10 Health Benefits of Bananas Backed by Science
Bananas are a fruit prized for their health benefits. The creamy fruits are a staple food in our house because they are delicious, versatile, and one of the most affordable sources of nutrition at the market. Here are the top ten evidence-based health benefits of bananas that will have you reaching for more of the sweet and creamy fruits.
1. Bananas Are A Perfect Package of Energy
Bananas are an amazing nutrient-rich source of healthy energy, pure hydration, plant fiber, and nutrients. They also come in a perfect package that’s easy to peel. The average medium banana contains 89 calories, or about 120 calories for a large banana. This makes it easy to make a fulfilling snack or meal out of just bananas, or with banana as a base. Their nifty packaging makes bananas super easy to pack for a snack on the go, or pack a whole bunch and make a meal out of them.
2. Bananas Contain Loads of Nutrients
You might be surprised to learn that bananas contain all the macronutrients people need to be healthy including carbohydrates, fat, and protein! One large banana gives you 1.3 grams of protein, 22.8 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.4 grams of fat. Bananas also contain numerous essential vitamins and minerals. The creamy sweet fruits are a great source of potassium, vitamin B6 (33% RDA in one medium banana), vitamin C, phytonutrients, and antioxidant flavonoids.
1 medium sized banana contains the following:
? Protein:14.3 g
? Carbs: 27 g
? Fat: 0.4 g
? Folate: 23.6 g
? Potassium: 422 g
? Phosphorous: 29.9 g
? Manganese: 0.3 g
? Magnesium: 31.9 g
? Sodium: 1.2 mg and more….++++
3. Bananas Help Regulate Digestion
Bananas are a great source of dietary fiber, an important nutrient for healthy digestion. Studies show that people who eat diets with higher amounts of fiber have a quicker digestion time. Further studies suggest this more rapid digestion is also healthier for humans as it’s associated with less production of bacteria which may be toxic to the health. Many people today are not getting enough fiber in their diet because they are eating a lot of animal products (which contain no fiber) and processed foods (which often have little or no fiber). Diets low in fiber can lead to uncomfortable constipation and also digestive troubles. One large banana delivers 2.6 grams of fiber to help your digestive system keep running smoothly.
4. Bananas Make Us Feel Good
Eating bananas is known to boost the mood and help treat the symptoms of depression. Some have suggested that bananas make us feel good because they contain serotonin, a chemical best known as the “happiness hormone.” But science has shown us that the serotonin found in food cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. That’s where another substance called tryptophan comes in. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin that does cross the blood-brain barrier and which we only get from our food. Bananas, along with many other plant foods, contain this beneficial serotonin-promoting substance. Regardless of the mechanism of the mood-boost, other research has confirmed that bananas produce a definite positive effect on brain chemistry. A 2017 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmacuetical Sciences found that both banana pulp and peel has anti-stress and memory enhancing effects in mice. The researchers concluded,
“Both banana pulp and peel gave anti-anxiety antidepressant effect as well as strengthen the memory possibly via its antioxidant mechanism. Therefore, it is recommended that supplementation of banana could be taken a vital role in stress (anxiety and depression) relief and increased in memory function possibly by photo-antioxidants.”
5. Bananas Are a Hydrating Food
The average banana is 75 % water. This is about the same percentage of water as is contained in a newborn human baby! That means that each banana is delivering the purest form of hydration on planet earth: water filtered through plants and into fruit! One medium banana contains a whopping 88.4 grams of water to be precise. Eat a few medium bananas every day and this ads up to two cups of pure water from fruit. People who consume diets low in sodium and processed foods and high in raw plant foods find they are naturally less thirsty. This is because fresh plant foods are naturally hydrating – just another good reason to go bananas!
6. Bananas Are a Heart Healthy Food
Heart disease is the leading killer of people today but a whole foods plant-based diet can both prevent and reverse this disease. Bananas are an excellent part of a heart-healthy diet since they contain no cholesterol and zero trans fat. Eating bananas can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels reducing the symptoms of heart disease.
7. Bananas Fight Inflammation Like Ibuprofen Does
Amazingly eating bananas triggers a similar internal reaction as taking ibuprofen. Researchers made this discovery when they pitted bananas against sports drinks and plain water. In the study bicyclists consumed either water, a sports drink, or bananas and had their blood drawn and tested before and after their ride. The results of the tests showed that only those who had consumed bananas had reduced levels of the COX-2 enzyme which promotes inflammation in the body. The anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen works by inhibiting COX-2. Bananas appear to have the same effect.
