Everything you need to know about bananas, according to a registered dietitian
From blending to baking, bananas are one of the most versatile and nutrient-packed fruits. So it’s no surprise they’re also one of WW members’ most tracked foods! You likely know that bananas are good for you in theory, but have you ever wondered why? We tapped our registered dietitian and nutrition experts to share the science behind bananas and answer your top questions. Here’s the lowdown:
Banana Nutrition Stats:
One medium banana: 105 calories, 27g carbohydrates, 1g protein, <1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 3g Fibre, 14g Sugar, 422mg potassium (12%DV), 32mg magnesium (8%DV), 10.3mg vitamin C (17%DV), 0.433mg vitamin B6 (20% DV)
Are bananas good for you?
Bananas are an all-star choice when it comes to adding more nutritious, wholesome foods to your meals and snacks. They’re chock full of important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, fibre, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. While no single food in isolation of everything else you eat will make or break your overall health, adding more fruits and veggies to your diet is always a good idea. According to the CDC, less than 10% of Americans are eating the recommended amount.
What are the health benefits of eating bananas?
Eating more produce is beneficial for your health in so many ways! Remember, no single food is a miracle cure (or end-all mistake!), but bananas are certainly a more healthful choice. The nutritional profile of bananas means they may help play a role in keeping your bones healthy, reducing your heart disease risk, supporting blood pressure regulation, and boosting energy and cognition.
Let’s get to the specifics:
In general, dietary patterns that include higher intakes of fruit and vegetables are considered beneficial in supporting healthy bone mineral status. When it comes to bananas specifically, we look to their potassium and magnesium levels. Diets high in potassium have been found to be protective against osteoporosis, primarily due to the mineral’s ability to act as a buffer to neutralize acids. Magnesium is further involved in bone formation, and higher intakes have been shown to improve bone mineral density.
Similar to bone health, dietary patterns high in veggies and fruit are aligned with a decreased risk of heart disease. (You should be sensing a theme here!) Some of the key minerals, nutrients and antioxidants in bananas, like vitamin C, also have protective qualities that can shield cells from damage.
Bananas are a source of both potassium and magnesium, both of which contribute to regulating your blood pressure. In fact, the DASH Diet (a.k.a. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) promotes an increased intake of potassium and magnesium. As a component of a healthy pattern of eating, these nutrients are linked to decreased risk of hypertension. This is even more impactful when you consider that blood pressure is a major modifiable risk factor in the development of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.
Energy & Cognition:
This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B6 — one medium banana provides 20% of your daily needs. This is so important because vitamin B6 plays a critical role in converting the food you eat into the energy that your body can use for a variety of different functions, including neurotransmitters in your brain. When your body’s not getting enough, you may feel tired or lethargic (though true deficiency is rare!). We mentioned vitamin C earlier, but this antioxidant’s protective qualities may also help play a role in reducing your risk of cognitive decline.
Is it OK to eat a banana every day?
If you want to, we say go for it! A banana a day may not keep the doctor away, but it will put you on the right track to meet your daily produce needs. Another upside to this healthful habit? You’ll increase your intake of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, which are among the most under-consumed nutrients in our diets.
Are bananas fattening?
If you’re concerned about weight gain, bananas are an unlikely culprit. With 100 calories and less than half a gram of fat in each fruit, they’re an overall better-for-you choice. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are linked to lower BMI and a reduced risk of chronic disease. Plus, since they’re as nutritious as they are tasty, we’re not so concerned about you overdoing it!
Are bananas good for gut health?
Bananas are a good source of fibre — about 3 grams per serving or a whopping 12% of your daily needs. This means the fruit plays a definite role in gut health, since fibre helps bulk up your stool and promote regularity. You’ve likely heard about probiotics (a.k.a. good-for-you bacteria) when it comes to your GI tract. Bananas are packed with prebiotics (non-digestible carbs) that stimulate the growth of your naturally-occurring probiotics and may help protect your gastrointestinal health.
Are bananas high in sugar?
While the average banana contains about 14 grams of naturally-occurring sugar, it’s also packed with plenty of other vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients — including fibre. Here’s where bananas are different from, say, a soda: The fibre in a banana helps slow the digestion and absorption of sugar in your bloodstream, which process promotes satiety and provides a more stable release of energy compared to concentrated sugar sources, like juice or other sweetened beverages. Plus, eating more fruit on the whole can help you cut back on added sugar, the type you’ll find in sugary beverages, desserts and the ilk.
Should you eat banana peels?
You may have seen claims that banana peels can cure insomnia, treat depression, or even lower your cholesterol. But there’s no credible scientific evidence to support any of these promises, so you may want to skip this wellness trend. To date, the benefits found in banana peels haven't been tested in humans — so any claims about health are just conjecture. That being said, it’s unlikely that eating a banana peel will hurt you, but will you really enjoy the taste or texture? If it’s food waste that you’re concerned about, banana peels are easily compostable.
Is there a “best time of day” to eat bananas?
Anytime is the right time for fruits and veggies. But if you’re looking for a pre- or post-workout snack, bananas are an especially good choice. The fruit provides an easily-digestible source of carbohydrates, which are the preferential fuel for your muscles.
When it comes to replenishing after a sweat sesh, hydration is a must no matter what. While it’s not always necessary to refuel with snacks, if you want to, pair a banana with a source of protein (like a nut butter) to up your glycogen stores. The banana will also help replenish your potassium levels, which you lose during a workout in your sweat.
What’s the best way to eat bananas?
Whichever way you love most! And since they’re a ZeroPoint food across myWW plans, you can feel empowered to experiment with them at any meal. Need some inspiration? Some of our experts’ favourite ways include using them as a base for breakfast staples like parfaits or smoothies, pairing them with lean proteins and healthy fats (like nut butter or low-fat Greek yogourt) for a satisfying snack, or turning them into a nutritious frozen dessert.
The bottom line:
More is more when it comes to fruit and vegetables! No matter how you like to eat them, bananas are an all-star, nutrient-packed food.