Bananas are both delicious and nutritious. They contain many essential nutrients and provide benefits for heart health, digestion, and weight loss. Aside from being nutritious, they’re also a very convenient snack food. In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of bananas.
Bananas are probably one of the most popular fruits in the world. They vary in size, shape, and color. The most common type is Cavendish, a type of dessert banana. It is green when unripe but turns yellow as it matures. Native to Southeast Asia, bananas are now grown in many parts of the world. The top producers of bananas are India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, and Ecuador.
Health Benefits of Bananas
1. Bananas Are Very Nutritious
A medium-sized banana (118 grams) contains the following nutrients:
• Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
• Manganese: 14% of the RDI
• Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
• Copper: 10% of the RDI
• Potassium: 9% of the RDI
• Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
• Net carbs: 24 grams
• Fiber: 3.1 grams
• Protein: 1.3 grams
• Fat: 0.4 grams
RDI = Reference Daily intake
Each banana contains only 105 calories and almost no fat. The carbohydrates in unripe bananas consist of starch and resistant starch. As the banana ripens, the starch is converted into sugar (fructose, glucose, and sucrose). Bananas also contain fiber and antioxidants.
2. Bananas May Support Heart Health
One of the most notable health benefits of bananas is that they are good for heart health. Potassium is a mineral essential for good heart health — especially in blood pressure control. Despite its importance, many people do not get enough potassium in their diet. Thankfully, bananas are a very good dietary source of potassium. One medium-sized banana (about 118 grams) provides 9% of the RDI.
A potassium-rich diet will help lower blood pressure, so people who eat plenty of potassium-rich food have up to a 27% lower risk of heart disease. Additionally, bananas have a decent amount of magnesium, which is also important for heart health.
3. Bananas May Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is associated with improved digestion. Bananas are a good source of fiber; a medium-sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber. Bananas contain two types of fiber – resistant starch (found in unripe bananas) and pectin (decreases as the banana ripens).
Resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in the large intestine, where it serves as food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. There are some test tube studies suggesting that pectin may provide protection against colon cancer.
4. Bananas Contain Nutrients That May Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Bananas are rich in pectin, a kind of fiber that gives its flesh a spongy structure. Unripe bananas contain resistant starch that escapes digestion and acts like soluble fiber.
Both pectin and resistant starch may reduce appetite and moderate blood sugar levels after eating by slowing down the emptying of the stomach. Also, bananas have a low to medium ranking on the glycemic index (GI) — a measure from 0–100 of how quick foods increase blood sugar levels.
The GI of ripe bananas is about 60, while unripe bananas is around 30. The average GI of all bananas is 51. This means that eating bananas will not cause a major increase in blood sugar levels of healthy individuals.
However, this does not apply to people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, who are advised to avoid eating a lot of ripe bananas — and to monitor their blood sugar levels if they do.
5. Bananas Contain Powerful Antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables are very good sources of antioxidants, and bananas are no exception. They contain various types of antioxidants, such as catechins and dopamine. These antioxidants provide many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and other degenerative illnesses.
6. Bananas May Help You Feel Full
Resistant starch is a kind of indigestible carbohydrate found in unripe fruits like bananas and also in other foods. It functions like soluble fiber in our body. As a rule of thumb, we can say that the greener the banana, the greater will be its resistant starch content.
On the other hand, yellow (ripe) bananas contain less resistant starch but proportionally comparable amounts of soluble fiber. Both pectin and resistant starch have appetite-reducing effects, thus increasing the feeling of fullness after meals.
7. Unripe Bananas May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance is one of the major risk factors for many of the world’s most prevalent and serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Several studies show that 15 to 30 grams of resistant starch a day may improve insulin sensitivity by about 33 to 50% in about four weeks.
Unripe bananas are good sources of resistant starch. Therefore, they can help in improving insulin sensitivity. However, the reason for these beneficial effects is not well understood, since not all studies concur with one another. Hence, more studies must be conducted on bananas regarding insulin sensitivity.
8. Bananas May Improve Kidney Health
Potassium is essential to control blood pressure and promote healthy kidney function. Bananas are a good dietary source of potassium, so they can be beneficial for maintaining healthy kidneys.
A 13-year study in women showed that those who ate bananas 2 to 3 times a week were 33% less probable to develop kidney disease. Other studies reveal that those who eat bananas 4 to 6 times a week are about 50% less likely to develop kidney illness than those who do not eat bananas.
9. Bananas May Have Benefits for Exercise
Bananas are a great food for athletes mainly because of their mineral content and easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Eating bananas also helps reduce exercise-related muscle cramps, numbness, and soreness, which affect 95% of the general population.
The reason for muscle cramps is not totally understood, but popular theory considers dehydration and electrolyte imbalance as culprits. However, research gives varied findings about bananas and muscle cramps. While some studies find them helpful, the rest find no beneficial effects. Having said that, bananas provide good nutrition before, during, and after exercise.
10. Bananas May Aid Weight Loss
Bananas have several properties that make them a weight-loss-friendly food. First and foremost, bananas have relatively few calories. An average-sized banana has just over 100 calories, but is very nutritious and filling.
Also, fiber derived from eating vegetables and fruits (such as bananas) has been repeatedly linked to weight loss or lower body weight. Unripe bananas are loaded with resistant starch. They will make you feel full and reduce your appetite.
Not only are bananas super healthy — they are also very convenient to eat. You can add them to yogurt, cereal, and smoothies. Bananas can also be used as a substitute for sugar when cooking or baking. Another plus point for bananas is that they seldom contain pesticides due to their thick protective peel. Best of all, they are easy to eat, prepare, and digest. So what are you waiting for? Start including this amazing fruit in your diet today!
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