Bananas are a common and affordable fruit. Nutritious and healthy, they are generally considered a great snack alternative to various chocolate bars. You can cook anything with bananas from salads to healthy chips. And yet, not so long ago, opinions began to spread about bananas being inappropriate for your weight loss goals. The reason is that bananas are high in sugar, therefore high in calories, which should make them inappropriate for a weight loss diet. Let’s figure this out – are bananas good for weight loss? In this article, you will learn alot about bananas and how to consume them if you are aiming to shed your excess pounds.
A Short History of Bananas
Everyone knows what a banana is – despite being a tropical fruit, it is so widespread around the globe that you can buy it in every shop – from big malls to small mini markets. How did that happen? How did the banana manage to become so popular in the South and the North, in the West, and the East?
It is thought that bananas have been first domesticated in Southeast Asia. Bananas are mentioned in early Greek, Latin, and Arab texts, Alexander the Great saw bananas on his expedition to India (3). After the discovery of the Americas, bananas were taken from the Canary Islands to the New World, where they were first grown in Hispaniola and after that spread to other islands and then to mainland areas. Cultivation steadily increased until bananas became a staple food in many regions, and in the 19th century, they began to appear in markets in the U.S. Currently, Cavendish bananas are the most common variety imported by nontropical countries. This is the yellow, sweet variety you can see in every shop in your city.
The fact is, there are hundreds of banana varieties, fuzzy ones, striped ones and those tasting like strawberries. But for most people worldwide, there is only one type of banana – the Cavendish one. This would certainly be amazing news for Duke William George Spencer Cavendish, who propagated this plant in 1834 and gave it his name (15).
Nowadays, the US consumes 3 million tons of bananas each year, and they’re the single most-sold item in Walmart. Globally, bananas are considered the fourth most valuable food crop, behind only wheat, rice, and milk.
Now after you’ve dived a bit into the history of bananas, let’s get to the point of the article. Are bananas good for weight loss?
Benefits of Bananas
First of all, bananas are filled with nutrients. Let’s consider their nutritional value.
One medium banana is about 105 calories, 90% of which come from carbs – sucrose, glucose and fructose. Aside from that, one banana contains (5):
- Potassium: 12% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 20% of the RDI.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
- Copper: 5% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 15% of the RDI.
- Fiber: 3.1 grams.
Also, bananas contain beneficial antioxidants like phenols, flavonoids and flavanols (1). On the other hand, a banana, just like most other fruits, is low in fat and protein. Let’s look through all of those elements in detail.
The first question that arises is about sugar. Most of the calories of the banana come from carbs, precisely, natural sugars. Does that mean a banana’s sugar content is incompatible with a healthy diet?
The short answer is no. First of all, carbs are a necessary component of a healthy diet. Eliminating all carbs from your diet is not practical and can even be harmful. They are a primary source of energy in your body. Consuming too many carbs can indeed lead to weight gain, but such is not the case with bananas. The difference is the distinction between “good” and “bad” carbs. The former, also called simple carbohydrates, can cause blood sugar to spike and are generally unhealthy. They are found in sugary drinks, white bread, cakes, cookies – in short, everywhere where there are sugars artificially added through the process of production. By contrast, “good” carbs are more complex and break down slowly, and are better for your health. Vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits – like bananas – are sources of good carbs (8).
If that is not enough proof, let’s look at the banana’s glycemic index. Glycemic index measures how much certain food raises blood sugar levels. Excess consumption of foods with a high glycemic index has been linked to weight gain, an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke (6). However, the GI score of bananas is rather low, from 42 to 62, which means they have a low to medium glycemic index, depending on ripeness. This means bananas are not a high-glycemic food, and won’t cause blood sugar to spike and related consequences. Carbs in a banana release more slowly and which means more stable blood sugar levels.
Banana health benefits are further increased by their high fiber content. One banana provides 3 grams of fiber, which is about 12% of your daily recommended intake.
Consumption of fiber has been linked to lower body weight, stabilization of blood sugar levels, reduced risks of heart disease and other health benefits (6). It is very good for your digestive health, and it makes you feel satisfied longer, resulting in lowering your calorie intake. A high-fiber and relatively low-calorie snack like a banana can delay hunger cravings and prevent you from consuming unnecessary extra calories. However, among other fruits, bananas are not the most filling, with apples and oranges being the leaders.
