Are bananas really dangerous sugar sticks?

  • Why this GP believes that bananas are unhealthy ‘sugar sticks’ 
  • But are you really risking your health with this fruit, especially if you eat them for breakfast? 
  • How to protect against hardening of the arteries

Ever had a banana for breakfast?

Or as a mid-morning snack?

Well, this might be a problem according to some experts, who believe you should NEVER have a banana for breakfast.

They are, according to one GP, nothing more than giant sugar sticks.

You see, back in July, the Daily Mail reported on the latest infographic nutritional health charts produced by Dr David Unwin, a GP from Merseyside who advises Parliament on diabetes and obesity.

He says that an average banana is the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar.

The advice is, therefore, to cut down on bananas.

He’s not the first to have a go at bananas…

A few years ago, Dr Daryl Gioffre, author of the AlkaMind diet, warned that bananas were harmful to eat for breakfast.

He called them “nature’s candy” because they’re 25% sugar and moderately acidic. This sugar turns to body fat more quickly than other nutrients.

Gioffre pointed out that while they might give you an instant dose of energy, you’ll soon feel tired and hungry again.

The thing is, even Dr Unwin admits that a banana’s sugar content isn’t REALLY the same as eating six teaspoons of pure sugar.

His claim is a reinterpretation of ‘glycaemic load’, which is a way of evaluating how a food affects your blood glucose.

Basically, it’s a simplification that doesn’t take into account how food is digested.

Different types of carbohydrate break down at different rates in your digestive system. Bananas are full of fibre and your body will absorb the sugars slowly and naturally.

When this was pointed out by journalist Barney Calman in the Mail On Sunday, all hell broke loose as Unwin’s supporters piled in on social media to condemn him.

“Bananas are sugar bombs!” proclaimed one angry reader.

But here’s the problem with the anti-banana vitriol…

Why bananas are not the true enemy

Media headlines about bananas being “the same” as six teaspoons of sugar demonise this fruit in the public mind… putting yet more people off healthy, natural whole food.

And pushing them into the arms of a food industry who want to sell them diet, sugar free, low carb snacks and ready meals.

Yes, it’s vital for people to understand the downsides of carbs like bananas…

But also to understand the difference between natural whole foods and processed foods when it comes to long term health.

Surely, if people are craving a snack – something sweet and instantly gratifying – it’s better to have a banana than a chocolate bar, ice cream, cake or biscuit.

Yes, they are naturally sugary but they’re a better option.

And as for the idea that you cannot have them for breakfast…

Evidence shows that if you mix your morning banana with healthy fats like yoghurt or milk, as well as some nuts and seed, it will neutralise the acids and give you the benefits of its potassium, fibre, and magnesium content without the sugar rush.

In other words, some banana sliced into healthy muesli, drenched in some kefir, would not be a dangerous breakfast by any stretch.

This is worth doing because you’ll get so much from eating a few bananas each week…

Protection against heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke

Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps protect against ‘pathogenic vascular calcification’ – something you might know better as ‘hardening of the arteries’.

This is according to research in 2017 at the University of Alabama which demonstrated “the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation” as well as the “adverse effect of low potassium intake”.

In other words, it’s not just that you should get some more potassium in your system to help protect against stiffening arteries… it’s that you should be aware of the dangers of a potassium deficiency.

Signs include fatigue, weak muscles, abdominal pain and cramps.

US Health writer Dr Mercola says: “There is so much research showing a link between low levels of potassium and high blood pressure that researchers now believe increasing your levels should receive just as much attention as a low-salt diet in blood pressure management.”

This is why potassium, a natural mineral salt, is often referred to as ‘the good salt’.

Your good health depends on having the right balance of sodium and potassium levels in your body, but many of us have the balance wrong – too much sodium and not enough potassium.

In 2013, the British Medical Journal collected a whole bunch of studies together to show that decreasing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake could save millions of lives every year from heart disease and stroke across the globe.

Which is why it’s not ideal for GPs and the media to go after bananas, which are one good natural source of this.

Of course, if you want to avoid the sugar in bananas, they are not the only food packed with potassium.

You could eat apricots, cantaloupe melon and citrus fruits, spinach, asparagus, green beans, avocados, peas, lentils, broccoli, celery and romaine lettuce.

Other options include grains, red meat, poultry, and seafood.

Though for an intense, self-wrapped, tasty burst of powerful potassium salt you cannot go wrong with a banana.

Think of it like a big, bendy tablet!

As long as you don’t over-indulge, have only one a day, and mix it with plenty of other kinds of food, you’ll be fine.

In my view, the real enemy is not the banana, or ANY kind of fruit for that matter, but the many packaged and processed foods that people are sold as ‘healthy’.