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A happy color and practically in the shape of a smile, bananas seem like the healthiest bite to grace the breakfast table. And, they're a popular and easy grab-and-go breakfast, too. Many people opt for this fruit with the best intentions—thinking they are making a healthy choice. After all, bananas have a good reputation in the food world because they are high in potassium, fiber, and magnesium, promoting energy production and better heart health. However, according to nutrition pros, bananas are packed with sugar, which makes them a poor breakfast choice—especially on their own.
To get the full scoop on this popular breakfast fruit and find out if and when bananas can be a healthy component of our diets, we reached out to two nutrition experts. They filled us in on the benefits and drawbacks of eating a banana for breakfast, and we must say, our whole idea of breakfast has changed.
Are you a banana fan, too? Keep scrolling to learn why you shouldn't eat bananas for breakfast, how and when to eat them, and healthy breakfast alternatives.
Meet the Expert
Are Bananas Good For You?
Marsac says it’s hard to label bananas as “good” or “bad" and that it’s more productive and important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of any food based on your lifestyle and nutrition goals. “Bananas benefit the body because they are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of vitamin B6; a vitamin functioning in our metabolic and central nervous systems; potassium, which regulates fluid balance and blood pressure; magnesium, which is necessary for muscle and nerve function; and vitamin C, which protects our cells,” Marsac explains. “However, they also contain higher amounts of sugar, which could cause blood sugar fluctuations and hinder weight management.”
Why You Should Skip Bananas for Breakfast
While bananas certainly trump convenient options like Pop-Tarts and snack cakes, they might not be the healthy food choice you think they are. A medium-sized banana contains about 25 grams of carbohydrates and nearly 14 grams of sugar, no fat, and about 1 gram of protein. “If [a banana] is the only thing consumed for breakfast, the body is likely to respond with a sugar spike, followed by a dip below our blood sugar’s baseline,” says Marsac. “This spike-to-dip reaction causes some people to experience hunger, become cranky or ‘hangry,’ lose concentration, experience low energy, and may even result in a person overeating at their next meal.”
Gioffre adds that in addition to being 25 percent sugar, bananas are also moderately acidic—a combination that makes a banana alone for breakfast a meal that won’t sustain you until lunch. “They’ll give you a quick boost, but you’ll soon be tired and hungry,” he says. Sound familiar? This is indeed the same feeling you get after a sugar high—which makes sense, considering he calls bananas “nature’s candy.” “When sugar is consumed in any form, it undergoes the process of fermentation, like beer and wine, and turns into acid and alcohol in your body,” he says. “This clogs up your digestive system.”
How to Incorporate Bananas Into Your Breakfast
Banana lovers, don’t cry (or throw bananas at us) just yet. Gioffre says that you can still eat bananas, but pair them with a healthy fat, spice, and/or herb that will neutralize the acids, slow down the metabolism of sugar, and prevent an insulin spike. His favorites include raw almond or coconut butter, chia, hemp, flax, coconut oil, cinnamon, and turmeric. “Because bananas are acidic, you’ll have to neutralize the acid to get the benefits of potassium, fiber, and magnesium without the sugar rush,” he says.
Marsac agrees that bananas can be part of a nutritious, satiating breakfast, as long as they are consumed as part of a more well-rounded meal. “If you love bananas and enjoy consuming them for breakfast, make them your main source of carbohydrate and eat them alongside protein and fats to create a well-balanced meal,” advises Marsac, who says a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate will keep your blood sugar close to its baseline, helping you avoid the adverse effects of spikes and crashes. “Some examples would be adding some banana to plain Greek yogurt or topping a banana with a nut butter, like almond or peanut.”
The Best Time to Eat a Banana
Marsac says that the most recommended time to consume a banana is after a strenuous workout because bananas have nutrients like potassium and vitamin C, which are required for exercise recovery. “Our bodies excrete potassium when we sweat, and loss of potassium can lead to muscle cramping and adverse effects of dehydration. Vitamin C is important for muscle function and repairing collagen, a structural component of muscle,” explains Marsac. “While exercising, our body breaks down muscle. Bananas can provide vitamin C after a workout to assist the body in repairing the cells necessary to rebuild the muscles.” Plus, post-workout, your muscles are depleted of glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrates. The carbohydrate-rich banana, which isn’t necessarily the best choice in the morning as a stand-alone breakfast, can be an excellent replenisher for your muscle glycogen stores.
For a healthy post-workout snack, try a protein-packed smoothie with a frozen banana, a handful of spinach, flax or chia seeds, a tablespoon of nut butter, and almond milk.
Alternative Grab-And-Go Breakfast Options
If you crave fruit in the morning, you don’t have to forego the food group altogether. Some fruits pack more nutrients per ounce than bananas. “Pears, kiwis, strawberries, and blueberries offer more vitamin C than bananas, and they are also a great source of fiber, which helps keep blood sugar closer to baseline, so these fruits may be less likely to cause drastic blood sugar fluctuations,” suggests Marsac. “Avocados, like bananas, are an excellent source of potassium, but they also provide a source of healthy fats.” And, consuming fats with carbohydrates helps keep your blood sugar stable and promotes satiety.
For well-balanced breakfast options that you can pack quickly and travel well, Marsac recommends a handful of mixed nuts, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt with flaxseeds or a little muesli, and overnight oats. You can pair any of these options with fruit such as berries, an orange, or kiwi. The key is to provide your body with a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Variety is also a good idea because it gives your body a better opportunity to meet your micronutrient needs.
The Final Takeaway
So, if you’ve been peeling a banana on your way out the door every morning, it might be time to consider some lower-sugar, more satiating, and healthy options. However, it’s important to understand that even if you just eat a banana for breakfast once in a while, it’s far from the end of the world. Sometimes, a banana is the best choice available or the only option, and that’s perfectly fine. “We tend to label a food as all ‘good’ or all ‘bad’ and avoid it indefinitely. However, it’s really about our physical needs and what the food provides at the present time,” says Marsac. “What may serve our body well today might not be fitting in the future, and vice versa.” Her best advice? “Listen to your body, keep an open mind, and keep trying new foods.”
Singh B, Singh JP, Kaur A, Singh N. Bioactive compounds in banana and their associated health benefits - a review. Food Chem. 2016;206:1-11. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.03.033