Are The Calories In Bananas Worth It?
With 72 to 135 kcal in each fruit, a banana can double as a filling snack. The humble banana is packed with fiber and nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B6 that can improve the health of your gut, heart, and bones. It can even help with blood pressure and glucose regulation. Go easy on the fruit if you have diabetes or kidney disease, though.
When it comes to fruits, the humble banana is often a universal favorite. After all, it is tasty, filling, and cheap. It is also quite versatile, doubling as snack, dessert, or breakfast ingredient. But for all its benefits, are bananas a calorie-dense dish you should avoid, especially if you’re watching your weight?
Here’s finding out if the banana is all it’s cut out to be and if the calories in it are actually worth it!
The calorie count of a banana depends on the size. There’s quite a variety out there, from the smaller Ladyfinger, Orito, and Pisang Mas to apple bananas, exotic red bananas, and plantains. For extra small bananas shorter than 6 inches, the calorie count is usually around 72 kcal. Small bananas (6 to 8 inches) have 90 kcal, while medium kinds (7 to 8 inches) have 105 kcal. And then there are large and extra large bananas (8 to 9 inches), boasting 121 and 135 kcal, respectively.1 By comparison, a seemingly healthy low-fat strawberry greek yogurt contains 154kcal,2 just 42 gm of trail mix has 194 kcal,3 and a slice of cheddar cheese has 113 kcal.4
For extra small bananas shorter than 6 inches, the calorie count is usually around 72 kcal. Small bananas (6 to 8 inches) have 90 kcal, while medium kinds (7 to 8 inches) have 105 kcal. And then there are large and extra large bananas (8 to 9 inches), boasting 121 and 135 kcal, respectively.
What’s In A Banana?
If you’re watching your weight, what makes eating a banana worth the calories? Simply put, it delivers a lot of nutrition per calorie you have. So you’re better off snacking on a banana than on a packaged snack or even a slice of cheese which will contain saturated fats. The other thing a banana has going for it is the fiber content. Bananas contain a good amount of fiber – about 3.1 gm in a medium-sized fruit. Larger bananas may contain as much as 3.5 to 4 gm of fiber.5 This will keep you feeling full longer and you won’t crave another nibble too quickly.6
You can also fuel up on a third of your vitamin B6 requirement of 1.3 gm for the day with these yellow goodies.7 That’s not all! Bananas contain 4 to 8 gm of calcium, 290 to 544 mg of potassium, 22 to 41 mg of magnesium, and 18 to 33 mg of phosphorus. And how can we forget about the vitamin C? For a fruit that isn’t sour or tart, it’s got a pretty impressive vitamin C arsenal. Each banana has 7 to 13.2 mg of vitamin C.
It’s also filling without being sinful, containing 0.9 to 1.7 gm of protein, 18.5 to 34.7 gm of carbohydrates, and just 0.27 to 0.5 gm of fat. It’s enough to give you a healthy boost of energy, making it a perfect snack or breakfast addition.8
In addition, if you have the bananas before they ripen, more benefits await you! Unripe bananas are richer than ripe bananas in resistant starch.9 Since this kind of starch isn’t fully digested, it acts like fiber in your body. It’s actually been shown to help digestive function and balance microbial flora. Cholesterol levels and diabetes can also improve thanks to this component.10 The pectin in it also slows gastric emptying and improves glucose tolerance.11
Health Benefits: Why You Should Go Bananas
Eating bananas is one of the best things you can do for your body. Here’s why:
- Builds bone health: Bananas have high levels of calcium and potassium, two vital nutrients for bone health. While the first is needed to build healthy bones and prevent bone loss in menopausal women and elderly men,12 the second can prevent osteoporosis, especially in elderly women.13
- Helps heart health and blood pressure: If you have low blood pressure, low potassium levels might be the culprit. Research suggests that potassium supplements can reduce blood pressure and cut the fatality risk from heart disease. It’s yet another reason to enjoy a banana on the daily.14
- Improves digestion: Thanks to its resistant starch, a banana will stay undigested until it reaches your large intestine. This is especially true for unripe ones. Here, it can feed good gut bacteria, helping them thrive.15
- Boosts Immunity: Research shares that resistant starches can help transport probiotic organisms in the upper gut, helping improve immunity. There’s potential for this to suppress pathogenic organisms, too.16 What’s more, the vitamin C in bananas double as an immune-boosting nutrient.17
Who Should Say No To Bananas
If you’re eating a healthy balanced diet, bananas make a good addition. However, while they won’t cause major sugar spikes in healthy individuals, diabetics should go easy on the bananas. After all, each fruit can have anywhere from 10 to 18.6 gm of sugar.
Anyone who has been told to restrict potassium intake, like those with chronic kidney disease, should also avoid eating the fruit.18 For everyone else, it seems like bananas are good news!
References [ + ]
|1, 5, 8.||↑||Bananas, raw . USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|2.||↑||Yogurt, Greek, strawberry, low fat. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|3.||↑||Snacks, trail mix, regular. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|4.||↑||Cheese, cheddar. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|6.||↑||Burton-Freeman, Britt. “Dietary fiber and energy regulation.” The Journal of nutrition 130, no. 2 (2000): 272S-275S.|
|7.||↑||Vitamin B6. NIH.|
|9.||↑||Which Foods Contain Resistant Starch?. CSIRO.|
|10, 15.||↑||Fuentes-Zaragoza, E., M. J. Riquelme-Navarrete, E. Sánchez-Zapata, and J. A. Pérez-Álvarez. “Resistant starch as functional ingredient: A review.” Food Research International 43, no. 4 (2010): 931-942.|
|11.||↑||Schwartz, Sheldon E., Robert A. Levine, Ruth S. Weinstock, Susan Petokas, Chrysta A. Mills, and F. D. Thomas. “Sustained pectin ingestion: effect on gastric emptying and glucose tolerance in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 48, no. 6 (1988): 1413-1417.|
|12.||↑||Calcium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|13, 14.||↑||Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|16.||↑||Bird, Anthony R., Ian L. Brown, and David L. Topping. “Starches, resistant starches, the gut microflora and human health.” Current issues in intestinal microbiology 1, no. 1 (2000): 25-37.|
|17.||↑||Vitamin C. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|18.||↑||Apples are Okay, but Bananas are not…Top 10 Dialysis Diet Tips. National Kidney Foundation.|