Bananas? Debunking the Myths


Here are three common myths about one of my favorite fruits, bananas - Debunked! 

As an Integrative Oncologist and Physician Nutritionist, I frequently get asked about the role sugar plays in health and diseases like cancer. This is not so often about added sugars in candy or cake since pretty much most people get it that these are not cancer friendly or longevity supportive foods. Instead, they want to know about the sugar found in fruit.

There are very mixed messages in the media and from self-proclaimed so-called "wellness experts" providing information advising against eating bananas that are simply not scientifically sound. I have to set someone straight nearly every week on the myth that eating fruit is unhealthy.

So here are the common myths - Debunked…

Myth #1: a Banana Contains Too Much Sugar - it’s just like eating a candy bar

Your average medium banana contains 14 grams of sugar. Sure this is not a small amount and equal to the amount of sugar in one ounce of dark chocolate. The difference, however, is that a banana's sugar is entirely natural, while the sugar in chocolate is all added sugars.

Bananas contain, on average, 3 grams of fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar into our blood - in other words lowering its glycemic index. Some of this fiber comes from pectins, which further slows the digestion of carbohydrates, lessening a blood glucose (sugar) spike. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have been told that your blood sugar is a little high, you can still enjoy bananas. Also to help further lessen the sugar spike, pair a banana with protein and healthy fat such as a nut or seed butter or yogurt.

Snacking on fruit is very different from eating a candy bar! In addition to the fiber, bananas contain important vitamins and minerals (like potassium, vitamin C and B6) and over 1 gram of protein!

Myth #2: Bananas Are Fattening

At around 100 calories, a banana contains less than half a gram of fat. It is true that when excess sugar is digested and absorbed it can be stored as fat, but if you're eating when you're hungry and not overeating, this will not happen from eating a 100-calorie banana.

Myth #3: Of the fruit to Eat, a Banana Is a Bad Choice

Why bananas get a bad rap in the fruit world is something that I have not been able to figure out. Who started this rumor anyway? Their nutritional stats are pretty similar to many other popular fruits. For instance, like a banana, a medium apple contains around 100 calories and less than 0.5 grams fat. But the apple contains more sugar (19 grams) and less protein (0.5 grams) than a banana. One cup of seedless grapes has 23 grams of sugar, with less fiber and less protein than a banana. In addition, bananas contain:

  • 17 percent daily value of vitamin C - a powerful antioxidant and immune booster.

  • 422 milligrams or 12 percent daily value of potassium - important for the cardiovascular system: lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of stroke and help reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol.

  • 22 percent daily value of vitamin B6 - a vital co-factor in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine which are important chemicals in our nervous system for modulating cognition, mood, learning, memory, and numerous physiological processes.

Bottom line: Yes, there are fruits that contain less sugar than a banana (such as berries, citrus fruits and melon), but bananas are healthy, portable, inexpensive and highly accessible. Enjoy a banana today. I am in fact eating one while writing this article…

Fabio AlmeidaeZine42, Retreat3