By Katie Clarke MS, RD, LDN
One of the most popular fruits in the grocery store seems to be facing quite a bruised reputation. Chances are high that you have come across an internet ad or overheard a conversation claiming that bananas are akin to candy bars and that they must be avoided should you desire to lose weight or control your blood sugar. I suspect that the war on sugar and excess carbohydrates in our diets is to blame for the defamation of this portable, peel-and-eat snack. I cannot, however, allow it to continue without a rebuttal. So, here are a few reasons to consider adding the beloved banana back to your grocery list.
Are Bananas Good For You?
Bananas, grapes and dried fruits tend to get a bad reputation because of the misconception that they contain too much sugar. When discussing the content of any food, we break it down into composition and portion size. When it comes to fruit, the composition is easy… They are nearly 100% carbohydrate with a trunk-full of fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals. Delicious and nutritious for the win!
Now on to portion size and this is where it can get tricky. Previously I stated that fruit is essentially all carbohydrate. This is in reference to the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Fruit contains no fats nor proteins, so it is classified as a carbohydrate-based food like most plant-sourced items. But there is a chief component which isn’t included in the macronutrients… water.
Carbohydrate counts of properly portioned bananas are not excessive.
If you use the exchange system, an extra small banana contributes the same amount of carbohydrate as 1 small apple, 1 cup of berries or ½ of a grapefruit. Beware: extra small bananas are hard to come by. Simply stick to half of a large banana instead!
Water content is what is primarily considered when discussing the portion sizes of fruit. The higher the water content, the more volume that fruit has because it’s molecules are spread out over more space. The less water content, the less volume or portion because the fruit is more condense.
This is where bananas get their label for being bad for you; because when compared to other fruits such as apples or melons, bananas have less water content making them a smaller portion for the same number of grams of carbohydrate, or sugar. And the same goes for grapes and dried fruits which are also often slandered.
Why Are Bananas Good For You?
Bananas are naturally sweet!
For those who suffer from a sweet tooth, bananas are a nutritious alternative to refined sugar. Top a low-sugar cereal or oatmeal with a banana and you won’t need a sprinkle from the sugar bowl. Overripe bananas are an excellent swap for sugar (and even eggs) in your favorite baked goods. These banana pancakes will be a family favorite!
They pack a “nutrition-punch” that a candy bar can’t touch!
A nutrition label on a medium banana would reveal that it’s an excellent source of nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and dietary fiber! Active individuals should take note that the carbohydrate and electrolyte content of bananas make them a great alternative to expensive sport beverages for fueling a workout.
Pair them properly and have no fear.
Food pairings are important when it comes to blood sugar and appetite control; that is the case for any carbohydrate-rich food. Luckily, bananas taste great with peanut butter for a dose of healthy fat or a protein-packed cup of Greek yogurt.
Let’s use this information to our advantage! Not all that hungry but know you should eat something? Reach for half a banana or some raisins for a small, quick snack which won’t weigh you down but will give you the gusto you need to continue with your day.
It’s important to note that dietary recommendations are not one-size-fits all. If you have concerns about getting the right balance of foods and nutrients for your unique needs, consider arranging an appointment with one of the providers at Lifestyle Medical Centers.