So, is it a healthy AM option?
Every body is different, but for most, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Numerous studies have found that it gives you energy, helps you to focus, and sets you up for the day ahead. Not sure what constitutes a healthy AM meal? What about a banana for breakfast - a powerhouse of antioxidants, natural sugars, and fibre, no?
Well, according to the experts, it's actually not one of the best grab-and-go breakfast options to eat first thing in the morning (despite your Mum telling you that it was back in the day). Sure, it may be the easiest piece of fruit to grab (bananas require no washing) but below, the pros explain why eating it on its own might actually mean a pretty hefty mid-morning slump.
Do note here: healthy looks different on everyone, and what works for you won't work for the next person. You might prefer to eat five smaller meals a day or fast until lunch time - each to their own. What you eat is totally unique to you, your hunger queues, and your body.
That said, there's been a lot of research into what foods help curb blood sugar crashes and more - the experts explain below. Pssst: don't miss our expert-led guides to healthy breakfast ideas or explainer on what to eat after a workout, while you're here.
So, is eating a banana for breakfast healthy?
Looking at the science and current research, there's a reason why eating a balanced meal has always been advised - that's a balance of all three macronutrients, carbohydrates, fat, and protein, FYI.
Think about it - a lone banana, which is largely just carbohydrate, doesn't exactly cover all three macros, does it?
As nutritionist Michaella Mazzoni explains, 30 minutes after you wake up your cortisol (your stress hormone) is at its highest point of the day - plus your blood sugar is at its most sensitive. The first thing you eat can have a huge impact on how you feel right up until mid-afternoon, she shares.
How? "Different macronutrients like fats, proteins, and carbs have different impacts on blood sugar," she continues. "A breakfast high in carbs will lead to a spike in blood sugar, and is even the case with more complex carbs, like oats, if there isn’t a fat or protein to anchor the blood sugar response."
This is because blood sugar very much influences energy levels. "You only need about one tablespoon of sugar in your whole body at any given time so when you eat something that puts you above this level, your body will start trying to bring you back down to that one teaspoon level," she shares. But what goes up must come down, and the higher the spike, the lower the drop - and, fun fact: this drop in blood sugar is often the culprit behind the 11am sugar craving.
Faye Townsend, sports nutritionist at the Rhitrition Clinic, agrees, adding: "By combining these three macronutrients, you will keep your hunger levels at bay as well as getting the energy to sustain you throughout your day."
Not to mention the fact that, although bananas do give you a quick burst of energy, they're more of a snack and are not enough to set you up for the day, as a good breakfast should do. As per the NHS website, breakfast should be anything from 300 to 600 calories (a woman's daily recommended intake is 2000 calories - a banana is just 89).
Is there a way to avoid crashing from the quick energy boost, then? Apparently, the key is to pair it with both a protein source and some healthy fat - ticking that balanced meal box early doors. "Research shows that eating a balance of all three will both stave off hunger pangs and provide you with enough energy to last you until lunchtime," she expands.
Mazzoni recommends trying:
- Chia puddings
- Eggs on toast
- Avocado on toast
- Porridge with nuts, seeds, or a protein powder.
Still stuck for ideas? Read what five nutritionists eat for breakfast, here.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.