Bananas and Weight Loss: How It Can Help You Lose Weight
When it comes to weight loss, it is important to know that no single food can make you either gain or lose weight –fruits like bananas are no exceptions.
Bananas are mostly available anywhere in the market at an affordable price. As a versatile fruit, bananas can be easily consumed on the go, used with some peanut butter, or even enjoyed as a delectable, creamy, and energy-boosting smoothie (1).
The question now is this: “Can bananas help with weight loss?” – the answer is yes! Bananas are a great addition to a balanced diet, as they can be a great source of fiber and important nutrients. Although consuming bananas does not directly lead to weight loss, some properties of these fruits can help you reduce bloating, control your appetite, and set as healthy alternatives to processed sugars (2).
However, some people worry that, due to their high-sugar and carbohydrates content compared to other fruits, bananas can be deemed unhealthy and fattening. When it comes to weight loss, bananas are often overlooked and left on the shelves. However, this is a huge fallacy.
One of which is a media spokesperson for the NY States Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics and the owner of Full Plate Nutrition, Theresa Gentile, MS, RDN. She mentions, “Bananas have gotten a bad rap in the nutrition world due to their higher carbohydrate content in a carb-phobic world, but bananas can actually help you lose weight if eaten as part of a balanced diet (4).”
That said, here’s why you should consider incorporating bananas in your weight loss diet plan.
#1 They’re high in fiber
One medium-sized banana contains 3 grams of total fiber and 0.6 grams of soluble fiber, which equates to 12 percent of the daily recommended intake (RDI). Fiber keeps you full longer, making it essential for good digestive health – specifically for reducing calorie consumption (4).
As mentioned by Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, a recipe developer at Cheerful Choices,” “This fiber found in plant foods helps keep us fuller longer, which may lead to eating fewer overall calories throughout the day.” Furthermore, Burgess also suggested pairing bananas with protein foods like peanut butter, scrambled eggs, and Greek yogurt to enhance its satiety effect (4).
#2 Bananas help with overeating
Given that bananas help you feel full longer, eventually they aid in weight loss by helping you avoid overeating. According to a registered dietician at Balance One Supplements, Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, bananas are packed with soluble fiber, pectin, and resistant starch, which reduces your appetite and increasing your feelings of fullness after eating a banana (4).
Megan Byrd, RD, from The Oregon Dietitian mentions that bananas are relatively low in calories yet are high in fiber. She further explains that fiber keeps us full since it is difficult to break down and it stays longer in our GI tracts, giving us a sensation of fullness that curbs our cravings and prevents us from overeating (4).
#3 Unripe bananas contribute to a healthy digestive and cardiovascular system
The ripeness of a banana determines the type of carbohydrates present in it. Unripe green bananas contain resistant starch, while ripe yellow bananas mostly contain natural sugars (5).
As per Kara Landau, RD, founder of Uplift Food – Good Mood Food, “If you eat your bananas whilst they are still a little under-ripe (the less ripe the better in this instance) you actually attain a dense source of gut-healthy prebiotic resistant starch (4).”
She adds, “This means that you are actually nourishing your gut, assisting with satiety, and helping your cells be more responsive to insulin. When your cells are more responsive to insulin, this impedes one of the usual fat storage mechanisms in your body, and instead, you are able to feel fuller for longer, and may even eat less at your next meal, ultimately supporting total energy intake (4).”
Resistant starches are specifically resistant to digestion, and they aid in reducing blood sugar and weight. Despite its nutritious content, unripe bananas are often not as scrumptious as one may perceive it to be – making them difficult for people to consume (5).
#4 Bananas improves blood sugar levels
Fiber also reduces risks for heart disease, intestinal diseases, and cancer (5). As mentioned by Best, “Bananas improve insulin sensitivity, which helps the body process glucose more efficiently, thereby reducing weight.” Furthermore, she mentions that their excellent source of resistant starch possesses a positive impact on insulin resistance (4).”
#5 They are a great alternative to sweets
Ricci-Lee Holtz, RD and expert at Testing.com, explains that bananas can help you shed those extra pounds by incorporating them into your eating habits as excellent replacements for sweets and desserts. Holtz mentions that by combining banana with proteins like almonds, cheese sticks, or peanut butter, your mind and body can feel satiated with the sweet replacement (4).
