Milkshakes aren't usually on the "healthy" list, but if you make your own with quality ingredients, there are some health benefits of a banana milkshake. You'll have to forgo ice cream, but you can use milk, frozen bananas and Greek yogurt to mimic the consistency while upping the nutritional value.
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The end result will be a protein-rich banana milkshake that's also filled with probiotics, healthy fats, potassium, antioxidants and several other vitamins and minerals. In addition to helping you meet your nutrient needs, a homemade banana milkshake may also be excellent for boosting exercise performance and recovery.
If you make your own, there are many benefits of a banana shake. Homemade banana milkshakes are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin C and are an excellent choice for a pre-workout snack or a recovery drink. They also contain healthy fats and high-quality protein, if you use the right ingredients.
Making a Banana Milkshake
Traditionally, a milkshake is made with a combination of ice cream, milk and a little vanilla extract. If you want a basic vanilla milkshake, you use vanilla ice cream. If you prefer chocolate, you can swap out the vanilla ice cream for chocolate ice cream or add a little chocolate syrup into the mix. But, while your taste buds love these combinations, your body doesn't.
Regular milkshakes are chock-full of sugar, which can contribute to weight gain, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. They also likely contain a lot of artificial ingredients (depending on which ice cream you use) that can contribute to other health problems. While the milk provides some health benefits, it's overshadowed by the other ingredients.
The solution is to make your own version of a milkshake by using frozen banana, milk, a little yogurt and some vanilla extract. If you want to up the protein content, you can also add a little vanilla or chocolate protein powder, which will also add sweetness and contribute to a smoother texture.
If you're making a banana milkshake for one, use one-half of a ripe frozen banana, 1 cup of full-fat milk, one-fourth cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt and one-half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add a scoop of protein powder, if you're using it, and blend it all together until smooth.
Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are valued for their potassium content, but the starchy fruit offers so much more than that. In addition to providing over 200 milligrams in potassium, the half of a banana that you'll use in your milkshake also contains significant amounts of:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
According to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, eating bananas has been associated with improved heart health, reduced risk of heart disease, weight loss and better digestive health. Bananas are also rich in antioxidant compounds called polyphenols that help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like cancer, age-related macular degeneration, Type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Read more: 16 Surprising Facts About Bananas
Health Benefits of Banana Shakes
In addition to providing important vitamins and minerals, banana milkshakes may also be an excellent choice for improving exercise performance and recovery. One study, published in PLOS One in May 2012, compared bananas to a typical carbohydrate-rich sports drink in endurance cyclists. The researchers found that bananas were able to replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates as effectively as sports drinks, but without the downside of any added sugar or artificial ingredients.
Another study published in PLOS One in March 2018 looked at the effects of bananas on post-workout recovery and found that eating a banana after endurance exercise can help reduce post-exercise inflammation and help reduce pain following an intense workout.
The carbohydrates and protein in the milk used can also help replenish glycogen stores and increase protein synthesis in the muscle, which helps you regain your energy after a workout and build new muscle.
Benefits of Milk
Although opinions are mixed when it comes to dairy, adding some full-fat milk to your banana milkshake comes with its own benefits. Milk is a good source of calcium, vitamin D and highly-digestible protein. According to a report published in the Journal of Nutrition in January 2016, full-fat dairy is also associated with a decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
The researchers note that the saturated fatty acids can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, control blood sugar and decrease blood pressure, so this effect isn't seen with low-fat dairy.
Of course, if you're lactose intolerant or vegan or if you just prefer not to use dairy milk, you can use a nondairy alternative like full-fat coconut milk in your banana milkshake. Full-fat coconut milk has special benefits because most of the fat in the milk comes from medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs) that work in unique ways in your body. MCTs are absorbed and metabolized quickly, so they're used for immediate energy instead of being stored as body fat.
You can also use banana milk, which is made from a combination of bananas and water. In addition to adding the same vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as bananas, banana milk also adds a little more sweetness to your milkshake.
Benefits of Yogurt
You don't have to add yogurt to your banana milkshake, but doing so can add a little more protein (especially if you use Greek yogurt), calcium and a dose of beneficial probiotics, or good bacteria, that can keep your gut healthy. The Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health notes that imbalances in the good bacteria in your gut have been connected to serious issues like:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic inflammatory diseases (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis)
Adding yogurt to your banana milkshake can provide important probiotics that help promote the growth of good bacteria and balance your gut, reducing your risk of experiencing these chronic issues. Many yogurts are also fortified with vitamin D, a nutrient that helps keep your bones and muscles healthy and boosts your immune system. Vitamin D is hard to get from diet alone since it isn't naturally found in many foods.
Another study that was published in Advances in Nutrition in January 2017 looked at the effects of combining yogurt with fruit, like bananas, to see if there were any other added benefits.
The researchers reported that, while both yogurt and fruit have health benefits on their own, consuming them together causes a synergistic effect that makes them even more beneficial for preventing diet-related diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. They speculated that it could be due to the probiotics provided by the yogurt and the prebiotic fiber in the fruit that work together to support gut health, so having a healthy banana shake for breakfast can set you off on the right foot.
Choosing a Yogurt
Be careful about which yogurt you choose, though. Many yogurts available contain lots of added sugar that can quickly turn your homemade banana milkshake into a not-so-healthy treat. Choose a yogurt that contains fewer than 10 grams of sugar per serving. This amount of sugar comes from lactose, which is naturally found in the milk, rather than added sugar.
As with milk, it's also beneficial to opt for full-fat over low-fat or nonfat. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in December 2013, full-fat yogurt is more beneficial than low-fat yogurt for reducing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that can contribute to heart disease.
Check the ingredients list too. Yogurt needs only two ingredients: milk and probiotics. Look at your labels and choose a yogurt that contains minimal ingredients to make sure you're not getting any extra additives, like artificial sweeteners, that you don't want.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Dairy: Health Food or Health Risk?"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Bananas"
- PLOS One: "Bananas as an Energy Source During Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach"
- PLOS One: "Metabolic Recovery From Heavy Exertion Following Banana Compared to Sugar Beverage or Water Only Ingestion: A Randomized, Crossover Trial"
- Food Quality and Safety: "Bioactive Compounds in Banana Fruits and Their Health Benefits"
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Bananas, Raw"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties"
- Journal of Dairy Science: "A 100-Year Review: Yogurt and Other Cultured Dairy Products"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Yogurt"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Effects of Low-Fat or Full-Fat Fermented and Non-Fermented Dairy Foods on Selected Cardiovascular Biomarkers in Overweight Adults"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Your Complete Guide to Choosing a Yogurt to Meet Your Needs"
- Journal of Nutrition: "Total and Full-Fat, but Not Low-Fat, Dairy Product Intakes Are Inversely Associated With Metabolic Syndrome in Adults"
- Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences: "Sugar Consumption, Metabolic Disease and Obesity: The State of the Controversy"
- Nutrition Review: "Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)"