Are Bananas Good For You? (what they do to a healthy body)

Written by Tim Skwiat

Are bananas good for you?

How many times have you heard, “Bananas lead to weight gain,” or, “Bananas are one of the worst foods you can eat when you’re trying to lose weight”? Surely you’ve seen that poorly drawn picture of a banana that says, “NEVER eat this for a flat belly” countless times.

Does this polarizing fruit, which was introduced to the Western world by Alexander the Great around 300 BC, really deserve the bashing? Are bananas good for you? Can bananas have devastating effects on your waistline? Yikes! I sure hope not—I just ate one…but wait until I tell you when I ate it.

What do bananas really do to your body?

What’s in a banana?

A medium banana contains 105 calories, it’s virtually fat-free (about ½ gram per banana), and it contains about 1 gram of protein. In other words, bananas are basically all carbohydrates. Indeed, a medium ripe banana contains 27 grams of carbs, about 14 of which are sugar.

And it’s this noteworthy fact, my friend, that seems to be why bananas get a bad rap.

How many times have you heard the (relatively unhelpful) nutrition advice to “avoid too much sugar”? There’s no question that most people will be better off by limiting their intake of sugary foods. When eaten in excess, added sugars can contribute to fat gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a host of undesired health issues.

Seriously, though, does a banana really fit into the same category as sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda, fruit juice, and fruit-flavored drinks), sugar, candy, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, desserts, sweetened yogurt, ice cream, pastries, ready-to-eat cereals, granola bars, sauces, dressings, and on down the list of processed junk foods?

Consider the following. It’s estimated that the average American consumes over 150 POUNDS of sugar per year. That equates to about 3 pounds (or 6 cups) per week, or over 42 TEASPOONS PER DAY. I know that’s a lot of math, but bear with me…

Considering there are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, that means the average American is consuming over 160 grams of sugar PER DAY. Contrast that with the 14 grams of sugar in a banana, and I think you can start to see my point.

Bananas are not the problem.

In fact, if you’re eating an otherwise healthy diet, it is unlikely—highly unlikely—that consuming a banana every once in a while (heck, even once a day) is going make you fat or even hold you back from losing weight. If you have a problem eating too much sugar, it’s much more likely there are other “probable suspects” (like those listed above). Unless, of course, you’re eating a dozen bananas per day. 🙂

Are Bananas Good For You?

Unlike processed foods made with added sugar, there’s much more to bananas than you might recognize. For starters, ripe bananas contain 3 grams of fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive tract, increases satiety, reduces appetite, promotes regularity, improves glycemic control, and enhances weight loss.

What you may not know is that bananas contain two more very special types of fiber, called FOS and resistant starch, which are both PREbiotics, meaning they help support a healthy balance of friendly gut bacteria. Even more important to note is that resistant starch is found only in unripe green bananas.

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Resistant starch helps increase fat burning, decrease fat storage, improve insulin sensitivity, suppress appetite, and not surprisingly, reduce body fat. Sounds pretty awesome, right? I agree, and that’s why I personally eat mostly green bananas. That’s also what I’d suggest if you’re trying to lose fat or if you’re the type of person who packs on pounds just looking at carbs.

Since the ripening process dramatically reduces the amount of resistant starch and increases the amount of sugar, when you eat ripe bananas may be important. I mentioned that I just ate a banana, and it was a ripe one. Why? I just finished an intense workout of weight lifting and sprinting. My body had burned off a bunch of carbs (called glycogen) to fuel my exercise, and since muscles are like sponges after exercise—it was the perfect time to get some easy-digesting carbs and sugars, which will be stored as energy, not fat.

Other good times to eat ripe bananas are at your first meal of the day (when insulin sensitivity is highest) and a couple hours before exercise (when you can burn off the carbs to fuel your workout).

What else is in a banana?

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Banana. Banana who? Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

I thought you might want to share that joke with your child or grandkid. I always got a kick out of it with my Pop-Pop.

Back to the topic at hand, there’s even more to the banana. For instance, most people have heard that bananas are a good source of potassium, which is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and promoting heart health. (Truth is, there are many other foods, like dark green, leafy veggies, zucchini, potatoes, and avocados, that are better sources of potassium.)

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What most people don’t know, however, is that bananas are a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, bananas have a higher antioxidant capacity than some berries, herbs, and veggies. Surprising, I know. Antioxidants help combat excessive oxidative stress, which accelerates aging on virtually every level—your skin, joints, brain, and more. Yep, that’s right, bananas have anti-aging properties.

Another little-known fact about bananas is they contain melatonin. Yes, that’s the same hormone your body produces that helps regulate circadian rhythms and facilitates sleep. Bananas also contain tryptophan, which can help you feel more sleepy and improve your quality of sleep. Ideally, melatonin levels are highest at nighttime, so maybe a banana (particularly a green banana) as a pre-bed snack isn’t such a bad idea.

That’s a wrap (or peel)

So the next time you hear “Are bananas good for you?”, you can respond with a resounding yes.

Now that you think about it, doesn’t it seem a little silly that someone would say you should never eat bananas when you’re trying to lose weight? I think so. Alexander the Great thinks so.

But I also think it may be a good idea to eat unripe green bananas, especially if you’re looking to drop weight or if you’re one of those unlucky ones who gains weight merely by looking at carbs. I also think when you eat ripe bananas may make a difference, and eating them around exercise or at your first meal of the day may be best.

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More From Tim Skwiat

  • Edgardo L. Perez-De Leon

    Very well informed.

    • Cristina

      Hi Edward. Thank you for taking the time to write such a nice review. We know that you have options, and we are tremendously happy that you chose BioTRUST Nutrition as your trusted source for information.