She adds, “By replacing dessert treats with a choice like bananas, it can help you lose weight by providing your body with a more nutrient-dense option as opposed to a calorie-dense option that does not have good nutrition, which benefits your body as a whole (4).”
What makes bananas even more irresistible is that they are easy to eat and are affordable snacks that are not really messy to be consumed anytime, anywhere (5).
#6 Bananas helps you with sleep
A study published by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine explains that sleep loss can alter one’s energy intake and expenditure. Simply put, sleep reduction can result to a slower weight loss rate (4).
Fortunately (and thankfully), bananas can improve your sleep quality – helping you boost your weight loss rate over time. Best explains that bananas contain a natural chemical called melatonin, which is responsible for improving sleep quality and sleep in general. This improvement in sleep can help boost energy throughout the day, helping you achieve efficient workouts and improve food intake (4).
This leads us to the next point…
#7 Bananas help with workouts
Workouts are especially important for building muscle, which is closely related to having a faster metabolism – aiding in weight loss over time. These fruits keep your muscles healthy and safe, giving you that boost of energy that you need for a workout (4).
As said by Best, “”Your workouts may be more efficient due to fewer muscle cramps as well.” She adds, “Muscle cramps can be associated with an electrolyte imbalance, especially from potassium, and bananas are packed with this nutrient (4).”
#8 They are low in calories
According to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of “Finally Full, Finally Sim,” a medium-sized banana contains around 100 calories and 3 grams of fiber (4).
Edie Reads, RD, chief editor at health advise.org, mentions that bananas have a perfect balance of magnesium, potassium, manganese, and carbs, and vitamins B6 and C. However, a larger percentage is made up of calories. These calories, according to Reads, is often the reason why most people associate bananas with weight gain (4).
Nonetheless, Reads emphasizes that a one banana contains only 102 calories, which is 12 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake (4).
#9 They help with sleep
Young explains that bananas are also rich in potassium and magnesium, which aid in muscle relaxation and even aid with sleep (4).
Moreover, Best points out that improving your sleep can help boost your energy throughout the day for more efficient workouts and improved eating. She also mentions that bananas contain melatonin, which is a natural chemical in the brain that is responsible for sound sleep and improved sleep quality.
#10 Bananas helps prevent bloating
Shannon Henry, a registered dietician for EZCare Clinic says that bananas are a great addition to one’s healthy diet because of its wide range of important nutrients and fibers. Moreover, she mentions that although it does not directly aid in weight reductions, it can help to prevent your belly from bloating and it also controls your appetite. That said, it is a good replacement for processed sugar (4).
Ways to Eat Bananas for Weight Loss
Bananas are highly nutritious, as they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that offer many health benefits. It is rich in fiber yet is low in fat, making it a great post-workout snack to curb your hunger and replenish energy. Plus, it is also low in protein (6).
However, its high carb and calorie content gives it a bad false impression for those who are conscious about their weight. However, skipping this yellow fruit can deprive you of its unique health benefits (6).
The good news is that bananas are readily available and, thanks to its flexible nature, you can prepare this fruit in some of the most common ways in a weight loss diet plan.
Go beyond the peel-and-consume routine with these delicious meal and snack options for bananas.
You’ll never surely miss your breakfast with this popular meal. Whether you are on a weight loss mission or not, breakfast is still the first and most important meal of the day (6).
After 10 to 12 hours of overnight fasting, replenish your body and re-energize your body with a heavy breakfast in the morning. A meal that is rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients can cut down your calorie consumption throughout the day. Thus, with its highly-resistant starch and potassium, banana promotes satiety and provides you instant energy (6).
Pairing it up with chia seeds or oatmeal can make a satisfying and delicious breakfast. For oatmeal, you can add the sliced bananas to your morning oatmeal or mash the fruit and add it while cooking your oatmeal (6)(7).
Bananas With Yogurt
Add chopped bananas with a fat-free plain Greek yogurt and add a hint of cinnamon. You can also enjoy this by layering bananas and yogurt with high-fiber bran cereal and sliced almonds (7).
Unripe Banana Smoothies
According to studies, the starch content of bananas can help boost your metabolism. On one hand, the yellow fruit’s potassium content is believed to regulate the transfer of nutrients into the cells, which may help increase metabolism (6).
