There are a lot of outlandish fad diets out there, but the banana and milk diet is one that takes the cake. The restrictive diet promises rapid weight loss, with the requirement that you eat only bananas and drink only skim milk.
Although bananas and milk do have health benefits, following such a restrictive diet isn't typically a good idea. While you may lose weight, it's unlikely that you'll sustain it once you return to normal eating habits.
Banana and Milk Diet
Although it's difficult to find specific information on the banana and milk diet, a newspaper article published in the Milwaukee Journal in May 1934 gives clues that it originated around that time and was first introduced to the public by George A. Harrop Jr., MD, a doctor who received his education from Johns Hopkins University.
As the name suggests, the banana and milk diet consists of eating only bananas and drinking milk. The specific diet details suggest that you eat four bananas and drink a few glasses of nonfat milk, but nothing else, each day. The diet was originally designed as a way to prevent diabetes, but Dr. Harrop also claimed that following this protocol would help you lose 6 to 10 pounds in a period of two weeks.
While there were mixed reviews, the health commissioner at the time stated that you should follow a diet consisting solely of milk and bananas only if monitored by your doctor for harmful effects. And he was right. While there are health benefits offered by both milk and bananas, following a diet consisting of only these two foods is generally not recommended.
The Downsides of the Diet
In a June 1934 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (one of the only available scientific reports on the diet), Dr. Harrop states that weight reduction usually involves breaking a firmly ingrained habit and that a simple, easily measured diet without a lot of variation can help do the trick. But, restricting food intake so severely doesn't teach you how to navigate the real world of varying food choices in a way that benefits your health.
You may lose weight on a diet like this, but it's unlikely that you'll be able to stick to it long-term. It also steers you away from making healthy food choices that allow you to maintain your weight loss.
The diet is also low in calories (providing barely over 1,000 calories per day), lacks fat that can help keep you full and is high in carbohydrates. While low-calorie diets may help you lose weight initially, it's highly likely that the weight will return once you start eating normally again. To add insult to injury, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets may not be as effective as high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets when it comes to losing weight, according to a September 2014 report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Benefits of Bananas
There are, however, benefits gained by including bananas and milk in your diet — it's just a better idea to work them into a healthy, balanced diet that consists of a wide variety of whole foods, rather than restricting your dietary consumption to just one food and one beverage.
Bananas contain several nutrients including:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
But one of their biggest claims to fame is their potassium content. A single medium banana boasts 422 milligrams of potassium, which is about 12 to 16 percent of the amount you need for the entire day, depending on whether you're a man or a woman.
Adequate amounts of potassium are necessary for almost every function in your body. The mineral plays a role in everything from heart health to muscle function to proper signaling of your nervous system. Including enough potassium in your diet can keep your blood pressure normal, reduce your risk of kidney stones, contribute to healthy bones and reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
What About Resistant Starch?
Bananas are also high in a specific type of carbohydrate, called resistant starch, which passes through your digestive system mostly unabsorbed, just like fiber. Resistant starch acts like a prebiotic because it provides a food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut and contributes to an optimum balance of good bacteria.
Resistant starch also helps balance your blood sugar, prevents constipation, decreases cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of colon cancer. But, keep in mind that levels of resistant starch are highest in greener bananas. As the banana turns yellow, the resistant starch turns to regular starch, so eat your bananas while the peel is still slightly green to reap the most benefits.
Benefits of Milk
Although dairy gets a lot of flak, milk can actually be really good for you if you choose the right kind. According to a November 2016 report in Food and Nutrition Research, milk can help keep your bones strong, reduce your risk of certain cancers, improve your body composition and help you maintain a healthy weight, and reduce your risk of heart disease (stroke, most notably).
But not all milk is created equal. When compared to conventional milk, grass-fed milk, which comes from cows who are allowed to consume their natural diet, is higher in beneficial compounds like omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) and lower in omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation when consumed in excess. So, go for grass-fed if you can.
It's also a good idea to reach for full-fat milk instead of skim milk, as the banana and milk diet recommends. According to a report published in the Journal of Nutrition in January 2016, full-fat milk provides many more health benefits than low-fat varieties.
Researchers from the study looked at the effects of milk on markers of metabolic syndrome, like blood pressure, waist circumference, glucose tolerance, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and found that, while consumption of full-fat milk improved these markers and reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome, drinking low-fat milk did not.
Putting the Two Together
If you eat a banana with milk, benefits could be even greater. Bananas contain beneficial carbohydrates, while milk, especially full-fat milk, is high in both fat and highly-digestible protein. When you consume a meal that contains a balance of the right types of carbohydrates, protein and fat, it can help you feel full and promote a healthy weight.
While it can be extremely beneficial to work both bananas and milk into your diet, you don't have to go to extremes by following a diet plan that consists of only the two foods. You can reap the same benefits following a properly balanced nutrition plan.
- Milwaukee Journal: "Reducing on a Banana-Milk Diet Brings Warning From Medical Men"
- Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes: "What Is Resistant Starch?"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Bananas"
- Food and Nutrition Research: "Milk and Dairy Products: Good or Bad for Human Health? An Assessment of the Totality of Scientific Evidence"
- Journal of Nutrition: "Total and Full-Fat, but Not Low-fat, Dairy Product Intakes Are Inversely Associated With Metabolic Syndrome in Adults"
- Journal of the American Medical Association: "A Milk and Banana Diet for the Treatment of Obesity"
- University of Minnesota Extension: "Grass-Fed Cows Produce Healthier Milk"
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: "Potassium"
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Bananas, Raw"
- American Psychological Association: "Why Do Dieters Regain Weight?"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets"
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Milk, Nonfat, Fluid, Without Added Vitamin A and Vitamin D (Fat Free or Skim)"