Despite what you may read about them, here’s what you really need to know.
Pull up any internet diet site, and you might run across a pop-up with a sketch of a banana with the headline: 5 Foods to never eat. And on some popular diet plans, bananas aren’t allowed while other fruits are.
Why have bananas gotten a bad rap when it comes to weight loss?
Dietitians say bananas are wrongly-accused of being diet wreckers because people say and write that they’re high in glycemic index, are packed with sugars and will blow your calorie budget.
But that’s simply not the case and in more than 20 years as a dietitian, I’ve never seen nor heard of clients gaining weight from bananas!
In fact, there’s evidence that suggests just the opposite: a diet rich in produce—including bananas—can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. Fruit provides relatively few calories from its volume, thanks in part to its high water and fiber content. Not only are those who eat plant-based diets thinner they have reduced risks for most chronic disease, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Many of the world’s fittest and leanest athletes report eating several bananas every day. In fact, the Olympian Yohan Blake eats 16 bananas a day!
When it comes to the glycemic index of bananas, all fruit is rich in fructose, which is digested and absorbed slowly by the liver as opposed to other sugars that are metabolized through the small intestine. In fact, because bananas provide equal amounts of glucose and fructose and a small amount of sucrose, they have a low-to-moderate glycemic index of 51, which is the same as many other fruits like grapes, pineapple and mangoes. Bananas and other fruit don’t “spike” your blood sugar levels like candy, soft drinks, white bread or other refined grains that don’t contain fructose or fiber.
A medium banana (7 to 8 inches long) has 110 calories and provides 30 grams of carbs, 3 grams fiber and has 13% of the potassium and 15% of each, vitamin C and manganese. As a general rule, we recommend half of a medium-sized banana or 1 small banana (4 to 5 inches long) as a serving. When you eat that portion size, bananas are essentially equivalent to any other piece of fruit in terms of calories and carbs.
Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch, a type of carb that your body can’t digest so it doesn’t contribute any calories and acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics help boost the amount of probiotics in the GI tract. The resistant start and fiber in bananas help to fill you up and not out. (The greener the banana, the more resistant starch it contains) In addition, smelling bananas has been shown to be a natural appetite-suppressant, so be sure to take in their aroma before eating them.
Bottom line: Bananas are a dieter’s friend and a nutrient-rich fruit that should be part of any diet. If you use our meal plans, you’ll see bananas are one of our favorite fruits. And, one of my all-time favorite, fill-me-up breakfast is “Protein Pancakes” make with eggs and bananas.