Do Bananas Cause Weight Gain or Help With Weight Loss?

Banana bunch

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

You may have heard some reports that say bananas make you gain weight, while others say that bananas are beneficial for weight loss. Who is right and what do you need to know if you're counting calories?

Claims About Bananas Causing Weight Gain or Weight Loss

Before we talk about the role bananas may play in helping you gain or lose weight, let's talk about what you may have heard. What do the proponents on each side of the issue claim, and what is their reasoning?

  • Those who warn against eating bananas for fear of weight gain are basing the advice on carbohydrate content, particularly sugar. Bananas are fairly high in sugar which can turn to body fat more quickly than other nutrients.
  • Another reason bananas get a bad rap is that their calorie count is higher than many other fruits. A cup of apple slices has about 60 calories, while a cup of banana slices has around 135 calories.
  • Experts in the pro-banana camp say the neatly packaged fruit has the perfect amount of carbohydrates and calories for a satisfying and healthy snack choice. The amount of sugar isn't high compared to most sugary snacks—like cookies and candy—and bananas have the added benefit of fiber.
  • Some people even say you can eat an unlimited amount of bananas (or any fruit) and not gain weight since the fruit itself is so good for you—it’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

What Research Says

There’s no conclusive evidence that bananas make you gain or lose weight. No one food is responsible for weight loss or weight gain. Instead, consider your overall daily nutrient intake. Weight loss occurs when you create a calorie deficit, either through consuming less calories, burning more calories, or a combination of both.

Deciding Whether to Eat Them

For the most part, bananas can be a great snack. Here are a few things to consider when making the choice to eat them or skip them:

  • Bananas are filling (more than many snacks foods) though maybe not as much as some other fruit choices. For example, 1/2 medium banana has about 60 calories and 1.5 grams of fiber, while 1 cup of raspberries has 60 calories and 8 grams of fiber. Due to the volume and fiber content of raspberries, this fruit choice will be more filling.
  • Bananas are nutritious.
  • Bananas have calories, and calories are calories no matter the source. Bananas are not a "free food" that you should go completely nuts with. Eating a single banana can be a healthy snack, but if you add three large bananas to your regular daily food intake, you’ll be eating more than 350 extra calories.

Whether or not you incorporate bananas into your meal plan will depend on your goals and if you like bananas. If you are simply trying to eat a healthier diet, eating a banana (or 1/2 of a medium banana which is considered a serving of fruit) can be a good way to boost nutrition. Replacing high calorie, high fat items such as cookies or cake with fresh fruit like bananas can improve weight by increasing satiety while decreasing calories. Or for those people looking to gain weight, eating an extra snack daily, such as banana with peanut butter can increase nutrient dense calories to achieve healthy weight gain

Think replacement, not addition when you consider where to add bananas to your diet. As a replacement for many snacks, they can be a healthful option. Simply adding them to your diet, as with any food, adds calories.

Nutritional Information

One medium banana (7-8 inches long) has about 105 calories, half a gram of fat, 27g carbs, 3g fiber, 14.5g sugars, and 1g protein.

Bananas are chock full of nutrients, too They're good sources of potassium (for heart health) and vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant.) As a beauty bonus, the potassium in bananas makes them a great food for healthy hair. But don't overdo it. Too much potassium can actually lead to hair loss.

Other Potential Benefits of Bananas

While not usually considered a "superfood" like blueberries or broccoli, bananas may have benefits beyond being a natural fruit snack.

In one study, daily consumption of bananas marginally improved blood sugar and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes is increasing just as obesity is increasing in the developed countries.

Banana Snack Ideas

Try and enjoy these meal and snack ideas using bananas:

  • With Oatmeal: Try slicing up some banana and adding it to your morning oatmeal. You can also mash the fruit and add it your oatmeal while it cooks. 
  • As a Cinnamon-Sprinkled Snack: Bananas are great with cinnamon. Just slice one up, dust it with cinnamon, and go to town.
  • With Yogurt: You can mix chopped banana into fat-free plain Greek yogurt along with some cinnamon. You can also layer the fruit and yogurt with some high-fiber bran cereal and sliced almonds.
  • As Frozen "Coins": Many people love the texture of a frozen banana. It also takes a bit longer to eat which means you're more likely to feel full by the time you're done eating. Top your banana coins with strawberry yogurt and chopped peanuts before freezing them—it’s like a healthy, deconstructed banana split.

What About Banana Chips?

While bananas can be a healthy choice in a weight loss diet, banana chips are not. They’re bananas that have been deep-fried and doused in sugar, also known as food fakers. A half-cup serving of banana chips has about 210 calories and 12.5g fat. Dehydrated banana slices are a better choice.

Banana chips
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

A Word From Verywell

There isn't any evidence that bananas contribute to weight gain or weight loss. Instead, it's important to realize that bananas have calories, and calories add up.

As a healthy snack, bananas may be more nutritious than many options with the same number of calories and can be a healthy replacement for sugary treats. At the same time, simply adding bananas to what you are already eating adds calories that can lead to extra pounds in time. If you like bananas, enjoy them as part of a healthy diet.

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Article Sources
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  1. Nieman DC, Gillitt ND, Henson DA, et al. Bananas as an energy source during exercise: a metabolomics approach. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(5):e37479. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037479

  2. Cressey R, Kumsaiyai W, Mangklabruks A. Daily consumption of banana marginally improves blood glucose and lipid profile in hypercholesterolemic subjects and increases serum adiponectin in type 2 diabetic patients. Indian J Exp Biol. 2014;52(12):1173-81.

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