After potatoes and spaghetti, bananas might just be the most misunderstood food in America. The mainstream media (i.e. magazines, fitness tv shows, and diet books) tells us to shun bananas because they are:
A. High in calories
C. High in carbs
Once again, I feel compelled to argue against the media. On a recent post, I received an insightful comment from reader who said:
Do you ever watch the show The Biggest Loser? I have been watching it for a few seasons now and I find it incredibly inspiring about 55% of the time and completely aggravating the other 45% of the time. This week they gave the contestants a challenge where they had to order out their food for all 3 meals for 7 days. When the contestants were discussing fruit salad they mentioned that they should for sure not get banana or pineapple. I was shocked! Who in their right mind would cut bananas out when they were working out everyday.
Although I’ve never seen the show, I’ve sadly come across that type of thinking too. The media tells us that bananas = high-calorie, and therefore they must be bad for us. Some diet gurus go as far as to almost suggest that even looking at a banana will cause one to balloon up like Harry Potter’s Aunt Marge.
(No wonder people are scared of bananas!)
I’m anticipate someone will say, “Katie, you don’t need to lose weight, so of course you can have bananas. But some of us are trying to lose weight, and therefore we should stay away from them, opting to eat lower-calorie fruits instead.”
My answer: I would argue that bananas can be a healthy addition to almost anyone’s diet (unless you have an allergy or are like my sister and don’t like the taste). While it’s true that a banana has more calories than, say, a strawberry, if you only eat strawberries, you’ll be missing out on variety—and thus important vitamins and nutrients. Plus, if you eat too few calories, you’ll lack energy to do any form of exercise.
What people don’t think about is the fact that calories are not meaningless numbers: They stand for something. I don’t agree with the mantra that “a calorie is a calorie.” How can you equate calories from trans fat to calories that come from fiber?
Some calories provide protein, others carbohydrates to fuel one’s life (and give one the energy to get off the couch!). Some calories go to the brain, others to the heart. Bananas might be high in calories, but these aren’t empty calories. Bananas are a great source of a plethora of nutrients, including B and C vitamins, magnesium, fiber, and potassium (which is essential in maintaining the function of the blood vessels and the heart). I’d argue that it’s much healthier–no matter your weight–to eat a 200-calorie banana than a refined 100-calorie snack pack. While the snack pack is lower in calories, it is also lower in essential nutrients.
Bananas are like nature’s energy bars—self-wrapped and ready to eat! No mess, no fuss, and they’re certainly cheaper than most energy bars. Even if they were diet derailers (I know I’m not a doctor, but I seriously doubt they are), wouldn’t you rather be five pounds heavier if it meant you got to enjoy a delicious—and über healthy—dish such as Brownie Batter Oatmeal?
Bananas are a crucial ingredient in so many of my recipes, including:
- Banana Bread in a Bowl
- Banana Brulee Oatmeal
- Peanut Butter and Banana Fusion
- Banana Butter (pictured below)
Don’t fear the humble banana. It will not make you look like Aunt Marge (*shudder*). Instead, go out and celebrate this energy-packed carb!