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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 sweat bread day after day for breakfast, second breakfast, snack time, and dessert, the question arises: Is this bread, which is made largely from fruit bad, for you? We investigated. Scroll ahead for everything you need to know about this ultra-popular baked good.
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 did have, which included making use of over overripe, otherwise inedible bananas.
Why Is It So Popular Right Now?
While we're not facing a food scarcity issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of us can relate to wanting to put as much space between grocery trips as possible in an effort to reduce exposure to the virus.
"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.
Meet the Expert
Maggie Michalczyk is a Chicago-based registered dietitian who specializes in millennial nutrition. She focuses on science-based ways to eat more, stress less, and feel good in your body. She creates nutrient-dense, season recipes and is the founder of the blog Once Upon A Pumpkin.
"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—overripe bananas already bring a lot of sweetness to the table. 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
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!