Are bananas good for a weight loss diet?

by Naomi Tupper on February 20, 2013 · 5 comments

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There is some disagreement in the dieting world as to whether or not bananas have a place in a weight loss diet.  Some claim that bananas are too high in carbohydrates and cannot aid weight loss. Others suggest that bananas are a high nutritious food and in fact may help to lose and maintain a healthy weight.

Health Benefits of Bananas

Bananas, as with most fruits, are incredibly nutritious and can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet, whether you are trying to lose weight or not.  Here are some of the health benefits that bananas can bring to your diet.

High potassium

Bananas contain a variety of vitamins and minerals; however, they are especially rich in potassium.  Potassium is an essential mineral in the body and is required for body systems, including the cardiovascular, nervous, digestive, renal and neuromuscular systems, to function correctly.

Potassium is also important in maintaining the fluid balance in the body.  A large banana contains about 600mg of potassium.

High Fibre

Bananas are one of the best fruits in terms of fibre content, containing good levels of both insoluble and soluble fibre.  Insoluble fibre has been indicated as important for maintaining good gut health, whilst soluble is thought to have benefits for the heart and cardiovascular systems.

High fibre diets have also been linked to reduced risk of lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer.

Bananas are unique in that they are also thought to contain a third type of fibre, known as resistant starch.  This is thought to act to protect the bowel, providing food for good bacteria and increasing stool weight.

Nutrient Rich

Apart from potassium, bananas are high in a wide variety of beneficial nutrients such as vitamin A, a range of B vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid, magnesium and calcium.  Bananas are the highest fruit source of vitamin B6, a nutrient that helps with neurotransmitter production, with a medium banana providing about 25% of the daily recommended intake.

A banana provides about 10% of the daily requirement for an adult in terms of vitamin C intake.  This vitamin is an important antioxidant in the body, but is also required for building collagen, which is an important connective structure in the body.

Low in Calories

Many people perceive the banana as high in calories and therefore do not include it when they are trying to lose weight.  Whilst bananas may be slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates than some other fruits, they are by no means a high calorie food.

A medium banana contains around 92 calories, compared with a medium serve of fries which contains around 375 calories per serve.  It is fairly obvious which is the best choice.

Bananas even offer less calories than many diet snack foods, few of which are under 100 calories per serve, and offer a huge amount more nutrients than some of these foods.

Low in Fat

Bananas contain very little fat, about 0.5g per medium fruit, meaning they are suitable as part of a low fat or calorie controlled diet.

Low GI

Although bananas are relatively high in carbohydrate or sugar, the effect that they have on blood sugar levels is relatively good.  Whilst some high carbohydrate foods are high GI, causing a sharp peak in blood sugar levels followed by a quick drop, bananas are low GI and result in a more moderate increase in blood sugar levels that stays constant for longer.

Low GI foods are beneficial for controlling hunger, as blood sugar levels are maintained for a longer period.  This makes a banana a great quick snack food that will keep you fuller for longer and help you to avoid snacking on high calorie foods or overeating throughout the day, which is a key factor in any weight loss diet.

Low GI diets are also thought to decrease the risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Other benefits

Research has suggested that bananas have a role in cancer prevention, although the mechanism is unclear as yet, studies have shown reduced incidence of renal cancer as well as childhood leukaemia with high banana intake.

Healthy Ideas with bananas

Bananas are great at home or on the run, but if you are looking for some more interesting ways to incorporate this nutritious fruit into your diet, here are some ideas.

  • Serve chopped banana on cereal in the morning or cook with porridge oats for banana flavoured porridge.
  • Serve with low fat natural Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of nuts and seeds for a balanced snack high in protein, carbohydrates and nutrients
  • Make a banana smoothie with low fat milk and a little honey
  • Peel bananas and wrap in plastic wrap for a sweet treat that tastes and has a texture remarkably like ice cream, but with far fewer calories and fat.
  • Roast a banana in the oven wrapped in foil and serve with yogurt for a healthy winter dessert.

Bananas on a weight loss diet

If you are on a low calorie weight loss diet, bananas may in fact be an ideal snack.  The high fibre content and low GI contributes to feeling fuller for longer, they are low in calories and fat and rich in valuable nutrients, not to mention tasting great, making them the ideal diet food.

References used in this article

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Naomi Tupper
About the author

Naomi studied Nutrition and Dietetics and Biotechnology. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. Naomi is a contributor for our Diet and Nutrition sections. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Liam Rubel February 21, 2013 at 6:37 am

Many of us exclude bananas thinking it as a high calorie food during diet plans. But it can replace major foods as it’s very much rich in vitamins and fiber. So adding a banana to the morning breakfast can be worthy decision.

Steven November 28, 2013 at 9:20 am

Bananas are certainly good for weight loss when they are used to substitute low quality foods with high amounts of fat and sugar. This is a great article explaining the benefits nutrition of bananas.

Yah Parwon December 3, 2013 at 10:16 am

This is useful and surprising information. And bananas are so cheap in the part of Africa where I live. Love the article. Thanks.

Adam Smith January 7, 2014 at 3:50 am

Bananas are very good for weight loss, and they taste good. Some people eat something like 40 bananas a day and still lose weight. This should be classed as a superfood.

Clancyboy March 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Eating one or two banna’s a day is good for u but it’s well known because of the high potassium content that banna’s could potentially poison if too many are consumed. Even sugar is good in moderation

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