8. Bananas Can Help With Weight Loss
Bananas are a low-fat, low-calorie fruit that can help you shed extra pounds. The creamy fruit with the yellow peel has long been praised as a weight loss aid. The super-fruit has even starred in a few diet fads over the last 100 years including the Banana and Milk Diet, the Morning Banana Diet, and the Banana Island Diet. A quick YouTube search will pull up numerous videos from those who have tried the 30 Bananas a Day Diet or some variation there of. The basic idea of bananas for weight loss is that by filling up on water-rich, fiber-rich, carbohydrate-rich fruit, you will be satisfied and lose cravings for the calorie-dense high-fat foods that are responsible for the extra pounds.
Check out these stories of people who have lost weight with the help of bananas and a whole food plant-based diet.
9. Boost Your Brainpower with a Banana
Give a boost to your brain by regularly including bananas in your diet. Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrates and carbs happen to be the preferred fuel of the human brain. Every cell in the human brain runs on glucose. In one experiment for the BBC documentary Fat vs Sugar, twin brothers went on opposite diets to see how their bodies would react differently to the foods. One brother ate a high-fat diet comprised almost entirely of animal foods while the other brother ate a high-carb diet comprised entirely of plant foods. The brothers were subjected to a brain challenge while on their diets where they had to perform complex stock trading on a computer considering multiple variables to make their decisions. The brother who has fueled up on carbs has no problem whizzing through the task, while the high-fat diet brother obviously struggles. Later the high-fat diet twin admits feeling foggy writing,
“While I wasn’t distracted by hunger for the month, I felt thick-headed, and this was most evident in a stock trading competition with Chris. We started with 100,000 Euros of fake money and he almost tripled what I earned over an hour.”
His report of feeling “thick-headed” backs up the common experience of feeling tired and sluggish after eating a large meal, particularly one high in fat such as meat, cheese, milk, butter, and eggs. It is also common for people who switch to a whole food plant-based diet to report greater mental clarity as this study confirms.
Another reason why bananas are good for the brain has to do with their potassium content. Neurons in the human brain require high levels of potassium to function properly. Low potassium levels are associated with the experience of “brain fog” described by the twin who ate the high-fat diet. The effect was partially explained by a 2012 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Letters that looked at how potassium impacts brain function. Study participants first took potassium supplements for twenty days. Afterwards researchers measured the level of harmful free radicals in their brains and found they had decreased significantly. Free radicals can lead to oxidative damage and a decrease in brain function, but potassium was found to counteract this effect. Put simply, bananas (with their high doses of potassium) appear to prevent brain damage – pretty sweet.
10. Bananas Can Help You Heal Disease
Plus eating bananas can actually help heal numerous ailments. Eating more fruit, and more whole plants in general, is associated with a reduced risk of numerous chronic diseases. According to Dr. Michael Greger of NutritiionFacts.org:
“The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, the largest analysis of risk factors for death and disease in history, found that the leading cause of both death and disability in the United States was the American diet, followed by smoking. And what did the nearly 500 researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries determine to be the worst aspect about the American diet? Not eating enough fruit.”
If you aren’t getting enough fruit in your diet, pick up some bananas next time you’re at the market. Bananas are readily available, affordable, easy to eat, and super tasty. There’s so many good reasons to go bananas for your health!
Healing With Plants is empowering people to heal themselves at home, with plants. Explore more nutrition facts, healing whole foods plant-based recipes, and inspiring stories that testify for the amazing healing power of plants.
Sources: 1. Business Insider, "People Around the World Are Eating Banana Peels Because..." 2. Natural News, "How bananas are better than pills for treating depression, const..." 2. NutritionFacts.org, "Bananas." 3. Pakistan Journal of Pharmacuetical Sciences,"Banana fruit pulp and peel involve..." 4. PLOS One, "Metabolic recovery from heavy exertion following banana compared to.." 5. SELF Nutrition Data, "Bananas, raw, nutrition facts and calories." 6. The New York Times, "Bananas vs. Sports Drinks? Bananas Win in Study."