Despite having a reputation for being diet ruiners at one point, recent studies have shown that bananas are one of the best secret weapons you can have in your weight loss arsenal. While they were once thought of as high-carbohydrate with minimal other nutritional value, we’ve since discovered that bananas have certain unique properties that actually make them an ideal food to include in your weight loss plan.
Bananas are actually moderate calorie, fat-free, high fibre, and packed with essential nutrients that you may not be getting enough of in your diet, especially if you’re beginning a workout regime in addition to your dieting plans (as you should be). Keep reading to learn what’s so great about bananas, and how they can help you achieve your goals.
Resistant starch – the dieter’s best friend
Bananas–especially bananas that are only just ripe–are an excellent source of a compound called resistant starch. Think of resistant starch as a sort of low-calorie complex carbohydrate; your body can digest it, but not entirely, so it slows down the release of energy from food and leaves you feeling fuller for longer. Bananas are also relatively high fibre, but it’s the starch that’s the truly magical ingredient, because unlike fibre–which only makes you feel full–the banana’s high resistant starch content makes it a source of long-lasting energy, so you won’t be left feeling run down if you snack on a banana instead of something sugary.
Some recent studies have also shown that resistant starch may have a role in breaking down stored fat–more data is needed to confirm this conclusion, but early results are promising. The breakdown of stored fat would be the holy grail of weight loss dieting, since very few substances are capable of it, and few as easily accessible to the average person as the humble banana.
Low GI = no sugar crash
By themselves, bananas are low GI–they come in between 51 and 42 on the glycemic index, depending on how ripe they are. A fully ripe banana comes in at about 51, a slightly green banana at 42, and an overripe banana, interestingly enough, at around 48. Low GI foods are ideal, especially in the morning or as snacks, because they release energy slowly and prevent hunger from kicking in later. Bananas actually have a lot of appetite suppressing characteristics thanks to their unusual makeup–there’s no other fruit quite like a banana.
Not only does this prevent snacking between meals, it also means that you won’t get the sugar crash associated with other relatively high-carb snacks. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll have more energy to do the things you need to throughout the day. Instant benefits!
To kick this up a notch, instead of having a banana by itself, make yourself a banana smoothie–this lowers the glycemic index down to around 30 (assuming you use cow’s milk), making it one of the lowest GI snacks or meals you can make yourself. As a bonus, banana smoothies with a scoop of protein powder are the ideal post-workout snack, since they not only contain the protein, fat, and carbs your body needs to recover, but also potassium, which is lost when you sweat and not replaced by most common post-workout foods.
You see? We told you bananas have hidden depths.
Rich in nutrients
The wonders of bananas aren’t just limited to their being filling and low GI. The thing that truly makes them a dieter’s best friend is their nutritional content. Bananas are high in vitamin A, some B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These are all things your body needs, and that’s what makes including bananas in your weight loss diet so ingenious–where restrictive diets can cause you to miss out on essential nutrients, bananas are packed with them. This means that you can safely replace a more complex snack–or breakfast–with a banana and not have to worry about missing out on things your body needs.
Bananas will also help to prevent muscle cramps during a workout, which means you’ll actually finish your workouts. They’re handy if you find you get leg cramps at night, as well.
More importantly, all of these nutrients have a role to play in your overall health, including muscle recovery and, therefore, growth, which is an essential component of any weight loss program. Not only are bananas not the enemies of dieters, as they were once thought to be, but they’re actively helpful in achieving your ultimate health goals–and they’re delicious, too.
Low calorie density
Very few satisfying snacks come in at under 100 calories, but the banana comes in at an average of 92, meaning that they only take up a very small amount of your daily allowance. If you’re restricting calories, then the low density of bananas, combined with their especially filling properties, makes them an ideal snack to keep you from taking the cookies in the break room when you crash around mid-afternoon.
Bananas come pre-wrapped by nature, so they’re the perfect thing to have with you as a snack when you need it. If a banana by itself doesn’t tempt you, there are loads of simple recipes that can be made with bananas. While it’s best to eat them plain, if you really can’t bring yourself to, there are a multitude of cakes and cookies which use bananas as the base ingredient that will allow you to have a snack that remains low-calorie, but is more appealing than a plain banana. For example, try these Brilliant Banana Pancakes and enjoy the added benefits of protein powder too!
Tons of bonus benefits
If you think we’ve covered everything bananas have to offer, think again–though the following benefits don’t relate directly to weight loss dieting, they’re all the more reason to add more bananas to your diet.
Firstly, bananas make you happier. They contain high concentrations of tryptophan, which is converted in the brain into serotonin–liquid happiness! This has been shown to reduce the effects of depression, and is also potentially effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This kind of is connected to weight loss, since depression and SAD can lead to comfort eating, which leads to weight gain. Treating the cause is much more effective than treating the symptoms.
If you suffer from acid reflux, try treating it with a banana. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, stabilise your blood sugar, and can prevent morning sickness during pregnancy. Bananas also contain compounds that reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, so they’re ideal if you’re trying to quit cigarettes or caffeine. All these things relate to your overall health and wellbeing and will help you stick to a good diet plan.
Better still, they improve brain function, protect against heart attacks, strokes and some forms of cancer, and are an excellent source of antioxidants, which can fight chronic illnesses. They also boost your immune system and contain iron, which guards against anemia. This means that you won’t get or feel sick as often, which leads to a healthier, happier you in the long run. There’s no point in losing weight if it’s at the expense of your health, after all.
You can even use the peels–put them on hives, bug bites or warts to heal them. If you don’t have any of those, then you can also use a banana peel to polish leather! Bananas are, more or less, magic.
How to consume more bananas for maximum health benefits
By this point, you’re probably ready to go buy a bunch of bananas–which is great! And if you like eating them, they’ve got a ton of benefits by themselves–but you can combine them with other things to really maximise what you get out of them.
Try some of these ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to banana-fuelled weight loss in no time:
- As mentioned earlier, bananas make great smoothies. To really get everything you need out of them, try a banana and peanut butter smoothie with a scoop of protein powder. Not only are they delicious, but they’ve got everything you need in one convenient recipe.
- In addition to the cookies & cakes mentioned above, bananas form the base of dozens of clever, simple dishes that are perfect if you’re not a huge fan of bananas by themselves. Try these quick-and-easy peanut butter banana bars, flourless muffins, or protein banana bread–all made with minimal ingredients! Bananas are great to cook with, even for non-bakers. Make sure you check out our exclusive Musclefood offers to ensure you get the best deal on your protein.
- Add banana to your breakfast cereal–ideally, oatmeal–to get all the added benefits without having to eat a banana by itself, if you’re not a fan.
- Make your own baked banana chips as a healthy, portable snack that’ll satisfy your afternoon cravings and give you all the benefits outlined above. Even someone who can’t bake to save their life could make these (or outsource the work to older kids).
- A frozen banana makes instant ice cream in the blender without any of the bad stuff that goes into the commercial variety. What you do with this knowledge is up to you, but instant, guilt-free ice cream is hard to beat in terms of dessert options.
Whatever you choose to do with your bananas, you’ll see a ton of benefits from consuming them regularly. Making the most of the unique diet-boosting properties of bananas is one of the best ways to ensure you can successfully achieve your health and fitness goals.