“High starch and sugar fruits like bananas should be avoided at all costs if you want six pack abs.”
One of THE most frequent questions I get as a dietetics student has to do with sugar. Not sugar from candy or cake (most people know those aren’t optimal sources of good nutrition), but about sugar found in fruit. Yup, nature’s candy.
At least once a week I set someone straight on the myth that fruit is bad for them, that eating a banana, specifically, will prevent them from getting those 6-pack abs, or that they’re better off eating a 12-ounce steak versus a fruit salad.
And as Rachel Zoe would say, “THAT’S BANANAS!”
((See what I did there?!))
And as I say, Where on earth do people come up with these things?
“You’ll never get a 6-pack if you eat a naner?!” How would I ever survive?!
I mean, what would I eat pre-workout for a quick source of carbs so I don’t cramp up in barre class? After speaking with other friends and colleagues in the field, I know I’m not alone on this one!
So let’s break it down…are bananas bad for you?
Myth #1: A banana is just like a candy bar – it contains too much sugar.
Your average (medium) banana contains 14 grams of sugar, which isn’t a small amount, BUT it’s 100% natural sugar…none of that man-made stuff found in processed baked goods or added to tomato sauce (whyyyy???). One ounce of dark chocolate also contains 14 grams of sugar, but when you check out the ingredient list you will see that this sugar is ADDED sugar. There is NO sugar added to bananas, making them one of the best natural sweeteners out there (just ask my chocolate banana pudding pie or banana bread muffins!)
Bananas are mediocre on the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index ranks foods according to the impact they have on our blood sugar. Bananas contain, on average, 3 grams of fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into your blood. Some of this fiber comes from pectins, which further slows the digestion of carbohydrates, lessening a blood glucose (sugar) spike.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes* or have been told that your blood sugar is a little high, you can still enjoy bananas. To lessen the sugar spike from eating ANY fruit alone, pair it with protein and/or healthy fat – like nut/seed butter or yogurt (see picture above!).
But keep this in mind – even if you do snack on a naner solo, it is VERY different from eating a candy bar! A banana contains tons of other vitamins and minerals, fiber, and even over 1 gram of PROTEIN, making it a nutrient-dense food (Read: GOOD FOR YOU!).
Also remember that too much of ANYTHING is not good…so I’m definitely NOT advocating eating unlimited fruit, like some diets suggest. Watch your portion size (about 1 medium fruit or 1 cup of cut up fruit/berries) and limit intake to 2-4 servings per day.
Myth #2: Bananas are fattening.
A medium banana, for about 100 calories, contains less than a half of a gram of fat. And less than half of this fat comes from saturated fat (the kind that clogs arteries and leads to poor heart health).
It is true that when excess sugar, that your body has no need for, is digested and absorbed it can be stored as fat, but if you’re eating when you’re hungry and not over-eating, this will definitely not happen from eating a ~100 calorie banana.
Over-consumption of ANY food is not ideal, and that even goes for fruit! Remember…watch your portions!
Quit worrying about a banana being fattening and enjoy it as a mid-day pick me up…your body needs fuel!
Myth #3: If I’m choosing to eat fruit, bananas are the worst choice.
Why bananas, specifically, get a bad rap in the fruit world, I’m not too sure, because their stats are pretty similar to many other popular fruits…
- A medium apple contains a similar 100 calories with 14 grams sugar and less than 0.5 grams fat. But an apple contains less protein than your average banana (by 1 gram!).
- 1 cup of grapes provides 15 grams sugar, with less fiber and less protein than a banana.
A medium banana contains…
- 14% daily value vitamin C, vital for strong immunity, youthful-looking skin, and to fight oxidative damage.
- 422 mg or 12% daily value of potassium, important for heart-health, in terms of lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke.
- 10% daily value of biotin, important for strong hair and nails.
- 25% daily value of vitamin B6, a vital co-factor in the production of feel-good hormones serotonin and norepinephrine.
- 3 grams fiber, which helps keep you full, aids in lowering cholesterol levels and promotes good digestive health.
Here’s the bottom line – there are fruits that contain less sugar than a banana (berries, citrus fruits, melons…), but bananas are portable, inexpensive, and highly accessible. ALL carbohydrates (yes, fruit is a carbohydrate) turn to sugar once they are digested and absorbed, which is why pairing a carbohydrate with protein and fat is important. But if you genuinely enjoy the flavor and texture of bananas and your body responds well to them, there’s NO reason to cut them out of your diet…not even to get 6-pack abs!
Remember: Everything in moderation…including moderation!
Now I’m going to dive mouth-first into my chocolate covered naner!
What nutrition myths are puzzling you? Let me know and I’m happy to set the record straight!
*No advice written above is intended to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. Always consult your physician and/or dietitian before beginning a new diet plan!