When it comes to weight loss, some foods can be wonderful choices while other ones sabotage your efforts.
Because of this, figuring out what you should and should not be eating is one of the key aspects of losing weight. But, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Common sense would suggest that bananas are a pretty good option for weight loss. After all, they are fruit.
Is that accurate though?
Certainly, there are some people out there that ask, are bananas bad for weight loss?
Many people even avoid bananas entirely when they want to lose weight. Likewise, some diet plans will allow every other fruit, but not bananas.
So, why all the debate about the humble banana? Well, it mostly comes down to the nutrients.
A medium banana (roughly 118 grams) contains around 105 calories (1). For 100 grams, the nutrition data looks like this:
Nutrition Facts: Bananas, raw (100 grams)
0.4 mg (18% DV)
8.7 mg (15% DV)
0.3 mg (13% DV)
358 mg (10% DV)
It also has 14 g of sugars, 1g of protein and 3 g of dietary fiber, as well as around 17% of your daily vitamin C intake, 23% of your daily potassium intake and 22% of your vitamin B6 intake. Bananas are also a source of hyaluronic acid and help to promote levels of the compound too.
Additionally, a medium banana contains 27 g of carbohydrates (7).That makes it a significant source of carbohydrates.
With so many people trying to avoid calories and carbohydrates nowadays, it isn’t too surprising that people are rapidly turning away from the humble banana.
Fiber is an important part of the diet, but it is something that many people simply do not get enough of (8). The 3 g of fiber that you can get from a medium banana is one very good reason for consuming them.
A specific type of fiber that you find in bananas is pectin.
At the same time, the presence of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 in bananas is significant.
For example, higher intakes of potassium in the diet is linked to decreased stroke rates and there is some suggestion that increasing potassium intake might help to lower heart disease risk (14,15). Potassium also plays a role in promoting healthy blood pressure (16).
Additionally, bananas are a good source of flavonoids (17,18) (as are most fruit and vegetables), which may also play a role in decreasing heart disease risk (19). You can also find more information about the advantages of bananas in the post by Healthline.
All of these areas do show that bananas are good for health, but how does that tie into weight loss?
Bananas and Weight Loss
First of all, there haven’t been any direct studies on how bananas play a role in weight loss.
That isn’t too surprising.
After all, research tends to focus on dietary approaches or on specific supplements, rather than individual foods.
The only study that even remotely looked at the topic found that supplementation with banana starch contributed to weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity for obese people with diabetes (20).
But, that result is pretty meaningless for this discussion. After all, we’re talking about eating bananas, not supplementing with banana starch.
Many claims about bananas focus on how they are full of sugar and have far too many calories for most calorie-restricted diets.
And yes, those statements are true, but only to a degree.
The first thing is that whole fruit tends to be nutrient dense for its calorie content, and contains a decent amount of fiber, which helps balance out some of the impacts of the sugar. So, eating a banana certainly isn’t the same as eating a candy bar with the same amount of calories and sugar.
When it comes to weight loss, calories are only ever part of the equation.
Yes, you do want to avoid taking in too many calories. But, the specific food you eat is even more important than the precise number of calories that you consume.
That outcome makes sense because fruit is full of fiber. This does suggest that bananas can help people lose weight.
Certainly, there is very little to suggest that bananas are bad for weight loss.
Bananas are Versatile
The debate about bananas and weight loss does seem to focus on the nutrients of bananas and whether the good outweighs the bad.
But, there is another side to the discussion too.
Bananas are very useful as a healthy snack.
One reason for this is that they are already prepacked in a suitable serving size. This means that you aren’t likely to eat too much unless you do so intentionally.
That’s different than fruit like grapes or cherries, where you have to create your own serving size.
The skin of a banana also means that the fruit is easily portable and bananas can be eaten without a mess. Those advantages aren’t true for most other fruits.
Because bananas feel like they have more substance, they can also be more satisfying than other fruit.
That’s an important trait in a snack. After all, if a snack satisfies you, you are much less likely to look for something else.
The strong taste of bananas also means that they work very well in smoothies.
Many people do rely on smoothies as part of a weight loss approach, particularly smoothies that use protein powder. In fact, bananas are very good at masking the taste of less appealing components of a smoothie, such as kale or spinach, which are healthy but often not especially tasty.
One final cool thing about bananas is the way that they freeze.
Bananas take on a bit of an unusual texture once they have been frozen.
Because of this, they are often used to create one-ingredient banana ice cream by simply blending them to a suitable texture. Likewise, you can add in other fruit to create your own flavor combination.
While the end result doesn’t taste exactly like ice cream, the texture is surprisingly similar.
Many people use this type of homemade ice cream as an alternative to the real thing. After all, it is much lower in calories than actual ice cream.
