If you avoid bananas because of their sugar content, think again. You are passing up a healthy snack that provides numerous vitamins and minerals, including fiber, potassium and vitamin C. When health organizations, such as the American Heart Association, recommend cutting back on sugar, they're talking about added sugars -- not the naturally occurring ones found in fruits.
Sugar in Bananas
A medium banana, measuring 7 to 7 7/8 inches long and weighing 118 grams, contains 14 grams of sugar. This amounts to about 53 percent of its total 105 calories. The sugar in bananas is primarily naturally-occurring fructose, although glucose, sucrose and maltose are also present. Pure fructose added to products can cause elevated triglycerides when eaten in excess. However, when fructose occurs naturally -- as in bananas -- and comes with a bundle of nutrients and fiber, it is unlikely to cause problems.
Significance of Sugars
Americans consume about 22.2 added teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These added sugars pad your diet with extra calories, which can cause weight gain and nutritional deficiencies as they replace more nutritious foods. The added sugars may also play a role in high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and inflammation that leaves you vulnerable to disease.
Added sugars are those not naturally found in foods. High-fructose corn syrup in bread, cane sugar in yogurt and honey in cereal are all examples of added sugars. Processed foods with added sugar usually have more sugar than whole, unprocessed foods and tend to be lower in nutritional value. The American Heart Association encourages you to limit your intake of added sugars to just 100 calories per day, or 6 teaspoons, if you are a woman; and 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons, if you are a man.
Bananas’ sugar comes with a quality nutrition package. In one medium banana, you get more than 3 grams of fiber, 10 percent daily recommended value for a 2,000-calorie diet. Fiber helps with proper digestion and can lower your cholesterol. A medium banana also provides 10 milligrams of vitamin C, an antioxidant critical to tissue repair and immunity. Bananas are also a source of vitamin B-6, intrinsic to energy production and metabolism, and folate, for healthy blood cells and the prevention of neural tube defects in a growing fetus. Bananas are a high-potassium food, with more than 420 milligrams per medium banana -- nearly 10 percent of your recommendation. Potassium helps keep your minerals and fluids balanced, promoting a regular heartbeat and muscle function. Bananas also contain magnesium, manganese and small amounts of iron; all needed for basic biological functions.