According to Nutritionists, Are Bananas Actually a Healthy Snack?

Here, a deep dive into the nutritional benefits of bananas. Starting with: How many calories are in a banana?

March 30, 2022
Banana slices in bowl, top view


Banana slices in bowl, top view

Photo by: voltan1/Getty Images

voltan1/Getty Images

By Amy Gorin for Food Network Kitchen

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, CT.

Bananas are one of nature’s sweetest fruits. Plus, they’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—and are incredibly budget friendly. But many people are afraid of eating them for so many reasons. Rumors circulate: Bananas cause you to gain weight. Bananas are too sugary to eat. Is any of this true? Let’s investigate.

How Many Calories Are In a Banana?

A medium banana contains 105 calories, per the USDA’s FoodData Central database. That’s about the same amount of calories in a medium sweet potato or a cup of grapes. A small banana has 90 calories, while a large banana contains 121 calories.

“I have clients who eat a banana daily who are in their ideal weight range,” says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, a sports nutritionist and author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year. “Bananas are delicious, nutritious, and very versatile.”

Bananas are whole and cut on a slice in a cup on a gray background


Bananas are whole and cut on a slice in a cup on a gray background

Photo by: Detry26/Getty Images

Detry26/Getty Images

How Many Carbs Are In a Banana?

A medium banana contains 27 grams of carbohydrates, including 3 grams of fiber and 14 grams of sugar. “Bananas are a great source of fuel and are very filling,” says Koszyk. “The natural carbs from bananas can satisfy a sweet-tooth craving, while offering all the healthy benefits of eating fruit–such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.”

Plus, there’s a reason athletes are bananas for bananas: Carbs are our body’s main fuel source. “The carbohydrates in a banana can provide a quick source of easily digested energy in the form of glucose,” notes Andrea Goergen, MHS, RDN, owner of Cultivate Healthy in the Washington, DC area. Indeed, of the 14 grams of sugar in a banana, 6 grams of those are glucose. (For even more details about sugar in bananas, head over to our story Do Bananas Have too Much Sugar?).

“Bananas also offer carbs that aren't absorbed for energy, namely fiber and resistant starch,” she adds. If you choose a banana that’s green–versus one that’s yellow and ripe–you’ll get more of this beneficial resistant starch. “Unripe, green bananas are especially loaded with resistant starch, which acts as a prebiotic, the food for the healthy bacteria in your gut,” adds Goergen.

Peanut butter sandwiches with banana slices. Top view. Space for text


Peanut butter sandwiches with banana slices. Top view. Space for text

Photo by: happy_lark/Getty Images

happy_lark/Getty Images

Are Bananas a Healthy Snack?

Yes, bananas are an incredibly healthy and nutritious snack. “Bananas are an excellent snack because they’re filled with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fiber,” says Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian chef and founder of The Healthy Epicurean. “When it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance, foods that are a source of dietary fiber, like bananas, can help you feel fuller and more satisfied.”

One of the banana’s biggest claims to fame: its potassium content. “Bananas are known for being rich in potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that supports healthy muscle function,” says Goergen. One medium banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, about 9 percent of the daily value.

Bananas also boast immunity-helping vitamin C. Per medium banana, you get 10 milligrams of vitamin C, or 11 percent of the daily value. The list of nutrients in a banana doesn’t stop there. The fruit also contains vitamin B6, niacin, copper, and manganese in ample amounts. That’s a whole lot of nutrients in one piece of fruit!

For a banana to fuel you longer, combine it with a source of protein or healthy fat–such as Greek yogurt, nuts, nut butter, or avocado. Here are some snack ideas:

  • 1 banana + 2 tablespoons almonds
  • 1 banana + 2 tablespoons sunflower butter
  • 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt with 1 sliced banana
  • Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie
  • 1 whole-grain tortilla stuffed with 1 sliced banana, sprinkled with cinnamon
Woman slice ripe banana on wooden board for cooking or processing in the kitchen


Woman slice ripe banana on wooden board for cooking or processing in the kitchen

Photo by: Buppha Wuttifery / EyeEm/Getty Images

Buppha Wuttifery / EyeEm/Getty Images

Are Bananas Bad If You Are Trying to Lose Weight?

If you’re trying to lose weight, a banana is quite a fantastic food to incorporate into your diet. “A medium banana only has about 105 calories and is a good source of fiber,” says Goergen. “As part of a balanced diet with adequate protein, bananas can facilitate weight loss by supporting fullness and satiety. The fiber and prebiotic activity of bananas can promote a healthy gut, which may also help with managing weight.”

Plus, bananas work wonders when incorporated into pre- or post-workout snacks. “Fiber-filled foods keep us full longer, which aid in optimal weight loss,” says Koszyk. “In addition, when my clients need extra energy before an activity, their go-to is a banana since it has carbohydrates and is easy to digest.”

Not to mention, bananas are naturally sweet–especially very ripe ones. “Having some type of sweet carbohydrate is nice to reduce sugar cravings,” adds Koszyk. “This can help prevent people from snacking on candy, pastries, and other types of sugary sweets. Bananas can satisfy that sweet tooth.”

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