In general, bananas are a healthy and safe addition to the diet.
However, like anything, there are exceptions.
The main group that should be worried about bananas are diabetics. Diabetics have to be very aware of their sugar intake and that includes sugar that comes from fruit.
However, people with diabetes can still consume bananas, it’s simply a matter of being aware of their sugar content and planning accordingly.
Because bananas are higher in sugar than most other fruits, many diabetics will avoid them and choose fruits that are lower in sugar instead.
Additionally, people who are strongly focused on low-carb diets for weight loss may choose other options. After all, bananas are relatively high in carbs.
Unripe vs Ripened Bananas
So far, we’ve just been talking about regular yellow bananas. But, some people choose to eat bananas when they’re green and unripe.
Green bananas are completely safe and they even have some advantages.
For one thing, green bananas have less sugar and more starch. This gives them a smaller impact on blood sugar and means they are lower GI. As a result, they’re a better choice for people with diabetes and may even help with blood sugar control.
Green bananas also tend to be waxier than ripe bananas and they have a more bitter taste too. Many people enjoy the differences but some do prefer ripe bananas.
Green bananas are a powerful source of resistant starch. This type of starch is broken down in the intestine and most of it isn’t absorbed for energy.
Instead, resistant starch is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are basically the food source for the good bacteria in our bodies – making them critical for overall health.
The starch can also promote satiety hormones, which help you to feel full. In fact, resistant starch may promote weight loss in multiple ways (25).
Even so, green bananas do have disadvantages too.
One problem is that they’re harder to digest. So, they’re less effective as a quick source of energy.
This can also lead to gas and stomach aches for some people. If you experience these problems, you may need to focus on ripe bananas instead.
Because green bananas are lower in sugar and not as sweet, it’s easy to imagine that they have fewer calories too. But, that’s not really the case.
Instead, you’re still getting roughly the same calories either way.
That being said, you do digest fewer calories from green bananas than from yellow ones.
Bananas and Fad Diets
As we’re talking about weight loss, I do want to mention a couple of specific diets doing the rounds.
The Morning Banana Diet
This diet called the Morning Banana Diet, or sometimes the Asa-Banana Diet.
The diet emphasizes eating only fresh bananas for breakfast (although you can eat other food if you are still hungry half an hour later).
There are other parts of the diet too, including an emphasis on only one snack per day and suggesting that people largely eat Japanese food for lunch. Unusually, the diet also focuses on getting decent sleep every night, which is something that most diets don’t consider (26).
It’s interesting to see bananas incorporated into a diet like this, and it’s clear that the creators of it think that bananas are beneficial.
The diet isn’t one that I would personally follow, but it does seem like it would work to some degree.
After all, the diet effectively cuts down on the calories you consume. So, if you could stick to it, you would theoretically lose weight. There is little evidence about whether or not this is the case though.
There are also people who follow diets that are strongly focused on fruit and often little else.
This pattern has changed somewhat over time but she is still famous for extremely high banana consumption.
Diets like that are controversial and highly concerning.
For one thing, you simply aren’t getting all of the nutrients you need from diets that contain little more than fruit. Plus, with no focus on portion control, there is still a good chance that you would end up gaining weight instead of losing it.
There is an even more extreme version of this approach known as the Mono Meal Plan.
This approach means that you eat a single type of food (like bananas) for each meal. It might be a different food for each meal or the same one consistently.
The argument is that doing this makes eating easier and can help to clear out your body.
Honestly though, that doesn’t even make sense.
Once again, you would be missing a lot of key nutrients. You might end up losing weight simply because you weren’t eating a lot of food, but that approach isn’t sustainable in the long term. That’s probably a good thing too because you would probably make yourself very sick if you tried to follow a Mono Meal Plan diet for a long time.
But, it’s important to note that this approach isn’t representative of including bananas in a balanced diet.
Are Bananas Bad For Weight Loss?
The simple answer to the question is no.
Bananas aren’t likely to make you gain weight and cutting them out won’t help you lose it.
In most cases, bananas are only going to be an issue for weight loss if you are eating many of them every day, or if your calorie intake is already high.
After all, bananas do contain more calories per serving than many other types of fruit. However, on a per serving basis a medium banana only has 105 calories which makes it a great choice on a weight loss diet. Combine this with all the nutrition a banana offers, including it's portability and you can't go wrong.
Personally, I think that bananas are a great weight loss food because they make good snacks and they are so versatile. The fiber helps a little too. Plus, they are particularly effective in weight loss smoothies, such as this recipe from Inspired Taste or this one from Gimme Some Oven.
However, at the end of the day, there is little about bananas that inherently makes them good or bad for weight loss. It’s all about how much you consume and the rest of your diet.
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