Potassium helps your body regulate fluid, send nerve signals, and regulate muscle contractions. A potassium-rich diet and a high fluid intake help maintain a good fluid balance. Aside from that, eating enough potassium helps balance the level of sodium in your body, lowering blood pressure. It also helps prevent incidences of heart disease and stroke (14).
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in neurotransmitter production, which can affect mood regulation (2). It also may play a role in reducing Alzheimer’s risks and promoting healthy brain function (11). Since taking it can improve your mood if you were deficient in it, Vitamin B6 has also been used to treat certain emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
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Vitamin C is well-known for its positive effects on immunity, but it has a host of other benefits. In fact, the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling (13).
Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth, sea, plants, and humans. It is indispensable for multiple functions in your body. Magnesium helps convert food into energy, helps create proteins, maintains and repairs DNA and RNA, helps contract and relax your muscles, and supports nervous system regulation. More practically, magnesium boosts your exercise performance and reduces symptoms of depression in adults with type 2 diabetes and a magnesium deficiency (at the level of an antidepressant drug!) (10, 7). While this is such an important mineral, about half of the people in the US and Europe get less than they need per day. While bananas alone can’t provide you with enough magnesium, just two bananas can give you 16% of your RDI, but combined with other products high in magnesium (like quinoa) can help you feel the benefits of this mineral.
Manganese is vital for bone health, including bone development and maintenance (12). It is a part of SOD, a very important antioxidant that protects your cells from various diseases. Plus, manganese helps reduce inflammation and plays a role in blood sugar regulation.
Bananas improve your exercise performance
So, you can clearly see that the hundred calories in a banana are filled with important vitamins and minerals. As mentioned before, bananas contain important elements that can boost your exercise performance. In fact, a banana can be just as effective as a carbohydrate drink for endurance training (4). Plus, it increases your levels of dopamine, a chemical involved in the generation of feelings of motivation and reward. So, if you were looking for a top-level pre-workout snack, a simple banana may be an unexpected candidate. Indeed, since bananas boost your exercise performance, they are an amazing addition if you’re combining your diet with regular exercise.
Why Are Bananas Good for Weight Loss?
As you can see, bananas can be a nutritious part of any healthy dietary approach. It is true that bananas provide most of their calories from sugar, but those sugars are “good”, natural sugars that do not cause blood sugar to spike as much as added sugars. Bananas have a low to medium glycemic index, making them a healthy carbohydrate source. Plus, bananas are filled with dietary fiber, which is important for digestion and makes you feel satisfied longer. Aside from that, bananas contain a host of vitamins and minerals indispensable for the normal functioning of your body.
To sum up, bananas would certainly fit any balanced weight loss diet. The only caution with bananas should be your calorie limit. As with any other healthy food, if you exceed your calorie limit, in other words, you consume more than you burn, you won’t get rid of extra fat. So, eat bananas, track your calories wisely, keep your diet balanced (look through Keto, Vegetarian, or Mediterranean diets for examples), and drink plenty of fluids to make your body as beautiful as ever.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
Reviewed by: Kirsten Fleming
- Antioxidant potential of banana: Study using simulated gastrointestinal model and conventional extraction (2015, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- B6-responsive disorders: a model of vitamin dependency (2006, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Banana (2020, britannica.com).
- Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach (2012, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Bananas, raw Nutrition Facts and Calories (n.d., nutritiondata.self.com)
- Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis (2013, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Efficacy and safety of oral magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression in the elderly with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, equivalent trial (2008, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Why Carbohydrates Matter to You (n.d., webmd.com)
- Long-term effects of low glycemic index/load vs. high glycemic index/load diets on parameters of obesity and obesity-associated risks: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2013, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Oral magnesium therapy, exercise heart rate, exercise tolerance, and myocardial function in coronary artery disease patients (2006, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (2002, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- Spinal bone loss in postmenopausal women supplemented with calcium and trace minerals (1994, ncbi.nih.nlm.gov)
- The Benefits of Vitamin C (n.d., webmd.com)
- The importance of potassium (2019, health.harvard.edu)
- The Miracle of the Modern Banana (2016, nationalgeographic.com)