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Are Bananas Good or Bad For You?

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Image of BananasPHOTO: JORDAN KRAVITZ

The seemingly harmless, simply banana is quite the polarizing food. As a fruit, many people tend to think that it’s a healthy dietary choice. Other people however, take note of certain factors that may not be as appealing, such as its high sugar content or lack of protein. In fact, bananas get a bad reputation as the least healthy fruit from many nutritionists – but is this reputation deserved?

Bananas and Weight Loss

As previously stated, bananas are notorious for their high carbohydrate content, which mainly manifests itself in sugars. There’s very little protein in a banana, which means that these simple sugars will work quickly – causing blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, with little to keep the sugar around for very long. This can result in blood sugar spikes, which in turn can lead to energy spikes – followed by crashes. If you’re looking to lose weight, keeping a balanced blood sugar level is one of the most important factors toward success.

From the flip side, bananas are low in calories (about 100 calories for a medium-sized banana) and offer a fair amount of fiber – which has been known to aid in weight loss. Bananas with some green still on the skin (under-ripe bananas) are best for those worried about their weight, as they’re actually even more filled with the resistant starch that adds such a powerful punch to weight loss efforts.

Are Bananas Bad for You?

With some of the somewhat negative downsides of bananas (compared to other fruits), it’s easy to ask if bananas are, in fact, bad for you. The best answer truly is this: It depends. Bananas have a great ability to boost your energy, which is perfect for working out. They’re loaded with potassium, as well as manganese, which is known for its ability to affect bone and brain health in a very positive way. They’e low in calories, easily portable, and are mood boosters, as well as gut-improvers.

While all of these benefits are clear and definitely valid, bananas aren’t the best option for those that have diabetes, blood sugar issues, or those who are trying to lose weight. Unless you lead a particularly active lifestyle, the sugar in bananas can have adverse effects on your blood sugar and energy levels in general. So in the end, your lifestyle and health status dictate whether bananas are actually considered “bad” for you or not.

Image of bananas, one of the healthiest foods on the planetPHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM / BRENT HOFACKER

Wait, Banana Skins are Edible?

A common misconception is that the skins of bananas are inedible, which isn’t true – the skins can be eaten both raw and cooked. A great plus of consuming the skins is that they have a high level of fiber, magnesium, and potassium, as well as the added benefit of antioxidants.

Banana skins can be added to smoothies for an extra dose of nutrients. Additionally, they can be cut into strips and used in stir-fry recipes or added to tea for some extra potassium intake. When consuming the skins, however, it’s incredibly important to ensure that you eat organic varieties, as other kinds are sure to have pesticides embedded in them.

Banana Nutrition Facts

As previously mentioned, bananas are fairly low in calories, at about 100 calories per fruit. They’re also low in protein, unfortunately, with just over one gram. Fats are almost non-existent, at less than half a gram. One banana contains around 27 grams of carbs, no cholesterol, and approximately 14 grams of sugar.

As far as nutrients go, bananas are jam-packed. The big three are Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and manganese, with potassium, magnesium, and folate close behind. There are much smaller amounts of copper, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and phosphorus, as well. All in all, while the sugar and carb content is high, the amount of nutrients gained is incredibly high, as well.

Summary

Bananas are generally good for healthy people. The exceptions would include people who are fairly inactive, and those with diabetic tendencies or actual diabetes, as bananas can cause blood sugar spikes and energy dips if not consumed with some type of protein.

A banana is always a better choice than a processed/packaged food. If you’re about to go on a run or get in a workout, and are tempted to grab a packaged energy bar, the banana will make for a better choice. They have the ability to provide you with a burst of energy beforehand, as well as the ability to heal broken down muscles post-workout.

With all of this said, it’s fairly safe to say that bananas are great in many ways, and can be enjoyed by most people in moderation.

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