Bananas are a staple in many Americans' healthy diets, and for good reason -- they're widely available, relatively inexpensive and offer lots of nutritional value. They're a moderate source of calories -- so they can still work in your diet plan even if you're cutting calories -- and provide some key nutrients that can help you lose weight. Substituting a banana for a higher-calorie snack when you're on the go is one easy weight-loss strategy. Enjoy bananas on their own, or use them to add sweetness to healthy recipes.
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Moderate Calories for Weight Loss
Bananas aren't as low in calories as some fruits and veggies -- like some berries or leafy greens -- but they can still work well in a weight-loss diet if you stick to a regular portion size and count their calories toward your daily total. A medium-size banana, about 7.5 inches long, has just 105 calories. That's just 6 percent of your calorie "allowance" if you're following an 1,800-calorie weight-loss diet, or 9 percent of your daily calorie allowance on a more restrictive 1,200-calorie diet. A cup of sliced bananas has just 134 calories.
Because bananas travel well, they're a convenient way to stick to your diet on the go, and they're a lower-cal alternative to typical convenience food. A 2-ounce serving of plain potato chips, for example, has around 300 calories. If you ate a banana instead of potato chips twice a week, you'd save enough calories over the course of a year to lose almost 6 pounds of fat, even without making any other changes to your diet.
Vitamin C for Fat Burning
Bananas may be better known for their potassium content, but they also offer a significant amount of vitamin C, a nutrient that might help you lose weight and burn fat. People with healthy vitamin C levels are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight, while low vitamin C levels are linked to obesity, according to a review published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2005. Vitamin C also helps maximize the fat-burning potential of your workouts. Low vitamin C levels prevent your body from burning fat effectively during exercise, reports a 2006 study from Nutrition & Metabolism, and cuts your fat burn during exercise by 25 percent. Each medium banana offers 17 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. If you eat a cup of banana slices, you'll get 22 percent of the daily value.
Fiber for Weight Loss
Snacking on bananas also boosts your fiber intake, which can help you lose weight. Your body can't digest fiber and turn it into energy, so fiber doesn't have any calories, but it contributes to the bulk of your food. Fibrous foods tend to require more chewing as well, notes the Colorado State University Extension. That makes you eat more slowly, so your brain has time to get the message that you're full, and you're less likely to overeat.
Fiber might also offer other weight-loss benefits. As fiber passes through your digestive tract, it gets converted into acetate, a chemical that may communicate with your brain to help you feel full, according to a 2014 animal study published in Nature Communications. The researchers found that mice fed a high-fiber diet had higher levels of acetate in their brain, and they ate less and lost weight over the course of the study. While more research is needed to know how well this works in people, it hints that fiber-rich foods might help curb hunger signals from your brain, which should help you stick to your calorie-controlled diet.
Healthy Banana Serving Tips
Bananas work well as a snack on their own, or you can make them a more substantial meal. Try smoothing a teaspoon of all-natural almond butter on a banana and sprinkling with a teaspoon of cacao nibs for a healthy snack that offers protein, fiber and healthy fat. Or make "banana split" fruit salad from sliced bananas, strawberries and chopped cherries. Add half a frozen banana to your breakfast smoothie -- a mix of frozen banana, spinach, blueberries, a spoonful of ground flaxseeds and a scoop of protein powder makes for a filling shake -- or add sliced banana to your cereal. Use mashed banana in place of oil in your baked goods for more diet-friendly cooking, or add mashed banana and cinnamon to your oatmeal for a banana bread-inspired bowl.