Yes, bananas are Paleo.
Bananas are one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the United States. It’s no surprise, considering they’re full of sugary sweetness that makes them the perfect addition to comfort foods like pancakes, bread, cookies and muffins.
Bananas’ claim to fame is that they’re a great source of potassium and quick-releasing carbohydrates, which is one reason why they’re so loved by athletes. Potassium is a vital electrolyte that helps the body maintain fluid balance, heart health and muscular functioning, which means bananas are at the top of most people’s lists when they reach for a pre- or post-workout snack. But how about people who aren’t particularly active, or those who are working on losing weight and controlling their blood sugar better—are bananas a bad choice?
Like nearly all natural foods that come directly from the earth, bananas have many benefits—especially for people who are pretty active and can afford to eat more carbohydrates and sugar-containing fruit. Bananas are packed with vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C and potassium too. However there’s still some debate as to whether or not modern-day bananas are too far removed from their “wild” banana ancestors (which supposedly tasted much less sweet and had very large seeds), and also if they’re a bit are too sugary for the average person. So, it seems they need to be considered on a case-by-case bases.
Banana Nutrition Breakdown
According to the USDA, one medium size banana has roughly:
- 110 calories
- .5 grams of fat
- 27 grams of carbohydrates
- 14 grams of sugar
- 3 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of protein
- 25% vitamin B6
- 16% manganese
- 14% vitamin C
- 12% potassium
- 12% fiber
- 10% copper
- 10% biotin
- 8% magnesium
As you can see, for 110 calories, nutrient-wise bananas give you a pretty good “bang for their buck”. What are some ways that their nutrients benefit you? For starters, they supply a good dose of carbohydrates, especially glucose. While carbs can trigger some fear in anyone following a low-carb plan, not consuming enough of them (especially if you’re working out often or you’re prone to mood-related problems) can result in fatigue, mood disorders and poor concentration. The carbs, electrolytes and sugar from bananas are completely natural and easy to absorb, unlike the kinds that we’d get from energy bars, bottled sports drinks, etc.
Bananas also give you some stress-busting B vitamins, like vitamin B6. All B vitamins, along with minerals like manganese, help turn macronutrients from food into usable energy for the body, breaking down carbs, proteins and fat so they can be utilized properly. Vitamin B6 in particular, which bananas provide about 25 percent of your daily value of) is important for maintaining brain function, supporting a strong metabolism, hormonal balance, and energy levels.
We tend to associate vitamin C with citrus fruits, but bananas actually supply a good dose of that antioxidant too. Vitamin C is an important anti-inflammatory and is linked with the prevention of cancer, keeping skin’s appearance youthful into old age, preserving eye health and vision, and much more. The benefits don’t stop there—manganese and folate are important for cognitive processing, bone health and prevention of osteoporosis and synthesis of nutrients like cholesterol, carbohydrates and proteins.
Now, you don’t want to go eating bananas with every meal. They are a bit higher in sugar than some other fruit, especially berries, and not as nutrient-dense as fruits like oranges grapefruit, kiwis and berries. While fruit can definitely play a part in even a low-carb, weight-loss diet, fruits that are higher in sugar are less efficient in inhibiting weight gain and increasing weight loss. Although they’re natural, fruit still contains quick-acting “simple sugars”, because they flood the body with fructose quickly. Too much fruit is unlikely to lead to insulin resistance or diabetes, but it might stall weight loss and not do much to curb someone’s appetite in some cases.
One thing to point out, however, is that along with sugar bananas provide fiber. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, makes us feel full, and it’s your best way to get enough of it is through vegetables and fruits. Fiber is a vital nutrient, essential to weight loss, digestive and heart health–and unfortunately, the American diet is dangerously deficient in fiber. Low-fiber diets are linked with hemorrhoids, constipation, overrating, weight gain, and diabetes.
So the bottom line on bananas? They are in fact Paleo, are a completely natural food, and provide a number of valuable nutrients, but they are higher in sugar than some other fruits. Still, they’re definitely a much better option for satisfying your sweet tooth than say packaged, refined sugary snacks or enriched/bleached grain products are.
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