7 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Bananas

Bananas in a circle.

Question: What is unique about this banana article that makes it different from all other banana articles? Answer: In this article, I am not going to make a pun about ‘going bananas.’ No promises about staying away from other puns, though. But seriously; they’re everywhere. Try googling “what is the most popular fruit?” and guess what fruit comes up?

The banana. It’s supposedly even more popular in United States than the famous apple (which, to be honest, seriously surprised me! Whatever happened to “American as apple pie”? Maybe it’s time for a change of saying…) There’s a reason these fruits are so beloved. They’re quick, easy to eat, with virtually no cutting/prep required, have numerous health benefits, and taste delicious!

What Are Bananas? Where Do Bananas Come From?

Bananas stacked in a row.

Bananas growing.

The yellow crescents are fruits – or berries, to be botanically correct – because they come from one flower which has one ovary. The banana plant is often confused with a tree.  It’s the biggest flowering plant and its pseudo-stem can be confused for a trunk. Since its stem does not contain woody tissue, it isn’t considered a tree. (Ever heard of someone building anything out of banana-tree-bark? Me neither.)

Bananas are native to India, Australia and South-East Asia, but you’ll find them in over 130 countries worldwide. How come they are so widespread? Probably because the farmers don’t have to worry about them growing abnormally, or anything like that.

Cavendish bananas – which are probably the bananas you love to eat – are all clones. Yup, they’re exactly the same. You can virtually take part of any banana plant, replant it, and it’ll reproduce. The new plant will be genetically identical to those of the first plant…and the plant before that…and the plant before that…

Because of this, there’s a worry that if one disease were to affect one banana, the entire supply could be wiped out. Here’s hoping that this wonderful fruit stays healthy, so we can enjoy it for years to come!

7 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Bananas

1. Nutrient-Dense

One regular-sized banana is considered one serving, or half a cup of fruit. Here are some hard nutrition facts for a medium banana:

  • Potassium: 422 mg
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 – 3 g
  • Vitamin B6: 0.5mg, or 33% of USDA daily value
  • Vitamin C: 9 mg
  • Magnesium: 34 mg
  • Manganese: 0.3 mg
  • Minerals like zinc, copper, selenium iron and sodium
  • Vitamin A,E,K and B vitamins; B-1,B-2, B-3 and B-9

If you’re not sure what that means in terms of your health, you’re basically looking at an array of nutrients that are crucial for your overall well-being. Speak to any dietitian or nutritionist and they’ll assure you of the wide array of entailment vitamins and minerals that bananas have on offer. This is all with a ripe banana in mind, but unripe bananas (green bananas) also pack a punch of nutrients. An unripe banana peel contains major fatty acids during its ripening stage, as well as essential amino acids. This means that while you’ll gain the most benefits from ripe bananas, their unripened counterparts don’t lag too far behind in terms of nutrient content.

2. Improves Digestive Health

Banana peel in the shape of a heart.

Bananas For Heart Health.

Another health benefit of this superfood is that they’re also great for your digestive system – surprisingly, bananas are said to help relieve both constipation and diarrhea (and restore potassium and electrolytes that diarrhea may have depleted).

The high potassium content of bananas keeps your digestive muscles moving smoothly.  Potassium-rich foods in general are ideal if you’re looking to improve your digestive health. As an added bonus potassium-rich foods also support the nervous system and may reduce feelings of anxiety. Additionally, the soluble fiber in bananas, like pectin, and resistant starch, which functions like fiber, helps keep your food moving easily through your digestive tract and improves you bowel movements. This can ease constipation as the average banana contains up to 3 grams of fiber. Bananas are also easy on intestinal walls that may be irritated and can be eaten to soothe a stomach ulcer without further irritation.

They’re a high source of the prebiotic fructooligosaccharides, meaning that they help with the growth of good bacteria in your gut, whose job is to fight off organisms that could cause harm to your digestive system. Plus, bananas are an antacid; they help relieve issues like acid reflux, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and heartburn.

3. Supports Heart Health

Your heart hearts bananas! Potassium, which is abundant in bananas, works to significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering high blood pressure, helping your heart muscle to pump blood, and clearing your blood vessels, which prevents your blood clotting.

Since most people are not getting enough potassium, it’s quite likely that you and I should be opting for foods with a higher potassium content (unless you have been instructed otherwise by your doctor). This can reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as your risk of stroke.

Bananas also have vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6, and low sodium, all of which are important to keep your heart healthy, lower blood pressure, and prevent heart disease.

4. Improves Energy Levels

Female athlete holding banana with towel around her neck.

Athlete eating banana.

You wanna know which foods give you healthy energy? Just ask the athletes – it’s their job to know! Bananas are a popular food among athletes, and for good reason. They can give you the sugar rush that you need now, as well as conserve energy in your body for when you need it later.

Another health benefit of bananas is that they have healthy sugar! Sugars in bananas are natural sugars called fructose, glucose and sucrose. Fructose and glucose are released into your body quickly, so you get that instant energy boost, whereas sucrose goes more slowly. This means that it continues to give you energy later on, which makes it ideal for a workout.

Bananas keep your energy levels up throughout your workout. This is due to the fact that sucrose doesn’t enter your bloodstream so quickly. It keeps your blood sugar levels stable so you don’t get that spike and then the crash that comes afterwards (like you do when you eat something high in processed sugar). Unlike caffeine, this energy boost isn’t addictive and doesn’t leave you craving for another one.

