Green Bananas vs. Ripe Bananas for Dogs and Horses

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Green Bananas vs. Ripe Bananas for Dogs and Horses

Are you wondering why a veterinarian is writing on the difference between green bananas and ripe bananas?  Well, dogs and horses can and do eat bananas, which are rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium, as well as folate, a B vitamin.

Clearly, we can all feel a texture and taste difference between green and ripened bananas. In fact, these differences highlight the various benefits of the nutritional spectrum of the ripening banana.

Let’s compare the two:

Green BananasRipe Bananas
Higher in resistant starch →Lower in resistant starch
Lower in sugar →Higher in sugar
Lower on the glycemic index →Higher on the glycemic index
Not as easily digestible →More easily digestible
Higher in micronutrients →Lower in micronutrients
Lower antioxidant properties →Higher antioxidant properties

 

The ripening process changes the health benefits of a banana. So, what kind of banana should you choose? It really depends on what nutritional benefit you want to elicit for yourself and your animal companions and personal palatability.

Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is found in many foods such as beans / 
legumes, whole grains, potatoes, rice and starchy fruits and vegetables like bananas. 

Resistant starch does not digest in the small intestine, but actually bypasses it to the large intestine (hindgut in horses). Once in the large intestine, intestinal bacteria ferment resistant starch, which promotes the production of short chain fatty acids that can increase mineral absorption such as of calcium and iron. In essence, resistant starch functions as a prebiotic.

Of course, there is always a downside. Too much resistant
starch can cause multiple health concerns in both people and animals. Whether or not your dog or horse needs additional resistant starch in his diet really depends on the diet itself. For instance, a dog eating a kibble stocked full of grains, probably does not need additional resistant starch. 

However, a dog eating a raw or homemade diet may benefit from resistant starch. With that being said, we prefer bananas as the resistant starch source rather than grains for both dogs and horses.

Sugar

When a banana ripens, the resistant starch is converted into
sugar. So, the glycemic index of a banana goes up significantly – usually from 30 (low) to 60 (medium). Once the glycemic index increases, so does faster digestion of carbohydrates, which causes blood glucose levels to spike rapidly.

Thus, it is advisable for humans with Type 2 diabetes and dogs with diabetes as well as those with obesity to avoid ripened bananas. Many people with diabetes can opt for green bananas. For dogs, please first consult with your holistic/integrative veterinarian.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants prevent or delay some types of cell damage called “oxidative stress”. This cell damage can cause cancer, susceptibility to infections, obesity, degenerative diseases, and even heart disease.

In the case of bananas and their antioxidant value, the
riper the better! 

A highly ripened banana with brown splotches or being completely brown produces Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), a biomarker of cellular oxidative stress, which can combat the production and elaboration of abnormal cells. Also a cytokine, TNF is secreted by certain cells of the immune system that communicate with other cells. TNF activates important signaling pathways not only for cell survival, but also for apoptosis (cell death), inflammatory responses, and cellular differentiation.

Additionally, bananas contain other antioxidants that
destroy the free radicals associated with cancer, as they promote the formation of cancer cells in the bloodstream and tissues.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

References

Longo, Natasha. “Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) in Bananas Help Prevent Cancer.” Asian Fund for Cancer Research, 10 July 2013, http://afcr.org.hk/en/content/tumour-necrosis-factor-tnf-bananas-help-prevent-cancer.

Morais, Mauro B, et al. “Effect of Resistant and Digestible Starch on Intestinal Absorption of Calcium, Iron, and
Zinc in Infant Pigs.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 1 May 1996, www.nature.com/articles/pr19962541.

Peixoto, M. C., et al. “Effect of Resistant Starch on the Intestinal Health of Old Dogs: Fermentation Products
and Histological Features of the Intestinal Mucosa.” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, Wiley Online
Library, 26 Apr. 2017, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jpn.12711/full.

Staff, Kentucky Equine Research. Starch Digestion in the Horse. Kentucky Equine Research, 30 July 2014, http://ker.com/equinews/starch-digestion-horse/.

Topping, D., Fukushima, M., & Bird, A. (2003). Resistant starch as a prebiotic and synbiotic: State of the art. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(1), 171-176. doi:10.1079/PNS2002224.

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