Bananas are hands down my FAVORITE fruit. I love them in all forms, but they have to be cold. Probably why one of my favorite treats of all time is chocolate dipped bananas.
My students and my clients often have this preconceived notion that bananas are the highest sugar fruit on the planet, and therefore you should not consume them.
Don’t Bananas Have Too Much Sugar?
Let’s look at the facts:
One medium just ripe (aka yellow, no green or black) banana contains about 14 ish grams of sugar and 27 grams of carbohydrate. The caveat to this is, the amount of sugar will vary slightly depending on the ripeness of the banana. Green bananas have more resistant starch in them and less sugar. Super sweet dark brown bananas have less resistant starch and more sugar. (Resistant starch is a type of starch that isn’t fully digested, instead, it’s used as food to fuel the good bacteria in the GI tract. )
Let’s compare that to one medium apple:
Slightly fewer calories and carbs overall, but more sugar per serving. For an even more stark comparison, one medium mango has 46 grams of sugar per serving. No wonder they are so good, right? Not surprising because tropical fruits due tend to have higher amounts of sugar and carbohydrates.
Some fruits have significantly less sugar per serving. Berries, grapefruit, figs, cantaloupes, and tangerines have 5-10 grams of sugar per serving.
In my opinion, a medium just ripe banana falls in the middle of the road for sugar content in fruit and I think bananas have been unfairly singled out.
Here is the thing, high sugar high carbohydrate foods when consumed on their own raise your blood sugar faster. When blood sugar goes up fast, it comes down just as fast leading to cravings and hunger. That’s why I typically have a “no carb on its own” policy. Foods high in carbohydrates (see how to spot a healthy carb) should be paired with a protein or healthy fat, which will slow down the blood sugar spike and slow down the drop. Meaning fewer sugar cravings and you will be satisfied for longer. (Check out this post and YouTube video on how to create steady energy levels.)
Although I used to snack on bananas at all times of the day, I don’t typically grab a piece of fruit on its own anymore. Creating stable blood sugar is the name of the game when it comes to having steady energy and fewer cravings.
Bananas Post Workout
I often put bananas on my clients custom WTE? Meal Plans paired with a protein shake as a post workout snack/refuel. Carbs post workout are “protein sparing.” Meaning that consuming carbohydrates will ensure that the protein you consume post workout will go to muscle building and not refueling energy stores. Plus, glucose, helps the muscles soak up amino acids (the building blocks of protein.)
So, carbohydrates and protein post workout are important. Fruit is a great option because it does contain more sugar which can be quickly absorbed when energy stores are low (aka post-workout.) I chose bananas because they are easier to digest and better tolerated than other types of fruit post workout. Plus, they can conveniently be carried around without too much of an issue.
Let’s keep in mind that the sugar found in a banana or any other fruit is natural. Whereas other forms of sugar such as found in candy and cookies are added sugars. While that doesn’t matter AT ALL in terms of the way your body processes it, it does matter because bananas are more nutrient dense than candy and cookies. Bananas contain:
- antioxidants such as vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and helps in wound repair.
- potassium, which fights the effect of high sodium intake by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk for a stroke.
- vitamin B6, which is important to energy metabolism and the production of neurotransmitters.
You don’t get that with a cookie, now do you?
- Pair your banana with a healthy fat or protein during meals and snacks.
- Eat them post workout with protein.
- Watch sugar in all forms, natural and artificial.
Hope that helps! You may also like these other hot topics on foods:
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- Why Carbs Are Important
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Just for fun here are some of my favorite banana recipes!