When Did the Banana Become
the Enemy?

Hello Party People,

Here’s the thing … I LOOOOVE my bananas!  They are super nutritious and the perfect on-the-go snack.  My kind of fast food. So when I recently heard some disparaging remarks about my main squeeze – the banana, I figured it was time to set the record straight.

I was  listening to a pretty popular healthy living podcast, where the host was giving his co-host a hard time because she was trying to lose weight and had used a banana in her morning smoothie.  So I’m thinking to myself – a banana is pretty healthy – it’s high in potassium – great for heart health and blood pressure; high in vitamin C to boost immune function; high in fiber which lowers cholesterol and improves digestion; and high in folate which promotes healthy red blood cells.  So what’s up … what is he talking about?

Then he said it … it has too much sugar which can cause weight gain.

Now, I’ve heard this argument a lot, but it really bugged me this time, because it was coming from a holistic health guru, whose podcast reaches thousands of people.  Most of us are already confused enough about nutrition – the last thing we need as we are trying to make the right choices, are messages that fruits are not good to consume.

Is fruit sugar bad?

Here’s the deal … we all know that too much sugar is bad for health and for weight loss. But there is a big difference between the sugar that is found naturally in foods and that which is artificially added.  This is so important, it bears repeating.

The sugar in fruit (naturally occurring) is not treated by the body the same as the sugar in a cola (artificially added).

The sugar in fruit is not concentrated.  It is wrapped in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants – all of which affect the way the sugar is processed in our bodies.

  • Fiber is key.  It slows down digestion which slows down how quickly the sugar from fruit hits your bloodstream.  Take a medium apple for instance – it has about 19 grams of sugar –  you get a slow release of  this sugar, which keeps you full and energized and your blood sugar stable over a period of time.  Contrast that with a 20 oz can of cola – which has 68 grams of concentrated sugar – hitting your bloodstream very quickly, skyrocketing your sugar levels – ultimately leading to the dreaded crash.  At that point – cue hunger pangs. Elevated blood sugars lead to weight gain and disease.  Moreover … notice the distinction between the two – Fruits fill you up and can reduce overall caloric intake, while added sugars can spark hunger and ultimately increase calorie intake.
  • The fiber will also slow how quickly fructose hits your liver while the vitamin C and other antioxidants in fruit help to neutralize the effects of fructose.  Now there’s been a lot of demonizing of fructose on the web … but the truth is that fructose is only damaging in large amounts.  To put it in context, a banana has about 7 grams of fructose (wrapped in fiber and nutrients), while a 20 oz cola has about 36 grams of pure high fructose corn syrup. NO COMPARISON!

Honestly, rather than worrying about fruit, I’m MUCH more concerned with the sugar in processed foods and sodas.  Yes … I’d much rather you eat a smoothie with a banana, than a pop tart or a muffin.

Nature’s Candy!

Think of fruit as nature’s candy.  Most of us have a sweet tooth (well I speak for myself).  Wouldn’t it be a horrid joke if Mother Nature gave us a sweet tooth but nothing to satisfy it?  That would be downright cruel!  But she didn’t – that’s why we have fruits :-).

Are there people who should watch their sugar intake … even from fruit? Sure – those with candida issues, some who are insulin resistant and those who are on an ultra low carb diet. These people would likely benefit from less sweet fruit and around 1-2 servings per day.

For most of us though, fruits offer a diversity of nutrients and should be part of any healthy living plan.

But of course, everything in moderation.  Even fruit has calories – so aim for 3-5 servings per day and eat whole fruit so that you get the benefit of the fiber.  We are all pretty darn busy, so what’s an easier, healthy, delicious snack than an apple or banana or a handful of grapes?  Not only do you satisfy your sweet tooth, you also minimize cravings for something far sweeter later.

We have been eating fruits for many, many thousands of years – throughout the evolution process.  I’d dare say that our bodies are more than equipped to handle fruit sugar … and to thrive on it or in spite of it.  This is not just my opinion – Studies show that people who consume the most fruit, generally weigh less, have lower risk of chronic disease (including heart disease, diabetes to name a few) and are healthier overall. BAM!

Still not convinced that you won’t gain weight from that banana? Google fruitarians (people who eat mainly fruit)… you would be hard pressed to find an overweight one. Just sayin’

As you can see, sugar in our diet is not a black and white issue – it very much depends on the source of the sugar. Just be content in knowing that there is a middle ground … one that includes delicious bananas!  Speaking of which – you can download my favorite smoothies with bananas here – “Fastest Smoothie Eva” and “Meal in a Glass” recipes.

Take home message …

Don’t be afraid to eat your fruit – they are not a concentrated source of sugar. Instead they pack a nutritious punch and the sugar comes packaged with fiber and other nutrients, which mitigates any blood sugar impact, which keeps us full and which can neutralize effects of fructose on the liver – Win-Win! Aim for 3-5 servings a day.

So be sure to share this article … we have to spread the word Party People!

Now I want to hear from you.  Are you afraid of bananas because of the sugar?  Do you generally limit the amount of fruit you eat because you think you will gain weight?  Will reading this article change your mind? Comment freely … I looooove it.

Until next time Party People.