If there ever was a multi-use fruit, it’s bananas. You can bake them into bread, throw them on some pancakes, dip them into chocolate, and make them into ice cream. Plus, they’re and easy, portable snack that’s packed full of good-for-you vitamins and minerals.
But are sweet, filling fruits like bananas good for weight loss? After all, bananas do contain their fair share of sugar and carbs. Turns out, they’re still a *great* food for people who are trying to lose weight, says Tamsin Jordan, a registered dietitian in New York City. “Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse that provide an array of health benefits,” Jordan says. “One large-sized banana provides roughly 10 percent of your daily potassium needs.” And that’s just one of its many micronutrients.
You can definitely incorporate bananas into your diet without straying from your weight-loss goals—the key is looking at your nutrition as a whole. Here’s how bananas can impact your weight loss, according to a dietitian.
First, what is the nutritional breakdown of a banana?
One small, ripe banana is about 112 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s made up of 0.85 grams of protein, 26.4 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 0.3 grams of fat. It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals, like potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin C, and folate.
What are the health benefits of bananas?
Bananas are chock-full of nutrients that aid the body in different ways. It’s no secret that bananas pack loads of potassium: about 375 milligrams per banana. “This essential mineral works in partnership with sodium to control fluid balance within the body,” says Jordan, who adds that upping your potassium intake may help decrease blood pressure levels.
Bananas are also full of vitamin C, which aids the body’s immune system. “In addition to helping with immunity, vitamin C neutralizes free radicals—thereby reducing cellular damage, which helps delay aging,” Jordan says. “Magnesium is important for nerve transmission, heart contraction, and glucose and insulin metabolism.”
Vitamin C is also good for the skin, as it protects skin cells from oxidative stress, supports collagen production, and improves the skin’s hydration. If you like green bananas, you can also experience benefits in the gut department, since the resistant starch content of green bananas make them an ideal fuel source for healthy gut bacteria, which in turn aids digestion and weight control, explains Jordan.
If you still want to experience the health benefits of green bananas without actually eating them, try adding green banana flour to your next smoothie. Women who consumed green banana flour lost weight and experienced improvements in their body composition, per a study in the Journal of Nutrients.
How exactly do bananas impact weight loss?
There’s a misconception that the fruit isn’t ideal for weight loss due to its carb content, Jordan says. Fruit can be a great weight-loss food. “Rather than focusing on having no carbs if you’re trying to lose weight, you want reach for ‘slow carbs,'” Jordan explains. “While eating bananas won’t directly lead to weight loss—nutrition is never that simple—they can helpwith weight loss.”
The banana’s fiber content allows for the slow release of glucose into the bloodstream, which in turn helps with appetite control by helping you feel fuller for longer. “The fruit’s sweet taste also offers a healthy way to satisfy your sugar craving,” says Jordan. “They contain easy-to-digest carbs, which provide a great energy boost before, during, or after a workout.”
When it comes to snacking, Jordan often recommends thinking about consuming foods in pairs. Her pro tip: Pair a carb-containing food with a protein or healthy fat. So in the case of bananas, a good option is to pair one with peanut butter. “Eating a tablespoon of peanut butter that contains protein and fat will delay the digestion of the sugar in the banana and increase your satiety,” she says. Having a plan will help you stay on top of your weight-loss goals while incorporating bananas into your diet.
What’s the best time of day to eat bananas?
Jordan recommends her clients front load their calories to support maintaining a healthy weight, citing a study in the Journal of Obesity that found that the body is more effective at burning calories in the morning.
But she also says when it comes to having a banana, it’s not worth getting caught up on timing since they are beneficial at any time of the day.
Which one’s better: green bananas or ripe bananas?
As bananas ripen, their sugar content increases, which in turn raises the score of their glycemic index (GI); Jordan explains that the GI index is a measure of how quickly a food causes your blood sugar level to rise. Green bananas have a low score.
Still, even a ripe banana has a low GI score in comparison to other fruits. Green bananas aren’t necessarily better for weight loss than ripe bananas, but what you should have really depends on your goals, Jordan says. “The ripe yellow variety will give you a quick energy boost, perfect for fueling a workout,” Jordan notes. “On the other hand, the high resistant starch content in green bananas will satisfy your hunger for longer—and therefore might make a better option for a less active part of your day.”
Can you eat too many bananas?
There really is no limit on the number of bananas you can eat unless you have an impaired kidney function which could affect your body’s ability to excrete potassium, says Jordan.
But when it comes to weight loss and health,moderation and variety are key, adds Jordan: “Mix things up throughout the week and eat different fruits to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need.”
Though fruit is a nutritionally dense, low-calorie food that’s unlikely to cause weight gain, you also don’t want to overdo it, recommends Jordan. She advises limiting your fruit intake to two to three servings per day, prioritizing them at breakfast time and as snacks between meals, and going hard on the veggies during lunch and dinner.
The bottom line: Bananas (of any ripeness!) are a diet-friendly food and a delicious option as part of a weight-loss plan.