Article Thumbnail

Are Banana Chips the Health Food I’m Constantly Telling Myself They Are?

After seven or eight handfuls, I can feel the potassium coursing through my veins

When I was a kid, I knew that the mud room of my parents home was the place where all of the most delicious foods were stored, or often hidden, since my mother recognized that all of us were willing to dispense with only so many superficial layers of canned goods and boxes of granola bars before we’d give up our searches for Snickers and Butterfingers. One of the items most commonly present in the mud room was the plastic container filled with dried fruit. As far as I know, it was the same jar of dried fruit every time, and it lasted for years.

Contained within that jar were mangoes, pineapples and bananas, and I always wondered what the attraction of those dried fruits was supposed to be, when all of us so very clearly wanted candy. As an adult, I’m now wondering what was done to those bananas during the drying process to preserve them in a hardened chip form for so long, and to give them the sweetness and texture of hard candy. All things considered, it’s worth exploring whether or not they are candy — for all intents and purposes — once they’ve undergone that transformative process.

Are banana chips healthy?

I suppose we should begin with whether or not bananas are objectively healthy. Make no mistake about it: A banana is valued for its potassium content, vitamin C content, matchless ease of consumption, and if we’re being honest, its sweetness level. 

In a general sense then, bananas are healthy. So now let’s delve into how they’re transformed into banana chips. Frankly, the process is easy enough that almost anyone can pull it off. Basically, you slice the bananas, coat them in a tasty cooking oil like coconut oil, distribute them on a cooking sheet and bake them on low heat (135 degrees to 150 degrees) for two to three hours. That’s all it takes.

That means banana chips are healthy, right?

If only things were that simple. You need to be especially cognizant of the ingredients of your banana chips if they’re store-bought, because not all banana chips are created equally. Some banana chip recipes require the addition of sugar in one form or another. This establishes the possibility that a serving of banana chips can range anywhere from 120 calories for baked banana chips with no added fat, to more than 200 calories for banana chips that have been coated in oil, baked and had additional sugar layered on top of them.

Taking everything into account, the answer to your question is that banana chips are as healthy or unhealthy as you allow them to be. If you wish to keep your bananas as close as possible to their original form, you can bake them and eat them with nothing else added to the process. Any additional oil and sugar aids the preservation of the bananas, but also raises the caloric content, and transforms them into a state where they more closely resemble candy. 

Then again, what do you expect to happen when you double the caloric content of something that’s already sweet, almost exclusively through the addition of sugar?