The Banana Split: Can Bananas Really Help You Lose Weight?

Staying at a banana plantation bed and breakfast in the middle of 100,000 banana trees last week in the Canary Islands prompted my curiosity about the relationship between bananas and weight loss. Taking a cursory glance at the articles on the internet regarding the merits and demerits of bananas, it appears that are just as many voices touting the virtues of our beloved yellow fruit as there are naysayers questioning the value of it. Interestingly enough, according to the USDA economic research service, bananas are the most popular fresh fruit eaten by Americans with the average person eating 10.3 pounds of bananas per year.

Let's explore the pros and cons together.

Pros

1. Helps meet daily fruit intake goal

The food plan developed by the USDA called My Plate recommends that women eat 1.5 cups of fruit per day and men eat 2 cups of fruit per day. Eating bananas as well as a variety of other colorful fruit helps to meet this goal.

2. Satisfy sweet cravings

If you crave sweets, selecting a sweet small 6-inch banana providing 90 calories instead of one cup of rich vanilla ice cream at 532 calories would save you 3094 calories, over a period of a week. Substituting a banana and adding a short walk each day could help you meet your one-pound per week weight loss goal.

3. Portable

If you have hunger pangs during your workday, pack a banana in a banana saver rather than heading to the vending machine. At 90 calories, a small banana contains more vitamins and minerals than many pre-packaged 100 calories snacks.

4. Health Benefits

Potassium

Bananas are well known for their potassium content. With only 1 mg of sodium and 537 mg of potassium in one cup of sliced bananas (higher than most fruit), a banana provides 15% of the daily value (DV) of potassium.

High blood pressure can be prevented and lowered by following the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which emphasizes foods rich in potassium and low in sodium.

Vitamin B6

Most fruit are poor sources of vitamin B6; however, bananas are packed with vitamin B6, with a single serving providing 28% of the DV.

Vitamin B6 is a "behind the scenes" vitamin and helps with cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular and nervous function. Vitamin B6 also helps to make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which affect mood.

Fiber

A serving of banana contains 3.9 grams of fiber, which can help you meet your goal of 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams of fiber per day for men. Fiber can help you feel fuller longer which can prevent overeating and help you lose weight.

Cons

1. Calorie Dense

One cup of sliced bananas (a medium banana) contains 134 calories compared to 1 cup of sliced strawberries, which provides 53 calories or 1 cup of diced watermelon, which provides 46 calories. Bananas are slightly denser, calorie wise, compared to other fruits.

Can bananas help with weight loss or not?

Packed with potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber, bananas can be incorporated into a healthy weight loss plan. By working on a healthy lifestyle, which involves being physically active each day and controlling calories, you too can lose the weight you want.

On your weight loss journey, enjoy these delicious and healthy ways to incorporate bananas into your eating plan!

Quick and Easy Banana Ideas

1. Hot breakfast cereal

Make your hot breakfast cereal. I cook old-fashioned oats in low fat milk on the stove. Meanwhile, mash a ripe banana with a fork in your cereal bowl. Add cooked hot cereal and mix with a little milk. Add a few nuts for added protein and texture. Bananas provide a delicious natural sweetener!

2. Make "monkey milk"

Mix one cup of reduced-fat milk, 1/2 cup of lowfat Greek yogurt, one teaspoon of vanilla flavoring and one ripe medium banana in a blender. Drink for a healthy post workout snack.

3. Over-ripe Bananas?

Peel and freeze bananas in a baggie for a great addition to any smoothie later.

4. Breakfast Bagel

Toast a whole grain bagel, spread with 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter, top with sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey for a hearty breakfast filled with a good combination of protein and carbohydrates.

Originally published: April 15, 2015
Updated: June 9, 2019

Martha M. Henze, MPH, MS, RDN

Martha recently completed her Masters of Public Health (MPH) in global epidemiology and aims to help people improve their health on a population basis around the world.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables

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