5 Impressive Health Benefits of Bananas

Bananas are one of the most popular and least expensive fruits to add to your diet. As such, they’re an economical way to help meet your daily fruit and vegetable requirements.

More than just a naturally sweet snack and versatile ingredient, the banana is also a superfood — thanks to its nutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber. You need to eat at least 2 cups of fruits every day, and eating a large banana satisfies half of that daily need. We suggest you eat a banana two or three days each week.

One banana contains more than 450 milligrams of potassium, a mineral that’s important for keeping your body fluids in balance, which in turn keeps your blood pressure at healthy levels. Experts agree that everyone needs about 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day. But bananas have many other benefits, too. Read on!

Health Benefits of Bananas

Bananas protect your heart because they contain potassium and dietary fiber, and they’re low in sodium. However, bananas can do so much more. Eating bananas (along with other fruits and vegetables) is an important part of a healthy diet.

Eating bananas provides you with potassium, vitamins B6 and C, plenty of fiber, and some magnesium, all of which are essential for good health. Bananas have the following in their favor:

They lower your blood pressure. Bananas are not only high in potassium but also low in sodium, a combination that may reduce high blood pressure. This means your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood throughout your body.

1. High in vitamin B6

One medium-sized banana can provide up to 33% of the Daily Value (DV) of this vitamin.

Your body needs B6 to produce red blood cells and to break down protein into components your body can use. Vitamin B6 also helps keep homocysteine levels in check. High homocysteine levels correlate to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Have lots of dietary fiber

A high proportion of the starch in unripe bananas is resistant starch, which passes through your gut undigested.

In your large intestine, this starch is fermented by bacteria to form butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that appears to have beneficial effects on gut health.

Bananas are also a good source of other types of fiber, such as pectin. Some of the pectin in bananas is water-soluble.

When bananas ripen, the proportion of water-soluble pectin increases, which is one of the main reasons why bananas turn soft as they age.

Studies confirm that people who eat diets high in fiber have lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Fiber is also important for keeping the digestive tract healthy by keeping bowel movements regular.

3. Rich in fructooligosaccharide (FOS)

Bananas are rich in fructooligosaccharide (FOS), a natural substance that feeds the friendly bacteria that live in the colon. These beneficial bacteria produce vitamins, enzymes, and other organic acids that help protect you from unfriendly bacteria. Bananas also contain a compound that combats the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and works as a natural antacid.

4. May help protect you from cancer

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancers, including a kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma. 

Of all the fruits and vegetables studied, the International Journal of Cancer reported in 2005 that bananas have the strongest association with the prevention of this disease. 

Bananas also contain plant lectins, proteins that survive digestion intact. Lectins are very biologically active and may fight cancer by killing cancerous cells and inhibiting tumor growth.

5. May help protect your bones

Bananas may help reduce calcium loss through the urine and improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, including calcium and other minerals needed for strong bones.

The potassium content of bananas helps to slow down the loss of urinary calcium associated with a diet high in salt, according to ‘Healing Foods’ by DK Publishing House. Moreover, bananas contain prebiotics, which feeds good bacteria in the gut. 

Often, we don’t pay much attention to our gut health, but a healthy gut can boost the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which is key for good bones and teeth.

How To Add Bananas To Your Diet?

You can find bananas in the produce department of every grocery store and even on the shelves in many convenience stores. They’re easy to store, easy to prepare, and easy to eat.

When bananas reach your grocery store, they may be more of a greenish tint and not fully ripe. 

That’s okay; just take your bananas home and let them ripen on the counter at room temperature.

Cold slows down the ripening process, so don’t put your bananas in the refrigerator until they are fully ripened, with yellow skin and brown spots.

The banana is a very versatile fruit. The simplest way to enjoy a banana is to simply peel one and eat it. Bananas are naturally sweet and don’t need anything to dress them up. You can also slice a banana and add it to a bowl of oatmeal to double up on superfoods (see Chapter 8 for more about oatmeal).

You can even use bananas to top off a hot fudge sundae or a banana split, or make Bananas Foster (a dessert made with bananas, vanilla ice cream, and a sauce that includes butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and dark rum). These treats are high in fat and calories, but it’s okay to treat yourself occasionally. Really.

Bananas can also be used as an ingredient: You can add them to fruit salad or, when they get fully ripe, you can use them to make banana bread or muffins. Bananas also are the secret ingredient for making fruit smoothies. 

For richer and thicker smoothies, cut ripe bananas into one-inch chunks and freeze them. When it’s time to make your smoothies, just pop four or five chunks into the blender with your other ingredients.

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