Recently, the simple banana has become the newest food item to be placed under the microscope of public scrutiny.
While some people are touting its benefits by eating over fifty bananas a day, others are finger-wagging that the starch and carbohydrate content of this tropical fruit will lead to bloating and belly fat.
So who's right? Should you dig into this controversial fruit or ditch it from your diet entirely?
Don't worry. We've done the tricky research for you.
Read on to learn the real truth about the health effects of eating bananas and their impact on weight loss.
Claims About Bananas & Weight Gain
Are bananas good for weight loss or will I gain weight?
Here are the common claims we see that say you will gain weight
- They are high in calories when compared to other fruits
- Bananas are fairly high in sugar which can turn to body fat more quickly than other nutrients.
- They are high in carbohydrates
To answer this question well, we will need to look 5 main components of the overall health of bananas:
5 Banana Health Components
1. The Nutritional Value Of Bananas
Let's debunk the first myth "They are high in calories when compared to other fruits".
False, they only have a moderate amount of calories.
Though it may have a higher calorie count than other fruits, the natural nutrition profile of a banana reveals that it is a nutrient-packed fruit.
One medium banana contains between 110 to 150 calories and provides 477 mg of potassium (10% of the daily recommended intake for adults).
Research has shown that potassium is essential for lowering blood pressure, sustaining muscle mass and maintaining bone mass density.
That same banana contains between:
- 19-30 g carbohydrates
- 3 g fiber
- 0.5 g fat
- 14.5 g sugar
- 15% of the daily value of Vitamin C
- High levels of vitamin A and vitamin C within a banana makes it a great anti-wrinkle snack food
2. Don't Bananas Have A Lot Of Sugar?
True, bananas contain a large number of carbohydrates, or natural sugars, that the body breaks down into the glucose it needs to function.
There are some health professionals that will go on the record claiming that all sugar in your body is bad news. These experts believe that while fruit sugar is less processed than, say, table sugar, it's still sugar and an unnecessary part of a healthy diet.
Therefore, they claim that the best way to lose weight is to cut out all sugars, even those naturally found in fruit.
Let's address this argument that bananas are a sugar-laden diet trap.
It's common knowledge that the more processed a food is, the higher the sugar content is likely to be and the more nutrients it loses in the creation process.
Though bananas contain about 14 grams of sugar, this is a natural form of sugar that isn't as readily absorbed as processed sugars. The sugar content in bananas won't leave you feeling bloated or overweight.
Viewing glucose as the enemy is the wrong idea. Your brain can't even function without glucose, so next time someone critiques your banana eating habits you can respond that you're eating brain food.
Diets like Calisthenics encourage eating fruits with natural sugar
Watch this video to learn more:
3. Dietary Fiber
As the parts of food that your body can't digest, dietary fiber is essential for keeping you regular, lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and even helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Sometimes called roughage or bulk, dietary fiber comes from seeds, skins, and other cellulose-like materials that don't break down enough for your body to absorb.
The role that dietary fiber plays in weight loss is critical. Because fiber slows down your digestive system, you feel full longer and resist the urge to snack, which would raise your blood sugar levels up.
Avoiding spikes in blood sugar causes your body to seek other fuel sources and burn fat for energy, which causes you to lose weight.
A large banana has about 5 grams of dietary fiber, making it a good source for getting your recommended daily requirements: 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams for men.
4. Resistant Starch
In the past, bananas have been villanized more than other fruits because they have higher levels of carbohydrates than comparable fruits.
However, some of the carbohydrates in a banana are a different type called a resistant starch . This starch is incompletely digested and actually ferments in the colon.
This means that the body pulls out fewer calories per gram of resistant starch than for other carbohydrates,which keeps you feeling full without you having to absorb every calorie from the food you've eaten.
One of the best natural sources of resistant starches are green bananas, which contain 8.5 grams.
The levels go down as the banana ripens, meaning a fully ripe one has about 3 grams. To reap the benefits, substitute a green banana for your regular yellow snack and you will be absorbing fewer calories that would be piled on as extra pounds.
One study found that replacing just 5 percent of your day’s carbohydrates with a source of resistant starch caused participants to increase their post-meal fat burn by over 30 percent .
If you don't like the bitterness of green bananas, try adding them to a fruit smoothie or yogurt where you can mix the flavor with other, sweeter fruits.
5. Glycemic Index
Moreover, bananas have a moderately low glycemic index, which means that they control the blood sugar levels in your body by preventing spikes that occur when you eat sugary foods .
In fact, research has shown that bananas can actually be the perfect addition to your weight loss plan because the naturally sweet fruity taste will satisfy your sweet tooth and stop you from reaching for more calorie-laden snack options.
A good way to understand whether a specific food's carbohydrates will help you with weight loss or not is to look at the glycemic index (GI). According to its founders, the GI;
... is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health." 
- Glycemic Index
Because all carbohydrate-laden foods are ranked from 1 to 100 on the GI system, any food from 1 to 55 is considered to have a low GI, and having one from 56-100 is high. As a standard, pure sugar has a GI rating of 100.
Bananas have a higher ranking than most fruits, but are relatively moderate when compared to other GI foods. Depending on how ripe a banana is (green bananas get a lower index score), its ranking can range from 42 to 62.
Here are some examples of GI scores that show how bananas compare to other starchy foods in a typical American diet.
|High-GI Food||Glycemic Index|
|Banana||42 - 62|
|Coca-Cola||53 - 63|
|White Bread (1 slice)||70 - 75|
|White Potato (baked, without skin)||98|
From this data, you can see that bananas are fairly average when it comes to GI levels, especially when compared to far less “natural” food choices.
This makes it difficult to blame bananas for weight gain caused by spikes in blood sugar levels, especially when you factor in the dietary fiber and resistance starches they provide right along with their sugar content.
Do Bananas Help Support Weight Loss?
Weight gain is actually more simple than most people make it out to be. Essentially, in order to gain weight you need to be eating more calories than you burn on any given day.
Unless you are going through bananas like King Kong, there is no reason to be concerned. Bananas will cause not you to gain weight.
The best way to enjoy the benefits of bananas in your diet plan is to practice moderation. Just one or two bananas a day is perfectly healthy; any more is considered excessive by most health experts.
- Justin S. Rhodes, Research Shows Fructose Increases Body Fat and Decreases. Retrieved from https://beckman.illinois.edu/news/2015/06/rhodes-fructose
- D. Milton Stokes, RD, Resistant Starch - Nature's Fat-Burning Breakthrough. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a20436305/resistant-starch-a-natural-fat-burner/
- Better Health, How to Lose Weight Eating Resistant Starch. Retrieved from https://www.eatthis.com/how-to-lose-weight-eating-resistant-starch/
- Harvard Health Publishing, Glycemic index for 60+ foods. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
- Glycemic index, Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.glycemicindex.com/index.php