Would you try the banana diet, eating 30 bananas a day as a way to lose weight? Because apparently this is a thing, and it’s taking Instagram on by storm. Advocates refer to the all bananas, all the time diet as “taking a trip to Banana Island”… but I don’t know, guys. I’m not convinced. Does “Banana Island” strike anyone else as being totally nuts?
According to Cosmopolitan, the banana diet first kicked up in Japan in 2008; these days, however, its popularity stems from an Australian woman who goes by the name Freelee the Banana Girl. The “Banana Girl Challenge” involves eating 30 bananas a day for 30 days, although Freelee classifies it as a lifestyle, not a diet — she herself has been doing it for roughly seven years. Speaking to the Daily Mail about her method, the Banana Girl recently said, “There are so many people out there saying restrict your calories to lose weight but it’s not true. You need to smash in the carb calories.” She continued, “I have been doing this long-term and the results are accumulating. I’m fit and I’m healthy and these are results that come with time from this lifestyle but you’ve got to carb up!”
On the Banana Girl website, Freelee writes that the banana diet is inspired by, but not identical to, Dr. Douglas M. Graham’s 80/10/10 raw diet. The numbers in the 80/10/10 plan stand for how much of each food group you eat: 80 percent fruits and veggies, 10 percent protein, and 10 percent fat. Freelee’s numbers, on the other hand, are 90/5/5; furthermore, while Dr. Graham’s plan emphasizes both fruits and veggies, Freelee’s focuses almost solely on fruit: “Eat a BARE minimum of 2,000 calories from fruit a day for budding banana girls, but really a min of 2,500 to really thrive.” You’re allowed to consume a head of lettuce three to four times a week, but, writes Freelee, “the focus of the day MUST be fruit calories first and foremost (especially as a newbie).” As The Daily Beast points out, though, the most important difference is the fact that Dr. Graham has a doctorate and 30 years’ worth of experience studying nutrition. Freelee does not; her banana diet is based entirely on her own experiences, with no scientific study to back it up. And that? Is kind of a problem.
This isn’t to say bananas in and of themselves are bad; on the contrary, they come with a whole bunch of awesome health benefits. They provide an array of vitamins and minerals, they support heart health, they can help keep your blood pressure down, and they might even help prevent strokes. But any “mono diet” — a diet based around eating primarily one food and one food only — is bad news. First off, a single medium banana has somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 calories. If you’re eating 30 of them a day, you’re consuming around 3,300 calories daily — well over the amount most adults should be getting. Furthermore, it denies your body any nutrients not contained in bananas: Aisling Pigott, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, noted according to the Daily Mail that the diet has no sources of vitamin B12, very little calcium and iron, no element of portion control, and an absurdly high sugar content. It also promotes an unhealthy relationship with food, as registered dietitian Keri Glassman said to Cosmo; and lastly, studies have shown that crash diets (which, let’s face it, is exactly what the banana diet is) don’t work. They wreak havoc on your body, and a lot of the time, they ultimately result in weight gain, rather than loss.
While there’s no proof that any one fad diet works better than the others, what we do know is this: The closer the food we consume is to the form it’s found in nature, the healthier it is. That means avoiding processed foods, and it means eating mostly plants. That’s what the original 80/10/10 diet is geared towards accomplishing, and indeed, eating mostly raw will give you the most bang for your nutritional buck. But there’s a difference between eating raw and eating only bananas, especially in such high quantities. Even though I’m not a nutritionist, I can’t recommend anyone actually try this. So guys? Please don’t go to Banana Island. It sounds like a bad place.