There are many different opinions on the healthiest possible foods you can eat. Depending on the list you look at, the choices range from kale to spinach to goji berries. But one of the foods that consistently appears on these lists is the common banana. The health benefits of bananas are amazing. Bananas are one of the very best sources of potassium, are easily digestible, and come in a unique, sanitary, and convenient package. Bananas are also high in vitamin C and fiber and can be used in a wide variety of recipes.
Each average size banana has about 90 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 450 milligrams of potassium (or 13% of your daily requirement) and trace amounts of tryptophan and some Vitamin A.
Bananas are one of the most common fruits in the world and are grown in over 100 countries, including India, the Philippines, China, and Ecuador. Bananas are even grown in Iceland in geothermic greenhouses. There are over 1000 different types of bananas, and each year, over 100 tons of the fruit are grown and distributed. Cooking bananas, such as plantains, are a common staple food in many Latin American and tropical countries, and ensure a constant source of food for millions of people.
Check out our gluten-free and dairy-free smoothie recipe with bananas!
6 Health Benefits of Bananas
Here are some of the health benefits that are associated with bananas.
- Lower Blood Pressure for a Healthy Heart
- Reduced Cancer Risk
- Digestive Benefits
- Banana Skins
1. Lower Blood Pressure for a Healthy Heart
Because bananas are so high in potassium, they can help regulate sodium in the body. This in turn can help lower your blood pressure. In addition, some recent studies have indicated that potassium is also beneficial because it acts as a vasodilator on your cardiovascular system. These studies show that people who eat the RDA of 47000 mg of potassium per day have a 20% reduced rate of dying from all causes combined. That’s very impressive!
The FDA even allows banana growers to state that bananas are proven to reduce high blood pressure and the risk of stroke, like the claims that pharmaceutical companies can make about their drugs.
Bananas are a great way to support a healthy heart because they contain potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. High levels of potassium are also known to reduce the risk of stroke and reduce the chance of ischemic heart disease.
2. Reduced Cancer Risk
Bananas provide Vitamin C and high fiber, both of which are very important for reducing your overall risk of cancer. Vitamin C is known to combat free radicals in the body, which are a starting point for many cancers, while high fiber is known to directly reduce the incidence of colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers. Bananas are also proven to reduce the risk of kidney cancer, based on a study of Swedish women.
3. Digestive Benefits
With today’s modern diet, most people do not get enough fiber. Since bananas are a great source of fiber, they can help with constipation and can help ensure regularity. Bananas also contain a type of prebiotic that is very beneficial for the friendly bacteria in our digestive system that allows us to absorb nutrients. This can be very beneficial for people with digestive issues.
Alternatively, bananas are a great food choice for those who are suffering from temporary stomach upset. Most parents are very familiar with the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) which is a common remedy for those recovering from an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bananas are very good at binding with other lower-fiber foods, which helps create firmer stools. And the potassium is useful to help replenish lost fluids, and other nutrients.
Finally, bananas have been shown to protect against ulcers, because there are compounds and enzymes (leucocyanidin) in the fruit that help protect the stomach lining from hydrochloric acid. And bananas also have protease inhibitors that may help purge bacteria that are a top cause of ulcers.
Some health practitioners recommend that those with peptic ulcers eat three bananas per day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They should be eaten raw, but can be eaten plain, or in a smoothie, sliced with other low-acid fruits or as part of a dessert. Continue to eat three bananas per day until your symptoms fade. Try to stay away from fruits with acid, like oranges, grapefruit, and berries.
Given that bananas are so sweet, you may think that they have a high glycemic index (GI) rating. However, ripe bananas only have a GI of 62, which is fairly low. Unripe bananas can have a GI rating as low as 30. So, look for bananas that are quite firm and still have green on the skins. In addition, the starch from bananas that are not ripe can help diabetics lose weight and lower their insulin sensitivity.
Bananas have anti-inflammatory properties, and can help reduce inflammation, swelling and irritation from diseases including arthritis, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, sinus and skin conditions. When bananas ferment in the large intestine, it creates inflammation-fighting substances. Bananas also contain magnesium, phytochemicals, and flavonoids, all of which help fight inflammation. Try to eat one banana per day to get the most benefit.
6. Banana Skins
Did you know that you can eat the skins of bananas? Make sure you use only organic bananas, since pesticides can be found in the skins of conventionally grown bananas. A great way to start is by cutting up a banana, minus the tips, and then freezing the quarters. Throw these frozen sections into a blender along with yogurt, and other fruit, and you will not even realize they are there. The skins contain numerous nutrients.
Another way to use the skins is by peeling them off the banana, cutting them into small strips, and then using them to make a high-potassium tea. You can also add the peels to your regular tea, and steep for three to four minutes. Banana peels can also be used in a stir-fry with vegetables, served over rice.
Try to incorporate more bananas in your life, starting today! As you can see the health benefits of bananas are amazing.