Bananas are a nutritious tropical fruit eaten all over the world, and with their high dietary fiber content, they can be included as a healthy part of a balanced diet. Still, with their high natural sugar content, you may wonder if fruits like bananas are a good choice to eat regularly if your goal is to lose weight.
Eating lots of colorful, whole fruits and vegetables is commonly recommended as part of a healthy diet. But do bananas specifically have any effect on weight loss?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the nutritional benefits of bananas, and at what connection bananas may have with weight management.
What’s in a Banana?
A typical medium-sized ripe ripe banana contains:
- 0.33 grams of fat
- 5.31 grams of fiber
- 18.2 grams of sugar
- 0.85 grams of protein
- 113 calories
Bananas are also a good source of many different micronutrients, containing roughly:
- 32 milligrams of magnesium
- 25 milligrams of phosphorus
- 375 milligrams of potassium
- 14 milligrams of vitamin C
How Many Calories Are in a Banana?
A medium-size banana contains about 113 calories. This may be important to keep in mind if you’re on a weight loss journey, since you may be monitoring the number of calories you consume.
Are Bananas Good for Weight Loss?
There are currently no studies that directly link bananas to improved weight loss. However, bananas can be a part of a healthy, nutritious diet and are a good source of dietary fiber..
As mentioned earlier, a single banana contains about five grams of fiber. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that adults get 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories that they eat. So, if you eat 2,000 calories per day, one banana will provide you with about 18 percent of your daily fiber needs.
Research has shown that a diet high in fiber can have a beneficial effect on weight management. A high fiber intake is associated with less weight gain, improved feelings of satiety during and after meals, and delayed gastric emptying. This can help to reduce cravings and overeating.
High fiber diets have been shown to result in more weight loss than low-fiber diets. But remember, this relates to fiber consumption in general, not specifically fiber from bananas. Other fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds/nuts, and whole grains can also be great sources of fiber.
How Do Bananas Affect Blood Glucose?
Bananas do contain carbohydrates, which can have an effect on your blood glucose. However, the effect bananas may have on your blood glucose will likely depend on your individual body and your overall diet as well as how or when you eat them.
When eaten in small quantities, bananas are considered a low-glycemic index food. The glycemic index (GI) is a tool that can help you determine how quickly sugar from food will enter your bloodstream, causing a spike in blood sugar.
The GI of bananas ranges from 30 to 75, depending on the type (green bananas or ripe bananas), usually falling below 50. Bananas also have a low to moderate glycemic load, meaning that when eaten in small or regular portion sizes, they may have a low impact on blood sugar for most people.
However, your individual diet, and what foods you eat with a banana, should also be taken into account. For example, pairing a banana with a handful of nuts or nut butter or another protein source, for example, may help blunt any potential spike in glucose.
If you’re curious how bananas will affect your blood sugar, consult a dietitian or another trusted healthcare professional to determine if bananas are safe for you to eat.
5 Potential Health Benefits of Eating Bananas Regularly
Bananas can be an enjoyable part of a healthy and nutritious diet plan. Here are some more potential health benefits of adding bananas to your diet:
1) Good Source of Some Vitamins and Minerals
As most people know, bananas contain potassium, and they’re also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that is needed for muscle function, nerve function, managing blood sugar, and regulating blood pressure.
2) Rich in Fiber
As mentioned, bananas have a high fiber content. Fiber is a carb that can’t be digested by the body. It stays mostly intact as it passes through your digestive system, which has the effect of bulking up your stool and making it easier to pass out of the body.
Adequate fiber may aid healthy digestion by decreasing constipation and lowering your risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer. Bananas, and particularly unripe bananas, contain resistant starch, which works similarly to fiber.
Resistant fiber can reduce the risk of many gastrointestinal conditions, including colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, and constipation.
3) Energy Boost
One 2012 study of male cyclists found that consuming bananas before cycling aided in performance and endurance just as much as a carbohydrate drink.
4) May Support Cardiovascular Health
The nutrients in bananas may benefit heart health. Many different fiber-rich whole foods (not just bananas) may provide these protective effects. Adequate fiber from whole foods has been shown to reduce the risk of:
- Coronary heart disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
Bananas are also rich in potassium, a mineral that can help your body process sodium and blunt its negative effects. Sodium pulls water into your blood vessels, which increases the amount of blood flowing through them.
This can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Potassium not only helps get sodium out of the body, it also helps relax blood vessel walls, which can help lower blood pressure.
If you already have high blood pressure and take an ACE-inhibitor, the extra potassium in bananas may lead to a dangerously high potassium level in the body. If you take ACE-inhibitors, talk to your doctor before eating bananas.
5) May Support Blood Sugar Balance
The fiber and resistant starch content in unripe bananas may have a positive impact on regulating blood sugar. Resistant starch has been shown to improve glycemic efficiency, stabilize postprandial glucose, and improve fasting insulin sensitivity in adults with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
An increased fiber intake has also been shown to improve postprandial glycemia, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve glycemic control. But don’t forget to pair your banana with some protein for the best chance at balancing your glucose response!
How Does Ripeness Affect Nutritional Value?
Interestingly, the ripeness of a banana can indeed affect its nutritional value. This is because as a banana ripens, its sugar levels increase and its fiber and starch levels decrease.
So, an unripe banana contains more fiber and resistant starch than ripe bananas, as well as less sugar.
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Heather has worked in healthcare and nutrition for over 15 years, with bachelor's degrees in Microbiology and Philosophy and a master's degree in Nutrition Science. Her professional background includes nutrition and diabetes research, nutrition education, medical writing, and extensive clinical work in a functional neuroendocrine specialty practice.