Are bananas good for weight loss?

Bananas are a fantastic food choice for anybody looking to lose weight for a multitude of reasons. They are processed slowly by the body which can lead to you feeling fuller for longer, and they are extremely versatile and flavoursome.

Not only do they make a great snack, but they can be added to cereal, fruit salads, desserts and smoothies in order to give your diet a healthy yet nutritious boost. This can allow you to eat a lot of bananas without becoming bored with your diet.

Nutritional Information

Sometimes bananas are avoided by those looking to promote weight loss because they are relatively calorific for fruit, but they are extremely nutritious.

100g banana contains:

Calories 89
Fat 0
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 1 mg
Carbohydrates 23 g
Fibre 3 g
Sugar 12 g
Protein 1 g

Bananas are also very high in vitamin C, potassium, manganese, Vitamin B6 and folate.

Vitamin C is important for boosting the immune system, potassium lowers levels of salt in the blood which can cause high blood pressure, and manganese is important for improving bone metabolism and bone structure.

Vitamin B6 helps the body to store and use protein and carbohydrates and is very important for the creation of haemoglobin, the substance found in red blood cells, which is necessary for oxygen to be carried to all vital organs.

Folate is vital for healthy pregnancies, specifically in preventing central nervous system defects. It also helps to form healthy red blood cells.

The low fat and cholesterol levels of bananas are great for those looking to lose weight, and the high fibre and carbohydrate levels mean they help you to feel full, leading to less future snacking.

Alongside these benefits, they have specific properties which can improve weight loss.

Weight Loss Benefits of Bananas

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1) Low GI

Bananas have a low GI, or glycemic index. Glycemic index refers to how quickly food containing carbohydrates influences blood sugar levels. Low GI foods raise blood sugar levels slowly, which is beneficial for weight loss.

In a basic sense, rises and falls in blood sugar help to determine hunger levels. When blood sugar levels are high, we often do not have food cravings. When blood sugar levels are low, however, the more food we desire.

High GI foods are not necessarily bad for you (for instance, parsnips are extremely healthy but are high GI), but those with low GI are usually much better at preventing extreme fluctuations in blood sugar.

A more steady blood sugar level means fewer food cravings. As such, consuming foods which have a low GI such as bananas mean you may be less tempted to snack and over-eat following consumption.

2) Resistant Starch

Bananas contain resistant starch. This is a type of dietary fibre which is not digested by the digestive tract; it is resistant to digestion.

There are two main types of fibre; soluble, and insoluble fibre. Resistant starch acts similarly to soluble fibre, which is dissolved in water and creates a gel-like substance in the gut. This gel slows down the digestive processes of the body, allowing it to process food in a controlled manner.

As well as slowing down digestion, resistant starches feed good bacteria in the gut. A balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is important, and by feeding good bacteria, the amount of bad bacteria is diminished.

Resistant starch is particularly beneficial for the colon as the bacteria which consume it create a  short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate fuels the cells lining the colon, which are important for significantly reducing inflammation.

Inflammation can cause a wide variety of negative health effects, but one such effect is weight retention, or even weight gain. By consuming foods with anti-inflammatory abilities, the body is better able to reduce weight.

Furthermore, resistant fat helps to produce the hormone glucagon, which encourages the body to increase the speed of fat-burning processes and because resistant starch isn’t digested, fewer calories will be consumed when eating foods like bananas.

Bananas contain resistant starch only in their unripened, green state because the process of ripening breaks down the resistant starch into regular starch, which is digested by the gut. Green bananas are not often eaten as they are firmer and less sweet than when ripe.

Nevertheless, they are perfectly healthy to consume and can provide you with a fantastic dose of resistant starch. They can be eaten fresh as normal, although some may not enjoy the firm texture.

They can also be blended into smoothies, or seasoned and added to salads. Although you may need to adjust the way you eat bananas if consuming unripened ones, the health benefits are significant.

3) Potassium

Although not specifically related to weight loss, potassium can be helpful to weight loss in an indirect way. A 100g banana contains around 358 mg potassium, which constitutes 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium for an individual consuming 2000 calories a day.

Potassium has a variety of functions within the body including an ability to reduce sodium levels in the blood, (an excess of sodium can lead to water retention and high blood pressure). Potassium is also beneficial as it can help to improve some of the negative consequences of exercise.

Exercise is a necessary part of any weight-loss plan, but many people avoid it because it is unpleasant both during and after, and can even cause pain and difficulty moving the following day. This pain is caused by the fact that the body loses electrolytes through sweat during exercise.

Electrolytes are minerals which are broken down into electrically-charged ions which dissolve in water. Electrolytes regulate body fluids, a process vital for maintaining bodily functions, but they are lost through sweat.

Potassium is a type of electrolyte, and so by consuming foods rich in potassium, one can ensure that fluids are regulated. This can reduce pain following exercise, which many people use as an excuse not to exercise.

Leading an active lifestyle is very important for weight loss, and so eliminating potential excuses is a great way to help you to stick to your weight loss plan.

Controversy of Bananas for Weight Loss

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Although bananas have a variety of weight-loss properties, there is controversy over their effectiveness as a weight loss tool. The majority of this controversy comes from the fact that bananas contain significantly more carbohydrates than other fruits; for instance, 100g banana has 23 grams carbohydrate compared to apples (14g) and oranges (12g).

Carbohydrates are shunned by many dieters because some theories suggest that they are the biggest culprits in weight gain. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the human body, and when these carbs aren’t burned they are stored in the body as sugar.

Sugar is not fattening in itself, but it can cause fat storage in a number of ways.

Carbohydrates can increase resistance to the hormone leptin. Leptin tells the body how much energy is stored, and a reduction in the ability to detect leptin can mean the body thinks it has less energy than it does. As a result, the body will store more energy in the form of fat.

Furthermore, when carbohydrates are converted into sugar, the body gets a sugar hit. This can lead to a spike in blood sugar, which is counteracted by insulin, a hormone which lowers blood sugar. Insulin can lower blood sugar quite dramatically, and if it gets too low it can lead to sugar cravings.

Therefore, by consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, cravings for unhealthy foods can be increased. Insulin also enhances the body’s fat-storing processes.

What many people do not realise is that firstly, although carbohydrates can lead to weight gain they are not the only contributor. Secondly, not all carbohydrates are the same. There are in fact numerous varieties. Starches, sugars and fibre are all forms of carbohydrate.

Bad carbs are those which come from added sugars or refined and processed foods. These carbohydrates supply calories but very few nutrients. Good carbs are those which come from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables (fibrous foods), and whole grains. These carbohydrates are both energy providers and nutrient providers.

The carbohydrates found in bananas are good carbs, such as the resistant starch mentioned above, which is not digested and can actually prevent weight gain. It is also relatively low in fructose, the sugar found naturally in fruit.

Furthermore, because bananas contain fibre they can help to slow down digestion. Slower digestion helps the body to process the nutrients in food in a more steady way, reducing the spikes in blood sugar which may lead to future food cravings. Fibre is also filling, which will reduce the desire for future snacking.

Although low-carb diets are successful for many people, cutting out some carbs, like those in bananas, will do the body no favours. It is important that if an individual undertakes a diet which significantly reduces a food group, it is done under supervision of a medical professional and that the food group is not completely removed.

Fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals are all necessary for the body to function, and they all have a role in fat burning. Removing carbohydrates completely from the diet will lead to a deficiency in vital nutrients the body requires in order to remain healthy.

Bananas are extremely filling & nutritious and have many fat-burning properties. As such, they are great addition to the diet of anybody attempting to lose weight.

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