Everyone’s favorite yellow fruit may be getting an unfair bad rap.
Which has the most calories: a banana, an orange, or an apple?
If you guessed banana, you’d be right. A medium orange has around 62 calories, a medium apple has around 95 calories, and a medium banana has around 105 calories. (That’s a 7- to 8-inch banana, by the way; many bananas hanging around the grocery store are actually larger and may set you back more like 120-136 calories per ’nana.)
But let’s be honest: Debating calorie counts among different fruits is arguably a good problem to have. Most nutritionists would rather have you eat any fruit—regardless of how many calories it has—than a more processed snack that might be slightly lower in calories, like a handful of pretzels or crackers. (One-hundred-calorie snack bags, we’re looking at you!).
That’s because fruits like bananas come packaged with a host of nutrients that work together to have tremendous health benefits for your body—from fiber and certain healthy carbohydrates to vitamins and minerals and plenty of other disease-fighting plant compounds.
Do Bananas Have Too Many Calories to Be Healthy?
A medium banana has 105 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates, and 14 grams of sugar—and that may sound like a lot for someone who’s trying to follow a low-carb diet or keep their calorie intake low.
But while bananas may have more calories than other popular fruits, that’s no reason they can’t be a regular part of your healthy diet, whether you slice and stir them into yogurt, blend them into smoothies, or gobble one up as a post-workout snack.
One option to enjoy a banana while still watching your carbs or calories is to eat half a banana for your serving size. Split a ’nana with a family member or coworker so the other half doesn’t go to waste, or freeze it to use in a future smoothie or banana bread loaf.
And keep in mind that along with those 105 calories, bananas pack a host of healthy nutrients your body craves. No one’s saying you should liberally chow down multiple bananas a day—unless, say, you live in a zoo or are bulking up for a Hollywood movie role—but most people can safely and healthfully eat bananas regularly as long as they watch their overall calorie intake.
Why Are Bananas So Healthy?
Let’s start with the pleasure factor: Inside their tough skin—which makes them super portable—bananas have almost no fat, but they do have a sweet, creamy, filling texture that makes them a delicious and satisfying ingredient in smoothies or yogurt bowls.
Medium bananas deliver about 3 grams of fiber, which is important for feeling full and for good digestive health.
While bananas may have more carbs than many other fruits, the carbs in bananas are a particularly healthy kind. Before they ripen, bananas are rich in something called resistant starch, which is a special kind of fiber that’s digested slowly. This makes it good for boosting energy and steadying blood sugar levels.
These carbs in bananas are also what’s known as “prebiotics”—which are sources of nutrition for the good probiotic bacteria that live in your digestive tract. In other words, eating prebiotic-rich foods like bananas may help contribute to a healthy group of gut bacteria, which may help improve digestive issues like constipation. In fact, a small study of overweight women ages 19 to 45 found that those who snacked on a banana every day reported significantly less bloating after about a month compared to control groups who did not eat bananas.
Beyond their fiber and carb content, bananas are also excellent sources of vitamins B6 and vitamin C.
What’s the Deal with Bananas and Potassium?
When it comes to their nutrients, bananas may be most famous for their levels of potassium, a mineral that’s essential in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Nutritionists recommend eating more potassium-rich foods and fewer sodium-containing foods to ensure healthier blood pressure levels.
A medium banana has about 422 milligrams of potassium, or just shy of 10% of the recommended 4,700 milligrams a day. It’s considered a good source, although truthfully foods like spinach and sweet potatoes have more potassium than a banana.
The potassium in bananas, along with their unique combination of carbs and vitamins, may make them a uniquely beneficial post-workout snack.
What Are Some Healthy Ways to Eat Bananas?
- Make healthier pancakes by stirring pureed banana into the batter for a fiber and nutrient boost.
- Slice atop a yogurt or smoothie bowl for a satisfying topping.
- Tempt kids to swap their usual ice cream or fruit for dessert with fruit kebabs made with banana and other fave fruits.
- Make heart-healthy muffins like these banana muffins.
- DIY your own energy-boosting snack with these peanut butter banana oat balls.
- Who needs avocado toast when you can delight in the joy that is banana toast? Mash up a ’nana, spread over your favorite bread, and top with anything your taste buds crave (good choices include a drizzle of honey, sea salt, or your favorite seeds).