15 Benefits of Eating Bananas on a Regular Basis
Bananas are one of the most widely eaten fruits in the planet. They are dense in potassium and pectin, a form of fiber, and are also an excellent way to get vitamins C and B6 as well as magnesium. Bananas are packed with antioxidants, which give protection against free radicals. They have several benefits for weight loss, heart health and digestion, and contain many essential nutrients. Besides being extremely nutritious, they are also a convenient snack to bring around.
Bananas are an edible fruit produced by many varieties of herbaceous flowering plants. (1)
The fruit comes in many colors, sizes, and firmness, but for the most part it is curved and elongated with soft dense flesh in a starch enclosed rind that could be yellow, green, red, purple, or even brown, once it becomes suitable to eat.
Bananas propagate in bunches hanging from the top of its tree. Practically all known edible seedless bananas emanate from two species: the Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. (2)
15 Health Benefits of Bananas
1. Bananas are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals
There are several kinds of bananas available, and they range in size, shape and color. The most common variety is the yellow banana, which is green when not fully ripe. Bananas have fiber and many antioxidants.
For instance a typical banana (100 grams/3.5 ounces) has only around 89 calories, which is almost solely water and carbohydrates (22.84 grams). Bananas have little protein (1.09 grams) and trace amounts of fat (0.33 grams). Carbohydrates in unripened bananas are mostly starch and resistant starch, however as the banana ripens, the starch transforms into sugar, namely glucose, sucrose and fructose (12.23 grams). (3)
- Thiamine (B1) (3%) 0.031 mg
- Riboflavin (B2) (6%) 0.073 mg
- Niacin (B3) (4%) 0.665 mg
- Pantothenic acid (B5) (7%) 0.334 mg
- Vitamin B6 (31%) 0.4 mg
- Folate (B9) (5%) 20 μg
- Choline (2%) 9.8 mg
- Vitamin C (10%) 8.7 mg
- Iron (2%) 0.26 mg
- Magnesium (8%) 27 mg
- Manganese (13%) 0.27 mg
- Phosphorus (3%) 22 mg
- Potassium (8%) 358 mg
- Sodium (0%) 1 mg
- Zinc (2%) 0.15 mg
Values taken from the USDA Nutrient Database
2. Bananas contain antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables are ideal sources of dietary antioxidants, and those include bananas and other superfoods.
Bananas contain different kinds of powerful antioxidants which include catechins and dopamine. These two antioxidants have been associated with numerous health benefits. Dopamine in particular, has been found to have a higher antioxidant potency than glutathione. (4)
3. Bananas support cardiovascular health
Potassium, an essential mineral for cardiovascular health and blood pressure control, is abundant in bananas, making it an ideal dietary source.
Potassium-rich diets can help decrease blood pressure, and individuals who consume lots of potassium may lower their risk of developing heart disease. (5)
4. Bananas may improve renal health
Potassium is an essential mineral for blood pressure regulation and healthy kidney function. (6)
Being a great source of potassium, bananas could be particularly advantageous for maintaining and preserving healthy kidneys.
Recent research in women revealed that over a 13 year period, people who consumed bananas 2-3 times a week were 33% less prone to develop kidney disease. (7)
Other research has shown that those who ate bananas up to 4–6 times per week were 50% less prone to develop kidney disease, when compared to individuals who did not consume bananas. (8)
5. Bananas may improve digestive health
A moderate-sized banana has around 3 grams of dietary fiber. (8)
Bananas contain two types of fiber – pectin, which decreases when the banana becomes ripe, and resistant starch which is found in bananas that are not yet ripe. The latter evades digestion and once in the large intestine, feeds beneficial bacteria.
In a study conducted on over 500,000 from 10 European countries, results showed that people who ate at least 30 grams of fiber per day reduced their risk of developing colon cancer by approximately half, compared to those who ate below 15 grams of fiber per day. (9)
6. Bananas Promote Eye Health
In addition to the abundance of other vitamins and minerals, bananas also contain a small amount of vitamin A. (10)
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for normal vision, and it includes the compounds beta carotene and alpha carotene. (11) These help in preserving membranes surrounding the eyes and are responsible for bringing light into the cornea.
Adequate intake of vitamin A lessens your risk of developing night blindness and is recommended for everyday vision. (12)
Women need at least 600 micrograms a day, while men need at least 700 micrograms, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Your typical 6-inch banana contains 10 micrograms of Vitamin A. (13)
7. Bananas Alleviate Heartburn and Alleviate Symptoms of Ulcer
Bananas have long been used to allievate heartburn due to its unique ability to enhance the protective mucus layer of the stomach and balance the stomach’s pH levels. (14)
The fiber content also helps in moving food efficiently through the digestive tract, preventing reflux.
