It probably won't surprise you to learn that the two most popular fruits in the United States are apples and bananas. In fact, the Produce Marketing Association found that 73 and 69 percent of shoppers buy bananas and apples, respectively. Luckily, both fruits can be easily incorporated into your weight-loss plan.
Apples and bananas offer a variety of health benefits and are nutrient-dense, offering plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals for a relatively low calorie count. Still, too much of a good thing can sometimes become a roadblock in your weight-loss efforts — so make sure to manage your portion sizes.
Read more: Why Do Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight?
Are Apples Good for Weight Loss?
"There is evidence that eating apples can help people lose weight," says Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Champagne Nutrition. "Like many other fruits, apples are low in calories, high in fiber and water, and rich in nutrients that the body needs, all of which can contribute to weight management."
A March 2008 analysis published in the journal Appetite found that people who ate three apples a day lost two pounds over a 10-week period. Losing weight may be associated with how you incorporate the fruit into your diet. "Apples can possibly help a person lose weight if they are choosing the apple in place of something a lot less nutritious," says Keri Gans, RDN, a New York City-based nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet.
"Ideally, people would combine that apple with some protein for optimal fullness," she adds. Gans explains that if someone was previously choosing a candy bar, and then opted for a small apple with a single serving of nuts, that swap could help curb their appetite.
Specifically, one medium (3-inch diameter) apple with skin provides 95 calories, 0.3 grams of total fat, 25 grams of carbs (4.4 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar), 0.5 grams of protein, 8.4 milligrams of vitamin C and 195 milligrams of potassium, according to the USDA. Additionally, Hultin highlights that apples offer various antioxidants, like anthocyanins (in red varieties) and flavonols, as well as vitamin C.
One of the key types of fiber in apples is pectin, a soluble fiber. Animal research published in PLoS One in October 2015 suggests that pectin may be effective for decreasing calorie intake, decreasing body fat and boosting satiety.
And a review in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology suggests that people who get enough vitamin C may have a lower risk of developing obesity and other ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers.
Are Bananas Good for Weight Loss?
Although bananas often get a bad rap for being high in sugar, they're packed with nutrients and fiber, which helps stabilize your blood sugar. "Although bananas contain slightly higher natural sugar content than apples, they also have been linked to weight loss," say Hultin.
A March 2019 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ate green bananas had a lower body weight, body fat, BMI, blood glucose, insulin levels and blood pressure thanks to the resistant starch, a type of fiber, found in the fruit. Just another reason to eat that banana before it's full of brown spots.
An April 2010 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that unripe banana starch is resistant to digestion, resulting in a significant reduction of body weight (3.5 pounds) and BMI after four weeks.
Gans likes that bananas are a good source of fiber, potassium, B6 and vitamin C. Specifically, one medium banana provides 105 calories, 0.4 grams of total fat, 27 grams of carbs (3.1 grams of dietary fiber, 14.4 grams of sugar), 1.3 grams of protein, 10.3 milligrams of vitamin C and 422 milligrams of potassium, according to the USDA.
And that solid potassium content is especially beneficial if you're active. "Bananas are a great recovery food post-workout to help balance electrolytes," says Hultin.
Read more: Top 10 Health Benefits of Bananas
How Many Servings of Fruit You Need Per Day
Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend two cup-equivalents of fruit per day. And that's ideally achieved via whole fruits — not juice, since it's easier to overindulge in liquids, leading to calorie overconsumption. Plus, some juice drinks or juice cocktails contain little real fruit juice and a lot of added sugars.
For instance, a one-cup portion of berries counts as a one-cup equivalent of fruit as does one medium apple or one medium banana.
"Though apples are generally a low-calorie food, they come in different sizes — some as small as a tight fist and some as large as a baseball (or bigger)," says Hultin. She adds that apples can range from about 55 to 60 calories in a very small fruit to as much as 130 calories in larger fruit. Gans generally advises going with a small fruit that's around 75 calories.
