What Is Banana Milk, Exactly, and Is It Healthy?
Made from a combo of water, banana, and sunflower seeds, Mooala Bananamilk is stealing the supermarket spotlight.
With the growing list of dairy-free milk alternatives, you could try a new plant-based beverage every day for a week and not taste the same one in your coffee, smoothies, or cereal twice. The newest innovation to cap off the catalog: Mooala Bananamilk, a nut-free, gluten-free, vegan “milk” made from water, sunflower seeds, and, you guessed it, bananas. Right now, Mooala is the only brand in the market to offer banana-based milk, but you can create your own by blending a ripe banana with a cup of water and adding in chia or flax seeds, dates, or nut butter for a boost of nutrients (though these extras may create an even thicker milk).
But is it really worth it to drink your bananas instead of eating them? Here’s what you need to know.
How Healthy Is Banana Milk?
Not to be confused with Korean banana milk, which is banana-flavored cow’s milk, Mooala Bananamilk is an entirely plant-based drink that boasts just 60 calories and 3 grams of fat per one-cup serving. Thanks to the bananas that have been blended and bottled, the beverage also offers 360 milligrams or about 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium—a nutrient that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet.
Much like other non-dairy “milk” products, Mooala Bananamilk is also fortified with calcium, a mineral that’s super important for bone health, explains Gans. Just remember to give the jug a good shake before pouring a drink, as the added calcium sediment can settle on the bottom of the container. “When you’re pouring that glass, you think you’re getting all that calcium, but you might not be consuming any,” she says. If you turn the bottle into a makeshift Shake Weight before serving, you’ll get 30 percent of the daily value (DV) in each creamy cup, according to Mooala.
While Mooala Bananamilk’s third ingredient—sunflower seeds—seems a little bizarre for a smooth and silky drink, Gans says the seeds may have been infused into the drink to add a particular flavor, and with that, comes a nutritional bonus as well. “There are some health benefits to the seeds, such as monounsaturated fats, which have been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease,” she says. Plus, sunflower seeds provide vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been associated with skin health and can help strengthen the immune system thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, explains Gans. Just know that the vitamin E content in Mooala Bananamilk is just 6 percent of the DV, a small portion of your RDA, she says.
Aside from the small health benefits, the dairy-free drink offers another perk in the flavor department. The naturally sweet bananas make Mooala Bananamilk taste “like liquid banana bread” (yup, you read that right), according to the company’s website, without using any added sugar. (FYI, added sugar adds calories to food but no nutritional value and, in excess, can lead to weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Mooala Bananamilk's chocolate flavor does contain 6 grams of added sugar from cane sugar, but Gans stresses that doesn’t mean you should immediately rule it out. “In the context of a total diet, 6 grams might not be that much, but you’d need to consider where else you’re getting added sugar from,” she says. Since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends capping calories from added sugars at 10 percent of your total caloric intake, there is some room to enjoy a glass of chocolate banana milk if that’s what you’ve got a hankering for (especially after a tough workout), explains Gans.
Mooala's Bananamilk might seem like a winner, especially since it boasts essential nutrients and half the calories and two-thirds the fat of two-percent milk. But Gans stresses that its overall nutritional profile isn’t going to beat out cow’s milk—or even some other alt-milks—for one primary reason: protein. “If people are choosing it to provide protein with their morning meal or in their smoothie, it will be lacking, since [Mooala Bananamilk] only provides 1 gram of protein per serving.” (Related: Good News: The Benefits of Milk Outweigh the Potential Downsides of Dairy)
Banana Milk vs. Other Alternative Milks
When considering protein content in each of the plant-based, dairy-free milks, soy milk comes out on top, says Gans, packing in nearly 8 grams per cup—the same amount as a cup of two-percent milk—according to the USDA. Like it’s legume-based cousin, oat milk also offers more of the muscle-building macronutrient—4 grams in a one-cup serving, to be exact—than Mooala Bananamilk. This leaves the fruit-based drink in line with almond milk (1 gram) and above rice milk (.68 grams) for protein.
Mooala Bananamilk falls short when it comes to fiber as well. With just a single gram per serving, the fruit-based drink ranks alongside almond and soy milks at the bottom of the fiber totem pole, while oat milk holds the number one spot with 2 grams of fiber, as Gans previously told Shape. “Not that you really look for fiber in your milk product, but it’s something to consider,” says Gans. Translation: If you want to increase your fiber intake through small changes, you might think about using higher-fiber milk in your cereal, oatmeal, etc. (Though it's always a good idea to eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains to score more fiber, too.)
And need not forget about the drink's vitamin D content—or lack thereof. Unfortunately, Mooala Bananamilk is not fortified with vitamin D, which helps the gut absorb calcium and is necessary for bone growth and health, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since very few foods found in nature contain the nutrient (although, yes, you can get it from the sun), vitamin D is often added to milks and alt-milks, cereals, orange juice, and yogurt. For example, Silk almond milk contains 2.5 micrograms or 10 percent of the DV in a one-cup serving, while the brand’s soy milk has 3 micrograms, about 15 percent of the DV. Even Oatly’s oat milk offers 3.6 micrograms or 20 percent of the DV.
But Mooala Bananamilk does have a leg up on other alternative milks in terms of sugar content. Reminder: Mooala Bananamilk's original flavor contains zero grams of added sugar. Silk soy milk, on the other hand, contains 5 grams of cane sugar, and Silk almond milk and Oatly oat milk both pack 7 grams of added sugar.
So Should You Add Banana Milk to Your Diet?
Mooala Bananamilk might not take the cake as the most protein- or fiber-packed vegan milk at the supermarket, but it still offers some key macro- and micronutrients needed to stay healthy. And that means it can have a place on your plate or in your cup, says Gans. “There’s room for all dairy-free ‘milks’ in one’s diet,” notes Gans. “Maybe one’s for your smoothie, and one’s for your coffee. There are so many uses that you don’t have to commit to just one.” So if you’re trying to decide between using banana milk over cashew milk, almond milk, or soy milk, taste should be your determining factor, she says.
If you want to add rich and warming notes to your hearty bowl of oatmeal, swap your almond milk for banana milk. To turn your gluten-free banana bread into a treat that makes everyone bust out their best Gwen Stefani rap, use Mooala Bananamilk as your liquid component (it's an easy 1:1 swap!). When you’re craving a sweet coffee but don’t want to use straight-up sugar, splash some Mooala Bananamilk right into the mug. Just be aware of what it might be lacking nutritionally (think: protein), and know that it's not the be-all and end-all of healthy alternative milks solely because it's made from fruit, says Gans. "Bottom line: It’s another option out there,” she says.