This go-to fruit was recently blasted for being an unhealthy breakfast choice and snack. Our Fight the Fads team of student dietitians peel back this latest piece of ‘nutrition’ nonsense to get at the real facts
When Her, a popular online Irish magazine for women, reported that ‘A banana for breakfast isn’t such a great idea after all’, the article was shared by 854 people. It will have left many people questioning whether this popular fruit was such a good nutrition option after all.
The advice was dispensed by a Dr Daryl Gioffre. While he sounds official, Dr Gioffre is in fact a chiropractor, alkaline-lifestyle expert, health coach, and ‘certified raw-food chef’. This ‘expert’ is not a medical doctor or a registered nutritionist or dietitian. As trainee dietitians, we’ve picked off his negative claims about bananas one by one to bring you accurate nutrition evidence behind his misleading claims.
* CLAIM 1 Bananas aren’t a good breakfast option.
The good news is that bananas are a great source of many nutrients such as potassium (important for heart health), and fibre (important for a healthy gut). Large population studies have shown that a diet high in fruits and veg (including bananas!) can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
* CLAIM 2 You shouldn’t snack on a banana after a meal.
It’s quite the opposite – a pilot study in 2014 showed that eating bananas every day marginally improved blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. Any extra portion of fruit or veg that we can sneak in to reach our 5-a-day is a bonus – you don’t need to be worrying about the timing of when you eat it!
Bananas are the fruit of choice for some athletes due to their nutritional benefits. For example, they contain as much carbohydrate as some energy drinks (around 25g). So, you may like to consume a banana before or after sport as a cheaper and more convenient option for boosting performance.
* CLAIM 3 If you eat a banana as a snack, it should be eaten with healthy fats or spice to avoid a sugar high.
It is true that the effect of a food on blood sugar levels (known as the glycaemic index or GI) can be influenced by many factors, eg: the protein and fat in other foods eaten that day. However, there is no evidence to suggest that adding spice to your banana will lower its GI.
Most of us will eat a banana as part of a meal, so demonising a single food based on its GI is not particularly useful in most healthy people. But fear not – even if you opt for a solo banana at breakfast, the effects on your blood sugar will be modest, the same as for many other fruits such as grapes. That said, the greener the banana, the lower the GI. This is due to the higher amounts of resistant starch in unripe bananas. So, if you are keen to minimise the effects on blood sugar, you could opt for a less-ripe banana.
* CLAIM 4 Bananas are acidic and should therefore be ‘neutralised’ to get the benefits of the nutrients without the sugar rush.
Now this really is bananas. Our blood is part of a very clever homeostatic system, which can maintain a constant pH regardless of the acidity of the foods we eat.
The Fight the Fads verdict
As you’d have expected, we concluded that bananas are a nutrient-rich food that make a positive contribution to a healthy, balanced diet. Many of the claims made by Her are misleading and often incorrect. Always take your nutrition advice from a qualified and regulated professional, such as a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian.
The Fight the Fads team is, from left, Elizabeth Cresta, Caroline Day and Harriet Smith. Read more from them at fightthefads.com.