is Eating Bananas Beneficial During Pregnancy?

Bananas and the mother

Bananas can be valuable addition to your diet during pregnancy providing important nutrients, probiotic dietary fibre, and an energy boost. The potassium bananas contain helps maintain proper fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and healthy blood pressure levels. And eating bananas can help minimize the symptoms of constipation and heartburn, both common problems in pregnancy.


Bananas can sometimes ameliorate the symptoms caused by morning sickness, especially in the first trimester, just like they would for an upset stomach.

Weight gain during pregnancy is a concern for many expectant mothers, and the high sugar content found in bananas (and other foods) can increase related risks.

Bananas and the baby

If the pregnancy is progressing well, bananas provide certain benefits for the developing foetus. Vitamin B6 is crucial for the development of baby’s brain and nervous system, and bananas are rich in B group vitamins. Vitamin C aids the absorption of iron, an essential mineral for foetUnderstanding Five Reasons to Consider Avoiding Bananas During Pregnancy



Bananas are good for you. The question is, how many bananas is too many?


Five Reasons to Avoid Eating Bananas During Pregnancy

To decide how often you want to eat bananas during pregnancy you want to consider the potential health risks to you and your baby. High levels of potassium and excess sugar can both cause problems. Some of the most common reasons why banana might be one of the fruits to avoid during pregnancy include:

Hyperkalemia

Elevated potassium levels, or hyperkalemia, (often the result of poorly regulated supplement use) can cause heart and muscle problems, which can be dangerous for both mother and child during pregnancy. This condition typically does not present with easily identifiable symptoms, but can ultimately leave you feeling tired, numb, and weak. The greatest risk is abnormal heart rhythm, which can lead to cardiac arrest and death, as well as problems in fetal development.

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Gestational diabetes

Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is the body’s main source of energy. It comes from the food we eat and rises and falls in relation that. A healthy person will have blood glucose levels between 80 to 130 mg/dL before a meal and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after a meal.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps transport glucose into your cells where it can be used as energy. When a person suffers from diabetes, their body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or can’t use it effectively, which means glucose remains in the blood and doesn’t get where it needs to go.

High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, typically presents with pronounced hunger, excessive thirst, and frequent urination. Acute or chronic hyperglycemia can lead to severe complications, but the condition can be successfully managed.

Some pregnant women temporarily develop diabetes that typically resolves once the baby is born. This is called gestational diabetes. Women at risk for gestational diabetes need to monitor their carbohydrate intake, including how many bananas they consume.

Gestational Anaemia

During pregnancy, the mother’s blood volume increases to accommodate the needs of her growing baby. This means her body needs to produce more red blood cells, and therefore needs to increase her intake of iron and other nutrients, especially B12 and folate.

While bananas do contain B vitamins, there are also compounds that may interfere with the absorption of non-heme iron (plant-based iron). Pregnant women at risk for iron-deficiency anaemia will want to keep this in mind when creating a safe pregnancy diet.

Interactions with medication

Because bananas are high in potassium, they should be consumed sparingly by people taking blood-pressure medication (ACE inhibitors), beta-blockers, or other drugs that rely on controlling the amount of potassium in your system. The effect of much potassium can be an erratic heartbeat that will put a strain on the kidneys.

Bananas have also been shown to inhibit the action of acetaminophen, making it best to avoid bananas in these situations.

Allergies

Although it occurs in only 0.1 – 1.2% of the general population, bananas do cause an allergic reaction in some people that presents as itching in the mouth and throat, swelling of the lips and tongue, wheezing, hives, cramps, and diarrhoea. In some people the reaction can be so severe as to be life threatening. Banana allergy is thought to be related to pollen food allergy and latex food allergy.

If you suspect that you might be allergic to bananas (or other fruits and vegetables), it is best to be safe and avoid banana during pregnancy.

Delicious Alternatives to Bananas You Can Enjoy During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is essential to consume a variety of fruits to ensure a well-rounded intake of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Staying hydrated is, of course, also key. Here are some options of fruit that can be excellent alternatives to bananas and can be incorporated as a healthy part of your pregnancy diet:

Oranges

Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which supports the immune system, aids in the absorption of iron, and contributes to baby's growth.

Berries

Various berries are packed with antioxidants, fibre, and vitamin C. Fibre helps with digestion and alleviates constipation, a common issue during pregnancy.

Avocados

Avocados are a nutrient-dense fruit, providing healthy monounsaturated fats, folic acid, and potassium. Folate is crucial for the early development of baby’s brain.

Mangos

Mangos are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate. Vitamin A is essential for the development of baby’s eyes, and vitamin C aids in collagen formation.

Pineapple

Pineapple provides vitamin C and manganese. It also contains an enzyme called bromelain, which may help with digestion and reducing inflammation.

Apples

Apples are contain dietary fiber, vitamin C, and various antioxidants. The soluble fibre in apples can aid in maintaining steady blood sugar levels and promoting digestive health.

A Final Word on Bananas

Unless you have specific directions from your healthcare provider, don’t worry too much about enjoying bananas during pregnancy. Although individual conditions sometimes warrant dietary adjustments, it’s hard to go wrong eating a diverse diet rich in fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, beans, and small quantities of healthy fats and proteins. Remember to stay hydrated! And when in doubt, seek trustworthy medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

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https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/bananas
https://www.allohealth.care/healthfeed/pregnancy/why-to-avoid-banana-during-pregnancy
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/what-hyperkalemia
https://www.clinicalguidelines.scot.nhs.uk/nhsggc-guidelines/nhsggc-guidelines/neonatology/hyperkalaemia-a-guideline-for-management-in-neonates/
https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/fact-sheet/banana/
https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/04/20/dont-go-bananas-but-maybe-eat-one
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