Once an easy way to make use of overripe bananas as long as you had a few other simple baking ingredients lying around, banana bread has risen to the forefront of our baking conversations in recent months—right up there with sourdough bread.
As the loaves pile up and we chow down on this dense, perfectly sweet bread day after day for breakfast, second breakfast, snack time, and dessert, the question arises: Is banana bread healthy? We chatted with a dietician and a nutritionist about what they think about this sweet treat. Scroll ahead for everything you need to know about this ultra-popular baked good.
Meet the Expert
- Maggie Michalczyk is a Chicago-based registered dietitian who specializes in millennial nutrition. She creates nutrient-dense, seasonal recipes and is the founder of the blog Once Upon A Pumpkin.
- Chelsea Markham is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, as well as the Founder of Markham Method.
What Is Banana Bread?
A traditional banana bread recipe is made of very ripe bananas (you know the type we're talking about—not quite rotten, but not quite edible either), flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and salt.
The first-ever banana bread recipe was published by Pillsbury in 1933, which was right in the middle of the Great Depression. Thanks to food scarcity, the Great Depression was a time when people worked hard to use every scrap of food they had, which included making use of over overripe, otherwise inedible, bananas.
Why Is It So Popular Right Now?
Many of us can relate to wanting to put as much space between grocery trips as possible.
"I've baked, on average, about 40 loaves of banana bread since quarantine started," Shindy Chen, CEO of financial content agency Scribe, said. "I love banana bread because it's like a celebration of how a fruit can endure; just like you can use a picked-clean rotisserie chicken to make stock, you can give over-ripe bananas another life and use them for this beautiful bread. There's simply no reason to throw away any banana. The more speckled and brown, the sweeter and naturally better."
Is Banana Bread Bad For You?
We all know what makes banana bread so great, and it's clear why it's having such a moment right now. But health-wise, how does banana bread stack up?
"I would say banana bread is moderately healthy depending on what ingredients you use to make it," says nutritionist Maggie Michalczyk. For example, you might sub butter for coconut oil, use organic flour or almond or coconut flour, or change the type of sweetener you use.
Chelsea Markham, a nutritional therapy practitioner and founder of Markham Method agrees. "The nutritional value varies from recipe to recipe but generally speaking, banana bread contains flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and butter," she notes. "This is a carb-heavy food item, high in sugar, and low in fiber and protein."
"Sweetening it with honey is a great sugar swap as honey is 100% pure and unprocessed," says Michalczyk. "Adding ground flax seeds in the batter, nuts, or pumpkin seeds on top is great for healthy fats and extra protein."
Or, you can consider cutting the suggested sweetener in your recipe in half. "Bananas are already quite sweet, so you don’t need to add much additional sugar," Markham recommends. "I suggest using coconut sugar instead of cane sugar, or maple syrup! I love baking with coconut sugar because it’s usually a 1:1 ratio. Coconut sugar contains vital nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and calcium, and also contains inulin, a fiber which helps slow down the absorption of glucose."
And if you want to get a little extra protein in and make it so that your banana bread keeps you full longer, you might want to stop eating your slices plain. "Nut butter is the perfect topping to spread on top of banana bread for a little extra protein," explains Michalczyk.
Banana Bread Recipe
If adjusting your favorite banana bread recipe feels too intimidating, try recreating this recipe from Markham. She limits the amount of sugar and ups the protein by adding greek yogurt.
Healthy Banana Bread Recipe by Chelsea Markham
- 1 ½ cup organic flour
- ¾ cup coconut sugar
- ½ cup grass fed butter, softened
- 1 organic pasture-raised egg
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 3 bananas, mashed
- ¼ cup greek yogurt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Then, grease a loaf pan and have at the ready.
- Using a hand mixer or electric mixer, combine sugar and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Then mix in the egg.
- In a separate bowl, add the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly.
- Then in an additional bowl, add bananas and yogurt and mash together.
- Slowly begin to add the flour mixture to the banana-yogurt mixture, mixing together until fully combined.
- Pour into the coated loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Servings: 12 slices
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 203 calories
- Fat: 8.3 grams
- Saturated Fat: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 30.9 grams
- Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Sugar: 15.8 grams
- Protein: 2.8 grams
Even in its least healthy form—you know, full-on butter, flour, and sugar—there are way worse baked goods out there than banana bread, because bananas do provide some nutritional content along with natural sweetness.
But at what point are you overdoing it? "I say a slice a day is a nice happy medium of enjoying it as a treat," says Michalczyk. "Most loaves will freeze well, so if you're baking up multiple loaves you always have that option to not go overboard."
So yes, you can have your banana bread and eat it too—whether or not you're getting creative with the ingredients you use. Enjoy!
What bread can help you lose weight?
Markham suggests paying attention to your diet as a whole rather than focusing on a specific food. "Instead of trying to focus on what NOT to eat, it’s important to begin adding these items: grass-fed meat, organic produce, and complex carbohydrates," she says.
What are the health benefits of banana bread?
The nutritional benefits of banana bread varies from recipe to recipe. In general, bananas are a great source of potassium, fiber, and also contain vitamin C. "Potassium is essential for nerve conduction and heart function, and fiber is required for proper digestion," Markham says.
What is the healthiest bread to eat?
Again, this can vary. However, Markham recommends sticking to whole foods with traditional ingredients. She tries to avoid preservatives and processed ingredients as much as possible.