Eating bananas regularly has also been linked to a lower incidence of stomach ulcers.
Over time, bananas strengthen and thicken the stomach’s protective mucus layer, thereby preventing damage from hydrochloric acid. Additionally, bananas contain protease inhibitors that eliminate certain bacteria that cause or worsen stomach ulcers. (15)
8. Bananas Enhance Immunity and Combat Cancerous Cell Changes
In an experiment that looked into different ripe fruit such as persimmon, pear, pineapple, watermelon, apple, grape and banana and their effects on immunity on the body, results showed that banana increased showed the best results in increasing the number of white blood cells and producing Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), which is an anti-cancer substance. (16)
TNF is a cytokine, or a substance secreted by cells of the ummune system which helps in fighting abnormal tumor cells. In another study, fuctose-binding lectin was isolated from Del Monte bananas which inhibited the proliferation of leukemia cells and hepatoma cells. It is possible that the lectin isolated from banana in this particular study can be developed into a useful antitumor agent, among other things. (17)
[Related: Inflammation 101]
9. Bananas Contain Nutrients That Control Blood Sugar Levels
Bananas are contain fiber known as pectin. (18) Young bananas have resistant starch, which functions akin to soluble fiber and evades digestion.
Resistant starch and pectin may control blood sugar levels after meal consumption, and lessen cravings by delaying gastric emptying. Bananas also figure moderately on the glycemic index. (19)
The glycemix index is a measure of how swiftly foods raise blood sugar levels (0-100). Bananas therefore should not trigger spikes in blood sugar levels in normal individuals.
10. Unripe bananas have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance has been proven to be a major risk factor to many serious diseases. (20)
Research has shown that 20–30 grams of resistant starch each day may help insulin sensitivity in individuals with metabolic syndrome. (21)
Unripe bananas are considered an excellent dietary source of resistant starch and may be a form of treatment for pre-diabetes patients or patients suffering from metabolic syndrome.
11. Bananas aid in weight loss
Bananas are relatively low in calories, containing just under 90, but it is also quite filling and nutritious.
Due to their rich fiber content, consumption of more fruits and vegetables has been associated with weight loss as well as a lower body weight. (22)
It is also such an ideal snack due to the convenience at which you can eat them.
A popular myth on the Internet is that bananas improve mood because of their serotonin content. Logically, it makes sense that the dopamine found in bananas was believed to have a positive effect on mood and disposition, but since it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, it simply functions as an antioxidant. (23)
[Related: 8 Benefits of Green Tea for Weight Loss]
12. Bananas could benefit exercise and athletic performance
Bananas are usually mentioned as the ideal food for active people, mostly because of their nutritional profile, namely the for their carb and mineral content.
Consuming bananas may alleviate exercise-associated muscle soreness and cramps, which is experienced by more than 90% of the general population. (24)
Why we get cramps is essentially unknown, but most theories blame it on a combination of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Having said that, bananas have been proven to give superior nutrition pre, during and post exercise, especially during endurance activities or prolonged trainings. (25)
Bananas could provide relief from muscle cramps triggered by exercise, and they likewise provide outstanding fuel for endurance work.
13. Bananas reduce asthma symptoms in children
According to studies, children who eat bananas everyday have up to 34% reduced risk of displaying asthma symptims such as wheezing. (26) This is due to bananas’ rich vitamin B6 content, also known as pyrixodince, which aid in relaxing bronchial muscle tissue.
With over 25 million Americans suffering from asthma, most of which are children, (27) bananas can be considered an alternative to conventional treatments of asthma symptoms such as asthma inhalers and steroids.
14. Bananas help with satiety
Resistant starch, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate present in bananas that are unripe, which performs similarly to soluble fiber in the body (28), is one of the reasons why bananas rank relatively high on the satiety index of common foods. (29)
Ripe bananas on the other hand, contain lower levels of total fiber and resistant starch, but have higher levels of soluble fiber. Resistant starch and pectin have been proven to possess appetite-suppressing effects and the fullness factor of meals. (30)
15. Bananas promote regularity
Just one banana a day can help in keeping you regular. A typical 6-inch banana contains around 2.5 grams of total fiber, half of which are insoluble. (31)
When insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract, it helps push out waste and ensures that bowel movements are easy to pass. (32)
Keeping your bowels healthy by consuming a minimum of 14 grams fiber per 1,000 calories consumed is recommended by the Colorady State University Extension. So for a standard 1,800-calorie diet, consumption of at least 25 grams of total fiber is recommended. (33)