Banana, scientifically known as Tip banana, is a versatile and delicious fruit with numerous health benefits. It is one of the most produced, traded and consumed fruits in the world, with more than 1,000 varieties, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Bananas are native to South Asia and the Southeast Asia-Australia region and are now grown in more than 120 countries around the world.
Bananas are rich in nutrients such as potassium and vitamin B6. These nutrients, along with other components in bananas, can provide a variety of health benefits, from supporting heart health to providing energy.
Here’s why adding bananas to your diet is good for your overall health, and some ways to incorporate them into your meals.
It is recommended that people consume 22 to 34 grams (g) of fiber per day, depending on age and gender. Unfortunately, many Americans only consume half that amount. Fiber, also called roughage, is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and is an important nutrient that helps support digestion and heart health. It may also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer.
Eating fruits like bananas can help you meet recommended fiber intake. One medium-sized (about 7 inches long) raw banana provides 3 grams of fiber. Bananas are an easy source of dietary fiber because they are soft and portable, making them suitable for many people, including those with busy schedules, those who have difficulty chewing, and young children.
Adding more of the soluble fiber found in fruits to your diet can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber works by binding to cholesterol molecules in the small intestine and preventing their absorption.
In addition to fiber, bananas contain potassium, an essential mineral that helps control blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. One medium banana provides 422 milligrams (mg) of potassium, which is 9 percent of the recommended intake, or daily value (DV).
Potassium intake increases urinary excretion of sodium. It also helps relieve tension in blood vessel walls, helping to lower blood pressure. This is important to note because excess sodium in the blood draws water into the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.
In general, fiber helps with regularity and maintaining digestive health. Bananas contain soluble fiber and another type of fiber called prebiotics. Both types of fiber are particularly helpful in supporting the proliferation of good bacteria in your gut, which keeps your digestive system running smoothly and promotes overall health.
Bananas are also considered an easy-to-digest food and are part of a bland diet prescription for people suffering from gastrointestinal issues such as gas, diarrhea or vomiting. A bland diet may be useful for people with gastrointestinal disorders (such as gastrointestinal reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease, traveler’s diarrhea, diverticular disease) and for people recovering from gastrointestinal-related surgeries.
Bananas provide and support energy levels in a variety of ways. First, they are a source of carbohydrates, the body’s primary source of fuel. The carbohydrate content of unripe bananas is mainly starch. As they mature, the starch content decreases and the sucrose (a simple sugar) content increases. Simple sugars are easily absorbed into the bloodstream, providing a quick burst of energy.
Bananas also provide vitamin B6, which is essential for a variety of body functions, including energy metabolism and supporting brain health. Bananas are known for their potassium content. Potassium plays a vital role in regulating muscle function and neurotransmission. Additionally, bananas contain fiber, which can help you feel fuller for longer.
The portability of bananas makes them ideal for taking with you, ensuring you have energy available when you need it. Whether you need a snack on a busy morning, a pre-workout boost, or a quick energy boost throughout the day, bananas are a convenient source of energy.
Bananas are a natural source of electrolytes such as potassium, which are necessary for normal muscle function. Inadequate blood potassium levels can lead to muscle weakness. Adequate potassium is especially important for exercise, as less than optimal levels can lead to muscle and general fatigue and impaired athletic performance.
Although bananas may not be the first antioxidant fruit you think of, they do contain these beneficial compounds. Antioxidants are found naturally in many foods, especially plant foods such as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants support the immune system and help protect cells from free radical damage caused by natural and man-made elements such as environmental toxins, UV rays, and chemicals produced by the body during metabolism.
Bananas contain vitamin C, a known antioxidant. They also provide the nutrients copper and manganese, which are considered antioxidant minerals because they are required for antioxidant enzyme activity.
Although green bananas are not typically consumed due to their firm texture and high astringency, demand for green banana products such as green banana powder and green banana pulp is booming due to their potential health benefits. One of the main reasons people and researchers are interested in green bananas is that they contain resistant starch.
Resistant starch is the part of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine. Instead, it passes into the large intestine, or colon, where it is fermented by gut bacteria, essentially providing nutrients to the gut bacteria. Research shows that resistant starch, like fiber, can improve gut health and blood sugar, and reduce inflammation.
Listed is nutritional information for a medium-sized (approximately 7 inches long, 118 grams) raw banana.
- Calories: 105 kcal
- carbohydrate: 27 grams (grams)
- fiber: 3 grams
- manganese: 0.319 milligrams (mg) (14% of DV)
- copper: 0.092 mg (10% of daily value)
- Potassium: 422 mg (daily value or 9% of daily value)
- magnesium: 31.9 mg (8% of daily value)
- Riboflavin: 0.086 mg (7% of daily value)
- Vitamin B6: 0.433 mg (25% of daily value)
- Folic acid: 23.6 micrograms (mcg) (6% of daily value)
- Vitamin C: 10.3 mg (11% of daily value)
Bananas are particularly high in vitamin B6, a nutrient involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions in the body, including metabolism. Vitamin B6 is also involved in brain development and immune function during pregnancy.
Bananas are also a good source of other minerals and vitamins, especially manganese, a mineral involved in energy production, bone health, reproduction, blood clotting and supporting the immune system.
Bananas are the source of allergies for 0.6% of the general population, but as high as 67% and 46% of people with asthma or atopic dermatitis. Food allergies occur when the body recognizes a certain food as a threat, causing symptoms such as itchy and swollen skin. If you suspect you have a banana allergy or any type of food allergy, talk to your healthcare provider and avoid foods that trigger your allergy.
Bananas are a rich source of carbohydrates, especially ripe bananas, which have a higher natural sugar content. Eating too many carbohydrates at one time can often cause blood sugar to spike, especially in people with diabetes. To minimize the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar, it is recommended to control portion sizes and combine carbohydrate-rich foods with lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables.
Bananas contain potassium, and people with kidney disease may get too much or too little of the mineral. People with high blood potassium levels may be advised to limit their consumption of potassium-rich foods such as bananas.
Ripe bananas are rich in fructooligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that may not be tolerated by people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive disorder characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating Systemic disease. For people who are sensitive to fructooligosaccharides, it is recommended to limit the intake of ripe bananas to a small amount, about 1/3 of a banana.
Bananas can help you meet your needs for certain essential nutrients. Plus, they’re easy to incorporate into a variety of meals.
Store bananas at room temperature on a countertop away from sunlight so they can ripen. Once they reach optimal ripeness, they can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Spoiled bananas will emit an unpleasant odor, leak liquid, or have black flesh and should be discarded.
Here are some simple tips for eating bananas:
- Add sliced bananas to breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
- Blend fresh or frozen bananas with milk/water, other fruits, vegetables, protein powder or nut butter to make a delicious and nutritious smoothie.
- Spread mashed bananas on toast and top with chopped nuts or seeds and cinnamon.
- Pair them with protein sources like milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, nut butters, and more for a simple, nutritious breakfast or snack.
- Use ripe bananas in baked goods recipes to reduce added sugar.
- Freeze bananas that are about to be turned and use them later to make smoothies or banana frozen yogurt.
Bananas offer a versatile and delicious way to boost your health and well-being. What’s more, they’re a natural source of sweetness that can satisfy sweet cravings without the added sugar and additives found in processed sweets.
From breakfast to dessert, they can be incorporated into a variety of meals and beverages, whether fresh or frozen. They are also portable and have banana peels as their packaging. Bananas are a great choice when you need a healthy and delicious snack or a quick source of energy.