Even though your body needs carbs for energy, it still uses up energy to digest the carbs, which can make your body tired. The carbs in bananas, though, are easy for your body to digest, leaving you with the maximum amount of energy. The potassium also helps with your work out: it keeps your muscles functioning and in good shape (think: none of those muscle cramps after a solid workout), and also helps you to stay more alert during exercise.

Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and protein further help to keep your body healthy and improve the quality of your exercise. Bananas can be eaten before you exercise for energy, and after you exercise, since the vitamin C helps repair damage that may have been caused by your intense workout.

5. Aids Weight Loss

The increased satiation and energy levels that bananas give you have been linked to lower body weight. You essentially have the energy to workout and your muscles get the fuel that they need to recover. Bananas also help you to feel full which can limit your food intake and enhance a healthy diet. A PLOS study provides medical advice that shows how bananas are an ideal source of energy during exercise, suggesting that it can lead to more effective weight loss and boost your metabolism.

If you’re not sure where to start with incorporating bananas in to your weight loss journey, there are many popular recipes. Post-workout many athletes enjoy a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and some slice bananas. This restores your glycogen stores without spiking your blood sugar levels and leaves your feeling satiated.

6. Contains Powerful Antioxidants

Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants. Bananas a pretty up there on the list. They contain several antioxidants including dopamine and catechins. The antioxidants found in bananas eliminate free radicals in the body which can cause cell damage. A diet that’s rich in antioxidants boosts your immune system, improves your complexion, and can reduce your risk of numerous diseases.

Whether you want to ward off your risk of disease or are looking to enhance your beauty regime, bananas have something to offer. Mashing some bananas and mixing with honey can create a deeply moisturizing and balancing face mask. You can find banana extract in an array of beauty products to leave your skin soft and glowing.

7. Helps Keep You Full For Longer

Man with curly hair laughing.

Man smiling.

Many people get scared off by the sugar and carb content in bananas. Firstly, even if you’re trying to lose weight, your body still needs sugar, so you have the energy to function.

We all know that too much sugar or carbohydrates is not a good thing (for your health or your waistline). One banana has between 23 and 30 grams of carbs. In comparison to a chocolate chip cookie, which has a whopping 58 grams! A banana is certainly doing far better things for your body than a sugary chocolate chip cookie would be doing.

Making healthy carb choices is an important part of losing weight and staying healthy. A banana has a high carb count (an apple, in comparison, has around 14 grams).  Ever notice that while it’s basically impossible to stop at one chocolate chip cookie, it’s far easier to eat one banana and feel satisfied? That’s because the carbs in bananas get released into your body slowly, which keeps you full for longer. A cookie will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and leaves you craving for the next one. Additionally, they’re a great source of probiotics which ensure your overall gut health.

In summary: bananas have loads of great things to offer your body and in moderation, make a healthy, filling snack that will leave you full and provide your body with the energy it needs.

Banana Allergy Explained

I know I have already convinced you of all the fabulous things bananas can do for you. I’m now going to tell you the only reason you should ever avoid it: if you’re allergic to them. You’ll recognize an allergy from uncomfortable flu-like symptoms. This includes hives, a fever, runny nose or eyes, itchy mouth and/or throat area, as well as digestion issues.

In severe cases, you may even have an anaphylactic attack, which can be life-threatening, though it isn’t common.

People who are allergic to bananas are typically allergic to pollen (hay fever) and/or the following: latex, kiwi, chestnuts and avocado since they all have a similar protein (chitinase) which triggers the reaction. If you’re allergic to bananas, you might also find that you react to other fruits or vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and olives.

If you reckon you’re allergic to bananas, visit an allergy specialist. A specialist will be able to tell you the severity of your allergy, and how to prevent a reaction. If you’re only mildly allergic, an over-the-counter anti-histamine will likely do the trick. Those who are anaphylactic to bananas, however, will probably be required to carry an EpiPen Auto-Injector with them at all times, in case of a reaction.

An EpiPen contains a chemical called epinephrine, which, when injected into the thigh of a person suffering a severe allergic reaction, can stop symptoms and save the victim’s life. If you do have a banana allergy, make sure to read the ingredients list of all the products you eat – including medication – to make sure they don’t have traces of banana or banana flavoring.

Banana Diet Explained, Before & After Results

Banana smoothie with chopped bananas.

Banana Diet.

One of the things I love about bananas is that they’re a year-round staple. My supermarket is completely out of watermelon and nectarines, but bananas are still here! I recently started adding one or two to my diet. Between meals, I often get very hungry, but I don’t want to eat things I’ll regret later (like the muffins stashed in my freezer!).

I’ve found that bananas satisfy my sweet craving, and tide me over until my next meal. I’m able to wait longer until I eat (instead of eating earlier and then being hungry again sooner), and they’re good at any time of the day.  I eat bananas twice a day. One as a morning snack between breakfast and lunch. A second one as an afternoon snack between lunch and dinner. I switch out between regular bananas and plantains to satiate me or to add into cooked dishes.

Conclusion

Bananas can go with so many foods – your morning yogurt or cereal; as a healthier cake to satisfy your sweet tooth; in a salad for lunch; or as a creamy smoothie base – making it easy to incorporate them as part of your diet.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine that something so delicious can have so many health benefits. But that’s just part of the reason why bananas appeal to so many. So next time you visit your grocery store, pick up a couple of these beauties. From your heart to your weight, there’s at least one way you are benefiting from this sweet snack – aside from pleasing your taste buds!