Are Bananas Good For You or Carb Bombs?
Bananas are a fruit most of us grew up eating, mashed up as baby food or blended into a smoothie. You walk into a kitchen and more times than not, there is a bunch of bananas sitting in a fruit bowl waiting to ripen on the counter.
Bananas are an edible fruit produced by a flowering plant that generally grow in tropical climates (1). This fruit is jam packed with vitamins and minerals, is a healthy source of fibre, and tastes delicious too. Not only do bananas contain virtually no fat or cholesterol, they are rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and several other nutrients (2).
One medium-sized banana is considered a single serving, weighing in at around 120 grams, and contains an average of (3, 4, 5):
- Calories: 105
- Net Carbs: 24 grams
- Sugar: 14 grams
- Fibre: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
It’s safe to say bananas are jam-packed with nutrients!
And if you’ve ever competed in a race of any form, whether it be running, cycling, swimming, or all of the above, there is a good reason for those free bananas waiting for you at the finish line.
Below we will highlight the many amazing health benefits of bananas, giving you a more concrete understanding of why bananas are not something to fear but rather a fruit that you can get excited to include in your diet.
1) Bananas Are High in Potassium
One of the most commonly known facts about bananas is that they are very high in potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral that maintains heart function and helps regulate blood pressure (6, 7). In fact, abnormal heart rhythm is symptomatic of potassium deficiency.
Potassium plays a key role in the effective function of the sodium-potassium pump. Explained in simple terms, the sodium-potassium pump is a process necessary for energy production inside the body, which promotes proper muscular contraction.
A diet high in sodium, and low in potassium can be problematic. Too much salt, and not enough potassium can result in hypertension, and can damage the arteries leading to the heart (8).
A diet high in processed foods is a recipe for hypertension and other health problems, because of it’s sodium rich content. A quality diet, full of unprocessed and natural foods, is ideal and high in potassium.
A diet rich in potassium helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium, but an imbalance in sodium-potassium can also lead to other health problems, including (9):
- heart disease and stroke
- ulcers and stomach cancer
- kidney stones
- rheumatoid arthritis
To summarize, too much salt and too little potassium is not a good thing. Potassium is necessary to balance out the effects that sodium has on the body. The good news about bananas is that it is a natural, unprocessed, potassium rich food that can be a helpful addition to your diet.
Just one banana contains around 467mg of potassium, and only 1mg of sodium (10).
So next time you eat a banana, just know that you are giving your body a much needed potassium boost, that can maintain a healthy heart and healthy body.
[Related: 15 Health Benefits of Bananas]
2) Bananas Are a Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral found in abundance in many natural foods, including many green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard, legumes and nuts, seeds, and, you guessed it, bananas (11).
Some of the major functions in the body that require magnesium, and major challenges linked to magnesium deficiency, are listed below (12):
Major Functions of Magnesium:
- Protein synthesis
- Nerve function
- Blood sugar control
- Neurotransmitter release
- Blood pressure regulation
- Energy metabolism
- Production of the antioxidant glutathione
Major Challenges of Deficiency:
- Hormone imbalance and PMS
- Heart attack
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Anxiety and depression
- Chronic fatigue
While bananas are not the highest on the list in terms of magnesium content, they still offer a powerful punch containing around 8%, or 32 mg, of your daily dietary requirements for this mineral (13).
From the above information, it is safe to say that bananas are in fact a good source of magnesium, and magnesium helps to play a major roll in your overall health and well-being.
3) Bananas Contain Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a nutrient essential for the proper function of the human body, is a known antioxidant that helps boost immune function and fight off free radical damage, and is also found in high amounts bananas.
While oranges are most famously advertised for their high vitamin C content, bananas offer a good dose of this vitamin as well.
Vitamin C has numerous functions in the body, including (14):
- Essential cofactor in enzymatic reactions
- Helps produce collagen, carnitine, and catecholamines
- Growth and repair of tissues
- Helps repair wounds
- Maintains health of bones and teeth
- Helps absorb iron
- Powerful antioxidant
- Protects heart health
- Maintains healthy blood pressure
- Powerful antioxidant
- Boosts immune function
Low levels of vitamin C have been associated with (15):
- High blood pressure
- Gallbladder disease
- Some cancers
- Atherosclerosis (build up of plaque in blood vessels)
The Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C is 60 milligrams, and a 9-inch banana contains 10 milligrams of vitamin C, providing around 16 percent of the DV for this vitamin (16).
Getting enough vitamin C in your diet is important to maintain heart function, balance out blood pressure, prevent numerous other disease and also to boost your day to day immune function. Along with its many other nutrient offerings, one banana can provide a good source of daily vitamin C.
