Bananas are extremely healthy and delicious.
Aside from being very nutritious, they are a highly convenient snack food.
Here are 11 health benefits of bananas that are supported by scientific research.
1. Bananas Contain Many Important Nutrients
Bananas are among the most popular fruits on Earth.
Native to Southeast Asia, they are now grown in many warmer parts of the world.
There are many types of bananas available, which vary in color, size and shape. The most common type is the yellow banana, which is green when unripe.
This is what ripe bananas typically look like:
- Potassium: 9 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 33 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin C: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 8 percent of the RDI.
- Copper: 10 percent of the RDI.
- Manganese: 14 percent of the RDI.
- Net carbs: 24 grams.
- Fiber: 3.1 grams.
- Protein: 1.3 grams.
- Fat: 0.4 grams.
Bottom Line: Bananas are rich in fiber, antioxidants and several nutrients. A medium-sized banana contains about 105 calories.
2. Bananas Contain Nutrients That Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Bananas are rich in a fiber called pectin, which gives the flesh its structural form (4).
Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which acts like soluble fiber and escapes digestion.
Furthermore, bananas also rank low to medium on the glycemic index, which is a measure (from 0–100) of how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels.
This means that bananas should not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in healthy individuals.
However, this may not apply to diabetics, which should probably avoid eating lots of well-ripened bananas and monitor their blood sugars carefully when they do.
Bottom Line: Bananas contain nutrients that can help moderate blood sugar levels after meals. They may also reduce appetite by slowing stomach emptying.
3. Bananas May Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefits, including improved digestion.
A medium-sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber, making bananas a fairly good fiber source (10).
Bananas contain mainly two types of fiber:
- Pectin: Decreases as the banana ripens.
- Resistant starch: Found in unripe bananas.
Bottom Line: Bananas are fairly rich in fiber and resistant starch, which may feed the friendly gut bacteria and help protect against colon cancer.
4. Bananas May Help With Weight Loss
For starters, bananas contain relatively few calories. An average banana contains just over 100 calories, yet it is also very nutritious and filling.
Bottom Line: Bananas may help with weight loss. They are low in calories, high in nutrients and fiber and may have appetite-reducing effects.
5. Bananas May Support Heart Health
Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health, especially blood pressure control.
Yet despite its importance, most people are not getting enough potassium in their diet (21).
Bananas are a great dietary source of potassium. One medium-sized banana (118 grams) contains 9 percent of the RDI.
Bottom Line: Bananas are a good dietary source of potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are essential for heart health.
6. Bananas Contain Powerful Antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary antioxidants and bananas are no exception.
However, it is a common misunderstanding that the dopamine from bananas acts as a feel-good chemical in the brain.
Bottom Line: Bananas are high in several antioxidants, which may help reduce damage from free radicals and lower the risk of some diseases.
7. Bananas May Help You Feel More Full
Resistant starch is a type of indigestible carbohydrate found in unripe bananas, which functions sort of like soluble fiber in the body.
As a rule of thumb, you can estimate that the greener the banana is, the higher the amount of resistant starch it contains (31).
On the other hand, ripe (yellow) bananas contain lower amounts of resistant starch and total fiber, but proportionally higher amounts of soluble fiber.
Bottom Line: Bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch or pectin, depending on ripeness. Both may reduce appetite and help keep you full.
8. Unripe Bananas May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for many of the world's most serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Unripe bananas are a great source of resistant starch and may therefore help improve insulin sensitivity.
Bottom Line: Unripe bananas are a good source of resistant starch, which may improve insulin sensitivity. However, more research is needed.
9. Bananas May Improve Kidney Health
Potassium is essential for blood pressure control and healthy kidney function.
As a good dietary source of potassium, bananas may be especially beneficial for maintaining healthy kidneys.
One study in women showed that over 13 years, those who ate bananas 2–3 times per week were 33 percent less likely to develop kidney disease (38).
Bottom Line: Eating a banana several times a week may reduce the risk of kidney disease by up to 50 percent.
10. Bananas May Have Benefits for Exercise
Bananas are often referred to as the perfect food for athletes, largely due to their mineral content and easily digested carbs.
Eating bananas may help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness, which affect up to 95 percent of the general population (40).
However, studies have provided mixed findings about bananas and muscle cramps. Some find them helpful, while others find no effects (44).
That being said, bananas have been shown to provide excellent nutrition before, during and after endurance exercise (45).
Bottom Line: Bananas may help relieve muscle cramps caused by exercise. They also provide excellent fuel for endurance exercise.
11. Bananas Are Easy to Add to Your Diet
Not only are bananas incredibly healthy—they're also one of the most convenient snack foods around.
Bananas make a great addition to your breakfast yogurt, cereal or smoothie. You can even use them instead of sugar in your baking and cooking.
Furthermore, bananas rarely contain any pesticides or pollutants, due to their thick protective peel.
Bananas are incredibly easy to eat and transport. They are usually well-tolerated and easily digested and simply have to be peeled and eaten.
It doesn't get much easier than that.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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