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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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