Like apples, bananas come in many different sizes too. A small banana contains about 70 to 80 calories while a large fruit may provide up to 135 calories, says Hultin. "Size makes a difference here if you're counting calories," she adds. "Many people seeking to lose weight should opt either for a half a serving or a smaller size," says Gans.
How to Eat Apples and Bananas for Weight Loss
In simple terms, losing weight requires a caloric deficit, which is achieved by either cutting calorie intake, increasing energy expenditure or, ideally, a combination of both. However, apples and bananas both provide a variety of health-promoting nutrients that can be essential for supporting weight-management efforts.
One of the standouts for both apples and bananas is their fiber content. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Unfortunately, only about 5 percent of Americans meet these guidelines, according to a 2017 report in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Enjoying apples and bananas can help you meet that fiber need. And that can be beneficial for weight-loss efforts since fiber helps boost satiety and prevents you from mindless snacking.
While apples are rich in the soluble fiber pectin, bananas contain resistant starch. Since resistant starch passes through you undigested, it helps balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller for longer.
Over time, eating both apples and bananas is associated with less weight gain, according to a September 2015 analysis in PLOS Medicine. As for weight loss, specifically, Gans puts it all into perspective: While an apple or a banana simply by itself may not inherently promote weight loss, no single food does. "It is how that food is incorporated into an overall diet that matters."
Apples and Bananas for Dessert
One challenge many dieters face during their weight-loss journey is calming their sweet tooth. Luckily, apples and bananas can be used as a dessert — or as part of a dessert. For example, baking apples creates a sweeter and potentially more satisfying dessert. Fuji and gala varieties can be used to bake a calorie-friendly apple crisp along with whole-grain oats and cinnamon.
Hultin suggests slicing up an apple and dipping the wedges into flavorful, yogurt-based sauces. Gans adds, "I like to recommend using an apple corer to make easy-to-eat wedges." She also suggests placing an apple in a microwavable dish, cooking it until softened and then topping with plain yogurt and cinnamon.
Bananas also are great for dessert when blended into a satisfying smoothie or when sliced and served warm. You can top the slices with plain Greek yogurt, pistachios and cacao nibs. For a simple, whole-food-based dessert, Hultin recommends pureeing frozen bananas into a tasty "nice-cream." She likes to combine it with other healthy add-ins such as unsweetened cocoa powder. And if you like to bake, consider using some mashed banana in place of up to half of the butter or other fat called for in a recipe to create a better-for-you dessert that's just as delicious!
Apples and Bananas Make for Great Snacks
Apples and bananas are quick and easy to grab when you're at work, school or on the road. These portable snacks can be easily paired with string cheese, low-fat milk, yogurt, nuts or natural nut butter for a well-balanced snack. Combining apples or bananas with a lean protein or healthy source of fat (or both!) can provide satiety to better help you manage calorie intake, potentially helping your weight-loss efforts.
"I suggest my clients pop an apple in a purse or backpack for easy on-the-go snacking anywhere the day takes them," says Hultin.
Read more: 19 Easy 100-Calorie Snacks That Satisfy
As for bananas, Gans loves one with either a tablespoon of nut butter, a half cup of cottage cheese or some yogurt with a drizzle of honey. "Bananas pair amazingly with peanut or almond butter for a wonderful balance of complex carbs, healthy fat and protein," says Hultin.
- PMA: "Top 20 Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the U.S."
- Appetite: "A Low-Energy-Dense Diet Adding Fruit Reduces Weight and Energy Intake in Women"
- PLoS One: "Soluble Fermentable Dietary Fibre (Pectin) Decreases Caloric Intake, Adiposity and Lipidaemia in High-Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats"
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: "Effects of Native Banana Starch Supplementation on Body Weight and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Type 2 Diabetics"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Beneficial Effects of Green Banana Biomass Consumption in Patients with Pre-diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes: a Randomized Controlled Trial"
- PLOS Medicine: "Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies"
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
- USDA Nutrient Database: "Apples, Raw, With Skin, Medium"
- USDA Nutrient Database: "Bananas, Raw, Medium"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap"
- Champagne Nutrition: "About"
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: "Vitamin C in the Treatment and/or Prevention of Obesity"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"