A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism revealed that replacing five percent of the daily carbohydrates with a resistant starch can improve post-meal fat burning by 23 percent (6).
Since unripe bananas contain a higher amount of starch, it is best to include them in your diet. They may taste slightly bitter, so when adding them in smoothies, include nuts and honey. You can enjoy this beverage after a workout session, or at the middle of the day to curb any untimely hunger or cravings (6).
Admit it – A lot of us love the texture of frozen bananas. It takes a bit longer to eat, allowing you to feel more likely full by the time you’ve finished. To add more flavor and protein, you can top banana slices with strawberry yogurt (no added sugar) and chopped peanuts before freezing them. Think about a banana split – only this time, it’s really “split” in pieces (7).
Banana With Peanut Butter or Nuts
Several experts agree that this yellow fruit makes an excellent pre- and post-workout snack. Thanks to the instant energy that it gives from its glucose content, bananas are very much needed especially for an intense workout session (6).
In addition, its potassium content helps you to defend against post-workout muscle cramps and dizziness. Moreover, it also aids in quick muscle recovery, which prepares you for your next sweating session (6).
However, bananas are low in protein – which is a necessary macronutrient for building muscles. To compensate for this, you can pair a medium banana with some peanut butter or nuts (6).
Bananas taste luscious with a hint of cinnamon. This simple meal only includes dusting each slice of cinnamon for you to enjoy (7).
A Note on Banana Chips
Bananas are always a healthy choice and a great addition to your weight loss diet – there’s no doubt about it. Banana chips, however, are not (6).
For one, these banana slices have been deep-fried and drenched in sugar or salt. A half-cup serving of banana chips has around 210 calories and 12.5 grams of fat (6).
On one hand, dehydrated banana slices – although not fried – have much less fat and fewer calories (6).
The nutritional content of bananas can vary depending on size. A medium banana – which measures about 7-8 inches in length – usually contains (2):
- Energy/Calories: 105 kcal (2)
- Protein: 1.29 g (2)
- Fiber: 3.07 g (2)
- Carbohydrates: 27 g (2)
- Fat: 0.39 g (2)
- Phosphorus: 26 mg (2)
- Vitamin C: 10.30 mg (2)
- Potassium: 422 mg (2)
- Calcium: 5.90 mg (2)
- Magnesium: 31.90 mg (2)
- Folate: 26.30 µg (2)
- Iron: 0.31 mg (2)
In addition, 90 percent of a banana’s calories come from carbs, which are mostly made up of sugars like sucrose, glucose, and fructose (3).
- Potassium: 12 percent of the RDI (3)
- Fiber: 3.1 grams (3)
- Vitamin B6: 20 percent of the RDI (3)
- Vitamin C: 17 percent of the RDI (3)
- Manganese: 15 percent of the RDI (3)
- Magnesium: 8 percent of the RDI (3)
- Copper: 5 percent of the RDI (3)
Bananas also contain a number of beneficial plant compounds and antioxidants, which includes catechin (3).
Banana Ripeness: What to Know
According to Chelsea Tersavich, a physician assistant who is also a nutrition-outreach fellow through the PA foundation, there is no difference between a ripe and unripe banana when it comes to nutritional value, but they do differ in taste and carbohydrate levels (8).
A greener, less ripe banana will have a higher level of starch, which can be beneficial for weight loss since it is digested more slowly and keeps you feeling fuller. Although ripe yellow bananas may taste better, the ripening process may result in lesser health benefits (8).
On that note, people with diabetes can benefit much from unripe bananas, as they are required to carefully control their diet and blood sugar. According to Tersavich, an unripe banana may be better as it causes a slower rise in blood sugar. Generally, fruits are great for these people, and they should not avoid fruits because of their natural sugar content (8).
However, note that greener bananas are the toughest to digest, so it is not recommended for people with gastrointestinal problems (8).
Although there is not much evidence regarding banana’s direct contribution to weight loss and weight gain, they can be an excellent replacement for sugary treats (7).
Nonetheless, balance is always the key to any diet. Make sure to adhere to the RDIs; otherwise, consuming more bananas daily can keep you from adding more healthy variants in your diet such as important macronutrients and monounsaturated fats (1).
If you are trying to lose weight, a banana won’t hurt your goals for a balanced healthy diet.