There will be people who read this title and think, “psh, of course banana bread is not healthy! Who would even think otherwise?!”
There will be people who read this title and think, “duh, it has bananas, of course it is healthy! Who would even think otherwise?!”
If I were a betting (wo)man, I would bet that you fall into one of those 2 categories.
And you’re hoping that I – a nutrition coach – will settle this Great Debate once & for all.
Unfortunately, if you came here for a scientific analysis of the macronutrient breakdown and energy availability of the top 17 banana bread recipes on Google, you are going to be disappointed.
Either it is. Or it isn't. Or is it?
Because the answer is maybe. It depends. Compared to what?
Cool cop-out, right? (Tangent: what is that term, ‘cop-out’?)
As you probably know from my “cheat meals” rant, I don’t consider any foods inherently good or bad. (And more importantly, no foods make YOU good or bad if you do or do not eat them).
Are some foods more nutritious than others? Absolutely. But while nutrition might be the primary reason that we eat, it’s not the only reason. (See also: cultural, religious, societal reasons).
The Food Spectrum
Instead of making yourself mental trying to determine whether or not certain foods are “healthy” (how do you define that, btw?), think about food on a spectrum where some are better and some are worse but none are off-limits or required.
Foods on one side of the spectrum are those that make you feel good, provide you with nutrients, add health, and are largely unprocessed. Like the ones featured in the Body Transformation guide.
Foods on the other side of the spectrum are those that make you feel bad or that you have trouble regulating portions, they don’t provide your body with much in the way of nutrients, and are artificial or processed.
*Photo from Precision Nutrition
Back to the Banana Bread
Is banana bread healthy? Well, compared to what?
On one end could have just a straight banana. Bananas are nutrient-dense, unprocessed, nourishing, only 1 ingredient, hard to overeat, and generally don’t cause any health issues in many people.
On the other end we could have a Starbucks banana bread that’s really more of a cake than a bread. It’s definitely processed, has lots of ingredients (from the Starbucks website: bananas, enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron,thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, soybean and / or canola oil, eggs, walnuts, pecans, sea salt, sodium bicarbonate, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate,cornstarch, monocalcium phosphate), natural flavor, spice, soy lecithin), isn’t very nutrient-dense or nourishing, might cause a physical reaction due to one of the many ingredients and is definitely easy to overeat.
Based on what I just told you about this spectrum, you might be thinking, “I knew it, banana bread is totally unhealthy!”
Not So Fast
What about a banana and a couple of eggs? Healthy, right? Both of these are ingredients in banana bread. Both are nutritious, nourishing, unprocessed, hard to overeat.
But what if you turn them into those internet-famous pancakes that are only made out of 1 banana + 2 eggs? Still only 2 ingredients, still nutritious, still nourishing. But now they’re slightly processed because you mixed them to make your batter. And they’re a lot easier to overeat when they’re in pancake form than banana + egg form.
Now take a banana bread recipe like the Civilized Caveman’s (bananas, eggs, almond butter, butter, coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, salt). The ingredients are whole foods that you can name, recognize, and eat individually. Most of them provide nutrients & nourishment. Adding them together does process them and make it easier to overeat. But overall it’s less processed and more nutritious than the Starbucks version.
See what I’m getting at here?
Whether or not banana bread is healthy is really dependent on what you’re comparing it to.
The same applies for any food you might be wondering about. Is it healthy? Compared to what? And how are you defining “healthy”?
One More Thing
Even if you take yourself thru the food spectrum game & decide that whatever food in question isn’t the healthiest choice, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it.
You’re an adult and you get to make your own choices. Can you have some Starbucks banana bread when/if you want it and decide it’s worth the indulgence? Absolutely! Just don’t pretend it’s the same as eating a banana.
If you’re feeling all sorts of confused now, don’t be. The gist is: you can make any food fit into a healthy diet. You get to choose which foods, in which quantities, and how often, are worth it to you. Even when you’re trying to lose weight, this still applies. You do not need to give up any foods in order to lose weight. Check out this free masterclass training to find out exactly how!