Bananas are just one of many kinds of fruits, so why do we give them so much attention? For starters, bananas are different from the majority of fruits in that they are both starchy and sweet, and these qualities put bananas in a class of their own in terms of their versatility.
Bananas can be used as an egg replacer and binder in vegan cakes, muffins, quick breads, cookies, and pancakes. They're inexpensive, readily available, and add a mild banana flavor (which may be a good thing, depending on the recipe). They work fairly well in baked goods and may be a better choice for vegans with IBS than some other types of egg replacers (such as applesauce or flaxseeds). Bananas contribute a natural sweetness, have a pleasing flavor and texture, and are a good source of potassium. They are also rather filling compared to other fruits.
Bananas make an excellent foundation for satisfying smoothies and are essential for homemade vegan ice creams. So what's the problem? Bananas, particularly very ripe or very unripe bananas, can be a trigger food for people with IBS. Unripe bananas, while low in FODMAPs, are packed with resistant starch, which can perform similarly to FODMAPs in the digestive tract. Ripe bananas are loaded with oligo-fructans, a FODMAP that can be a symptom trigger for many people with IBS.
If you've been able to tolerate bananas, don't stop eating them just because they may affect some people with IBS. If you have a problem tolerating bananas, it's possible you haven't yet found the right serving size or right level of ripeness that agrees with your persnickety colon (one-third of a ripe medium-sized common banana is considered low in FODMAPs according to Monash University).
What can you use instead of bananas? For smoothies, add a small amount of rolled oats, chia seeds, low-FODMAP nut or seed butter, and/or ice or frozen fruit to provide body and thickness and create a more filling beverage. For baking, try mashed or blended firm tofu, flax or chia eggs, applesauce (if you can tolerate it), or pureed cooked pumpkin. Note that one egg equals about 1/4 cup in volume, so egg alternatives should be used in similar quantities for baked goods. You might also want to explore commercial egg replacers, such as Ener-G brand, as these are typically composed of starches that are low in FODMAPs. However, some newer commercial egg-alternative products contain high-FODMAP ingredients, so be sure to read the package label thoroughly before purchasing.
The picture above shows bananas in various stages of ripening. In terms of FODMAP content, numbers 8 and 9 are probably at the best stages -- not too ripe and not too unripe.
Are you able to tolerate bananas? If so, what number on the banana spectrum are you?
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