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Food in the Spotlight: Bananas

Bananas are far from the only food that have taken a roller-coaster ride at the carnival of public judgment, but I think they’re worth a closer look.

When I talk to clients about eating enough fruits and vegetables, a common follow-up question is: “Should I avoid bananas?”

My first follow-up is asking them if they like bananas; oftentimes this consideration is lost in the shuffle as people try to sort out just what they should be eating. If someone does like bananas, then of course you should eat them and of course they count as part of your daily fruit intake.

“But aren’t bananas high in sugar?”

Bananas do contain sugar, as do most fruits. It’s always important, however, to consider what you get with that sugar. In fruit, including bananas, you get fiber as well as a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Bananas are especially rich in potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

“Bananas have more calories than other fruits, though.”

This is true, but not to the extent that most people think. A medium to large banana is 100-120 calories. Apples are about 20 calories less, and oranges are around 60 calories per fruit. Berries and melons, meanwhile, are around 50 calories per cup.

So the difference between bananas and the lowest-calorie fruits (berries and melons) is around 50 calories per serving. If you eat several bananas on a daily basis I suppose this difference could add up, but most people aren’t doing that.

Bananas are especially useful as a portable, easily digestible energy source for runners or other athletes looking for a quick way to replenish carbohydrate stores (like glycogen) in the body.

In short, while bananas are slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates than most other fruits, they’re also a great source of fiber and several vitamins and minerals. Excluding them from your diet is unnecessary if you like them, and they’re a better option than processed snacks with added sugars.

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