Do Bananas Cause Weight Gain?

Fact vs Fiction: Will Bananas Make You Fat?

Bowl of granola, banana slices and coconut flakes
Is it fact or fiction that bananas cause weight gain?. Westend61 / Getty Images

You may have heard some of the conflicting reports out there. Some say that bananas make you gain weight, while others say that bananas are beneficial for weight loss. Who is right and what do you need to know if you're counting calories?

Claims About Bananas and Weight Gain or Weight Loss

Before we talk about the role bananas may play in helping you gain or lose weight, let's talk about what you may have heard.

What do the proponents on each side of the issue claim, and what is their reasoning?

  • Those who warn against eating bananas for fear of weight gain are basing the advice on carbohydrate content, particularly sugar. Bananas are fairly high in sugar which can turn to body fat more quickly than other nutrients.
  • Another reason bananas get a bad rap is that their calorie count is higher than many other fruits. A cup of apple slices has about 60 calories while a cup of banana slices has around 135 calories.
  • Experts in the pro-banana camp say the neatly packaged fruit has the perfect amount of carbohydrates and calories for a satisfying and healthy snack choice. The amount of sugar isn't high compared to most sugary snacks—like cookies and candy—and bananas have the added benefit of fiber.
  • Some people even say you can eat an unlimited amount of bananas (or any fruit) and not gain weight since the fruit itself is so good for you—it’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

    What Do the Studies Say About Bananas and Weight?

    There’s no conclusive evidence that bananas make you gain or lose weight. As with all foods, the question of whether eating a banana is going to pack on the pounds or melt them off comes down to the number of calories they contain and how many calories you’re burning.

    Deciding for Yourself About the Role of Bananas in Weight Management

    Whether you opt for the bananas-cause-weight-gain or the bananas-for-weight-loss side of the fence comes down to your preferences and other food choices, but for the most part, bananas can be a great snack.

    • Bananas are filling (more than many snack foods) though not necessarily as filling as an apple.
    • Bananas are nutritious.
    • Bananas have calories, and calories are calories no matter the source.Bananas are not a "free food" that you should go completely nuts with. Eating a single banana can be a healthy snack, but if you add three large bananas to your regular daily food intake, you’ll be eating more than 350 extra calories.

    Think replacement, not addition when you consider where to add bananas into your diet. As a replacement for many snacks, they can be a healthful option. Simply adding them to your diet, as with any food, adds calories.

    Banana Nutritional Information

    One medium banana (7-8 inches long) has about 105 calories, half a gram of fat, 27g carbs, 3g fiber, 14.5g sugars, and 1g protein. Bananas are chock full of nutrients, too They're good sources of potassium (for heart health) and vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant.) As a beauty bonus, the potassium in bananas is great for hair health.

    But don't overdo it. Too much potassium can actually lead to hair loss.

    Other Potential Benefits of Bananas

    While not usually considered a "superfood" like blueberries or broccoli, bananas may have benefits beyond being a natural fruit snack. In one study, daily consumption of bananas marginally improved blood sugar and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes is increasing just as obesity is increasing in the developed countries.

    A Word About Banana Chips

    While bananas can be a healthy choice in a weight loss diet, banana chips are not. They’re bananas that have been deep fried and doused in sugar, aka food fakers.

     A half-cup serving of banana chips has about 210 calories and 12.5g fat. Dehydrated banana slices are a better choice.

    Banana Snack Ideas

    Try and enjoy these meal and snack ideas using bananas:

    • With oatmeal: Try slicing up some banana and adding it to your morning oatmeal. You can also mash the fruit and add it your oatmeal while it cooks. 
    • As a cinnamon-sprinkled snack: Bananas are great with cinnamon. Just slice one up, dust it with cinnamon, and go to town.
    • With yogurt: You can mix chopped banana into fat-free plain Greek yogurt along with some cinnamon and no-calorie sweetener. You can also layer the fruit and yogurt with some high-fiber bran cereal and sliced almonds. 
    • As frozen coins: Many people love the texture of frozen banana. It also takes a bit longer to eat which means you're more likely to feel full by the time you're done eating. Top your banana coins with strawberry yogurt and chopped peanuts before freezing them—it’s like a healthy deconstructed banana split!

    Bottom Line on Bananas and Weight Gain or Loss

    There isn't any evidence that bananas contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Instead, it's important to realize that bananas have calories, and calories add up. As a healthy snack, bananas may be more nutritious than many options with the same number of calories and can be a healthy replacement for sugary treats. At the same time, simply adding bananas to what you are already eating adds calories that can lead to extra pounds in time. If you like bananas, enjoy them as part of a healthy diet.

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    Sources:

    Cressey, R., Kumsaivai, W., and A. Mangklabruks. Daily Consumption of Banana Marginally Improves Blood Glucose and Lipid Profile in Hypercholesterolemic Subjects and Increases Serum Adiponectin in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2014. 52(12):1173-81.

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