4) Bananas Are Rich in Vitamin B6
Along with many of the B vitamins, B6 plays a huge role in the bodies necessary production of energy. Without adequate B6 in the body, there is a missing link.
Because vitamin B6 is water-soluble, it cannot be stored in the body, therefore a continuous supply of this vitamin through diet is essential for optimal health. The good news is bananas are a really great, easily available, source of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 helps the body to (17):
- Make antibodies to help fight disease
- Maintain normal nerve function
- Make hemoglobin
- Break down proteins
- Keel blood sugar in normal ranges
B6 is essential in the creation and maintenance of many processes in the body that help ward off illness and keep all systems running smoothly.
It should be common knowledge that for females taking birth control pills, you should also be consuming foods with a high content of B vitamins, B6 and B12 specifically (18). But, unfortunately this isn’t a widely known fact. Bananas are an optimal food to be consuming to prevent B6 deficiency.
Adequate B6 consumption has also been proven to reduce one’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is an umbrella term for a group of risk factors that increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke (19, 20).
According to the National Institutes of Health, it is suggested that adults try and consume a milligram and a half of B6 daily.
At an average of 100 grams, a small to medium sized banana provides 0.4 milligrams of vitamin B6, nearly a third of the daily value for this vitamin. That’s a pretty good dose of B6, all from one banana.
People should get most of their nutrients from food, and bananas are an amazing option. At one-third of the daily requirement for vitamin B6, one banana a day can help prevent B6 deficiency and boost health.
5) Bananas Contain Fiber
Fibre is a substance found in plants.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are foods with high amounts of dietary fibre, the kind that we can eat (21).
Dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of food found in plants, and can be categorized as (22, 23):
- Dissolves in water
- When mixed with water, forms a gel-like substance
- Moderates blood glucose and lowers cholesterol
- Found in oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables
- Does not dissolve in water
- Provides bulking
- Reduces risk for hemorrhoids and constipation
- Comes from the bran layers of cereal grains
There are many benefits of consuming foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre. Bananas contain both.
Dietary fibre provides many health benefits, including (24, 25, 26):
- Controlling blood sugar
- Managing blood pressure
- Reducing blood cholesterol
- Increasing the feeling of being full
- Weight management
- Regulating bowel movement
- Lowers risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension
- Lowers risk for certain gastrointestinal diseases
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, a healthy adult needs between 21 to 38 grams of fibre daily, but surveys show that the average daily intake for Canadians is only 14 grams (27).
According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a minimum of 8 grams of soluble fibre should be consumed per day to achieve cholesterol lowering benefits (28).
A medium sized banana contains 3.1 grams of fibre, and is a mix of both categories, containing 1 gram of soluble and 2.1 grams of insoluble fibre (29).
One banana contains on average 12.5 percent of the daily value of soluble fibre intake (30).
Fibre is essential in our diets because it provides bulk, and allows for smooth movement of nutrients through the digestive track. Because of bananas soluble and insoluble fibre content, one banana a day can provide an extra boost of fibre daily with maximum benefits.
More Reasons to Love Bananas
- Bananas are a high source of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin — the mood-boosting neurotransmitter in the brain (31).
- Bananas are a great fruit pre and post workout, as its carbohydrate content will pack a powerful energy punch and provide a much needed nutrient boost.
- Bananas have a glycemic index of 52, meaning they are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised and help regulate blood sugar levels (32).
- Bananas also contain some Iron, at 0.4 milligrams per banana, which helps boost your red blood cell count and protects against anemia (33).
- Bananas are rich in pectin, which is a polysaccharide found in the cell walls of plants, which helps reduce cholesterol, balance out blood sugar, and remove toxins like lead and mercury (34).
- Bananas contain between 14-16 percent of your daily value for manganese, which helps to heal wounds and boost metabolism (35, 36).
- Bananas are a great alternative to other highly processed dessert foods. You can add bananas into smoothies, pancakes, and even make banana “nice cream“, a dairy ice cream alternative.
So, Are Bananas Good for You?
Not only do bananas taste delicious, they are packed with a ton of vitamins, minerals and help to boost your overall health.
Not only is one banana relatively low in calories, it contains beneficial amounts of natural sugars, fibre, potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin b6, copper, and manganese.
Bananas help regulate digestion, promote heart health, provide an antioxidant boost, reduce your risk for certain diseases, and they are an easily accessible, affordable fruit to eat.
Not only can you find bananas in any supermarket you walk into, bananas can be used in a wide variety of ways.
So next time you go to reach for the ice cream in the freezer, or the chips in the cupboard, think about bananas! Your banana nice cream and banana chips selection not only tastes great, you’ll be left feeling healthier too.