  • Deryck

    I love bananas but can’t eat them if too ripe except in a smoothie. Was told they were poisonous green. Glad to hear they aren’t.

  • zaheda jagoo

    thanks a lot for all the information

    • Cristina

      Greetings Zaheda. Thank you for taking a few moments to let us know how we are doing. We are honored to be able to provide valuable content enabling you to make informed choices about your health and good nutrition.

  • Wayne Blankenbiller

    I have been eating bananas for 70 years. Yes and apples too. I am the same body weight as in my youth, and as fit now as then. Yes, I have eggs for breakfast many mornings. The only food I don’t eat is milk–it is created for creatures weighing a thousand pounds (that gives us clue)!!

    • Naomi Duncan

      Thank u ,because I am following this now, i really appreciate the help , please keep the info coming

  • Michael Prohaska

    Thank You! I will eat some green bananas now and not wait to have them ripen!

    • Naomi Duncan

      I would like if ,possible that i can get regular updates on food that will help my metabolism work faster, an better for me an stay healthy at the same time!!!!

    • Cristina

      We are certainly glad we were able to provide you with helpful information, Michael. It is our pleasure to keep our readers updated with current and accurate information.

      If there is anything else you would like to learn more about, please do not hesitate to let us know!

  • Peter Green

    Whenever my wife eats a banana she gets heartburn (she has long-term problems with acid reflux, GERD, etc.) Any idea what she could do so as to be able to eat bananas without that problem. There is one variety of banana in the Philippines (which has 65 varieties of bananas) that she can eat ONE of per day without problems. But bananas in N. America give her heartburn. Thanks.

  • Donna Viau

    Just wondering if slicing and freezing green bananas will lessen their positive properties. When I buy a bunch of bananas (and I’m the only one that eats them in the house), by the time I’ve had the last one it’s very ripe! I like snacking on frozen banana slices with a bit of organic almond butter as an evening snack instead of ice cream – but I usually wait till the bananas are totally ripe before I freeze them.

    • Cristina

      Great question, Donna! We should trade places, as I can’t seem to keep a bunch of bananas around long enough to enjoy one myself. Maybe if I froze some of them, I could break into my secret stash when everyone else went to bed. 😉

      Generally speaking, the nutrient content will not be negatively impacted by freezing bananas- both green and ripe. In fact, the process of freezing fruits has been shown to preserve some specific nutrients better than fresh options.

      One thing to be mindful of is that frozen fruits may take longer to go through the digestion process, as opposed to fresh fruits. If you notice you have discomfort or irritability after consumption, this may be something to look into.

  • Bernie Morris

    I noticed a warning (If you take prescription medications please consult your physician for proper approval. Do not use this product if you are at risk or being treated for diabetes. Do not take IC-5 if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a medical condition.edications) in your ad for IC-5. I am currently on a Type 2 Diabetes regiment of ncluding 1000mg Metformin 2x daily, Lisinipril, Potassium, a water pill and Levothyroxine. Is it safe for me to add this supplement?

    • Cristina

      Hi Bernie. Thanks so much for offering us the opportunity to help you!

      It is important to reiterate our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Because we are not doctors and do not know anyone’s complete medical history, we advise everyone consult their doctor and/or pharmacist about any specific medical question(s). Furthermore, one should never stop taking any medications without doctor’s approval.

      While BioTRUST IC-5 may be beneficial to your general health, insulin sensitivity, ability to recover from exercise, ability to manage blood sugar levels, and more, you will need to seek physician’s approval before adding it to your regimen. This is especially the case because you are taking Metformin, which is an antidiabetic medication. IC-5 isn’t a medication, however, it does have similar net effects on blood sugar management, so I would not combine them unless your physician or diabetes educator gives the okay to do so.

      I do hope you understand our position, Bernie. If there is anything else we can do to help you, please let us know.

  • Ronke Rwagaju

    Hmmm . . . are modern day bananas the same as the bananas of my youth, 55 years ago? One cannot help but wonder how much bioengineering or genetic engineering has gone into the modern day banana and how that may be affecting the human body, to say nothing of possible pesticide residue as well. Any research on this to reassure the public that the modern day banana is still as balanced and nourishing as in the past?

  • abimanu mathoorasing

    Your article was an eye-opener in relation to what fruits do to one,s well-being,
    and I was particularly happy
    that it debunked the falseness about what I usually
    read on bananas, namely ” never eat bananas”
    Thank you so much

    • Hi abimanu,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read through the article and share your feedback. I’m glad that you found it informative and helpful in debunking the overstated myth about bananas. I’m sure that we could come up with dozens of “foods” that are less nutritious than bananas; in other words, I don’t think that eating too many bananas is the average person’s problem. 🙂

      Keep up the great work, and if there’s anything that we can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

  • Hi Sonny,

    I’m not Cristina — no one else is — but hopefully I can help you out. Can you please try the following links and let me know if they work for you:

    The Top 5 Metabolism-Boosting Foods to Speed Up Weight Loss

    How to Boost Your Metabolism with these 5 Easy Hacks

    Use It or Lose It: How to Boost Metabolism After 40

    Oh, and here are two more links that I think you might find useful in your journey:

    Why Do We Gain Weight As We Age?

    Use It or Lose It (age-related weight gain is NOT inevitable)

    So sorry for the inconvenience, Sonny! Please let us know if you’re having any more trouble or if there’s anything else we can do to help.

    Take care!

  • Hi Sonny,

    Sorry for the delay in responding and for the trouble you experienced in accessing the blog resources you requested. I just posted a reply (which you can find here) containing links to the requested articles along with a couple more I thought you might find beneficial.

    Hope this helps, Sonny!