Monday, April 18, 2011

Worst Diet Tip #1: Don’t Eat Bananas, Carrots, Grapes

On this week’s Good Day Alabama nutrition segment, I talked about some of the worst diet tips I’ve heard. My number one pick was “don’t eat bananas”. Years ago, I overheard a conversation as I was trying on clothes in the dressing room of my favorite vintage/consignment shop (Zoe’s in Forest Park in Birmingham, Alabama). A well meaning but ill-informed patron was advising someone who wanted to lose some weight to give up bananas. She went on to explain that bananas were high in sugar and would make you fat. Somehow, I resisted the temptation to run out of the dressing room screaming “don’t listen to her, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about”. But why would she make such a ridiculous recommendation? Is there any truth there?

It is true that the calories in fruit come from sugar. That sugar is fructose. But that doesn’t mean that fruit is bad for you or will make you gain weight. There is solid research that foods that are low in calories that weigh a lot (meaning high water content and fiber) are filling and can lower the number of calories you eat. Whole fruits and vegetables – including bananas, carrots, and grapes – fall into this category. This is the basis for the very successful weight loss of the Volumetrics diet and our own UAB Eat Right program. The research shows that we eat the same weight of food every day. So if you want to lose weight, eat food that weighs a lot and is low in calories. You’ll fill up fast, get fewer calories, and over time, probably lose some weight!

Bottom line: bananas are nutritious, low calorie, travel well, and make a great food for people trying to lose weight.

The other bottom line? When it comes to weight loss, everyone thinks they are an expert. But beware of well-meaning experts – you could end up with bad advice.

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD

Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham