The banana diet is any one of several eating plans that promise weight loss and energy boosts with the consumption of numerous bananas each day. Most health experts consider these sorts of plans to be “fads” that are popular for a short time but aren’t backed by science or anything more than anecdotal reports of success. One of the most well known banana-based plans was hugely popular in Japan in 2008, and actually caused a banana distribution shortage to the island nation that lasted a number of months. More recent modifications have taken the initial idea, namely that eating primarily bananas each day can lead to weight loss and better health, and have added modifications and additional rules. Most of the time, the diets are designed to be something of a short-term “cleanse” or “purification,” and adherents aren’t normally expected to stick with the plan long-term. Results can vary wildly from person to person, though, and dieticians and medical experts are often quick to warn that the plan isn’t safe for everyone. There can be dangers involved in getting all or most of a day’s calories from a single food, for instance, and long-term use can actually deprive the body of nutrients and minerals it needs to remain healthy.
Basic Concept and Initial Popularity
Most health trend scholars pinpoint Japan as the origin of what became known in the West as the “banana diet,” and a social media article authored by a pharmacist there is believed to have been the spark that ignited what soon became a boomingly popular trend. According to the article, the pharmacist was able to lose 37 pounds (16.8 kg) simply by replacing his breakfast with four small bananas and eating a banana with room temperature water for lunch. He purportedly ate a “normal” dinner but had nothing, not even bananas, after 8pm.
The article went viral and people, particularly university students, began following the pharmacist’s plan almost religiously. A number of books were written on the subject, many with a few modifications, and formal diet guides, workbooks, and banana-related health merchandise entered the market to record sales. Adherents took to the Internet in vast numbers to chart their success, whether real or imagined, and before long people all over the world were following the plan in some form or another.
Guidelines and Rules
Banana diets typically have a number of rules, though these can vary a lot depending on the specific plan being followed. Almost all instruct dieters to eat at least one raw banana for breakfast, with some versions of the diet including a glass of room temperature water or milk. The original diet can be thought of as a banana meal replacement plan, with dieters eating the fruit in place of breakfast and lunch, but then eating any dinner desired. One of the most important rules of the original plan was that dieters needed to stop eating at 8pm, and be asleep for the night before midnight.
The popular Japanese plan didn’t really prohibit any foods and drinks as much as it augmented them with bananas and set restrictions on when foods could be eaten. Other more recent takes on the concept have tended to be more stringent. Many restrict things like sugar and alcohol in addition to adding bananas, for instance, and a number of plans also require participants to calorie-count the meals and snacks they consume in addition to bananas each day.
Some take more extreme measures. One popular plan, for instance, permits the consumption of nothing but bananas and water for a span of anywhere from 3-8 days. Another requires dieters to eat a whole raw banana before every meal or snack. Rarely, however, do plans require the incorporation of exercise, which most medical experts say is just as important to weight loss as is diet.
Drawbacks and Potential Problems
Despite a number of overwhelmingly positive reviews, there is no scientific evidence for the success of any banana eating plan when it comes to weight loss. In fact, a number of researchers have suggested that eating only or primarily bananas can contribute to excess calories, which might actually lead to weight gain over the long-term. Additionally, many nutritionists question the value of any diet based solely around a single food. While bananas do have a number of important nutrients and minerals, they don’t contain everything a person needs to stay healthy.
The best advice for people looking to lose weight is to typically a commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating. Results aren’t immediate under this slower approach and they do require both patience and persistence. While it may seem tempting to solve all diet woes with a few days of massive banana consumption, few things in life are truly that simple.