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They contain several essential nutrients and provide benefits for digestion, heart health and weight loss.
Aside from being very nutritious, they are also a highly convenient snack food.
Here are 11 science-based health benefits of bananas.
1. Bananas Contain Many Important Nutrients
Bananas are among the world's most popular fruits.
Native to Southeast Asia, they are now grown in many warm parts of the world.
Bananas vary in color, size and shape.
The most common type is the Cavendish, which is a type of dessert banana. Green when unripe, it yellows as it matures.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
- Net carbs: 24 grams
- Fiber: 3.1 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams
Each banana has only about 105 calories and consists almost exclusively of water and carbs. Bananas hold very little protein and almost no fat.
The carbs in green, unripe bananas consist mostly of starch and resistant starch, but as the banana ripens, the starch turns into sugar (glucose, fructose and sucrose).
Bananas are rich in fiber, antioxidants and several nutrients. A medium-sized banana has about 105 calories.
2. Bananas Contain Nutrients That Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Bananas are rich in pectin, a type of fiber that gives the flesh its spongy 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 (GI), 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 people with type 2 diabetes, who should probably avoid eating a lot of well-ripened bananas—and monitor their blood sugar carefully if they do.
Bananas can help moderate blood sugar levels after meals and may 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 has about 3 grams of fiber, making bananas a fairly good fiber source (10).
Bananas contain two main types of fiber:
- Pectin: Decreases as the banana ripens.
- Resistant starch: Found in unripe bananas.
Bananas are fairly rich in fiber and resistant starch, which may feed your friendly gut bacteria and safeguard against colon cancer.
4. Bananas May Aid Weight Loss
No study has directly tested the effects of bananas on weight loss. However, bananas do have several attributes that should make them a weight-loss-friendly-food.
For starters, bananas have relatively few calories. An average banana has just over 100 calories — yet it is also very nutritious and filling.
Bananas may aid weight loss because they're low in calories and high in nutrients and fiber.
5. Bananas May Support Heart Health
Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health — especially blood pressure control.
Bananas are a great dietary source of potassium. One medium-sized banana (118 grams) contains 9% of the RDI.
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 your brain.
Bananas are high in several antioxidants, which may help reduce damage from free radicals and lower your risk of some diseases.
7. Bananas May Help You Feel More Full
Resistant starch is a type of indigestible carb — found in unripe bananas and other foods — which functions like soluble fiber in your body.
On the other hand, yellow, ripe bananas contain lower amounts of resistant starch and total fiber — but proportionally higher amounts of soluble fiber.
Depending on ripeness, bananas harbor high amounts of resistant starch or pectin. 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. Therefore, they may help improve insulin sensitivity.
More studies should be conducted on bananas and insulin sensitivity.
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 13-year study in women determined that those who ate bananas 2–3 times per week were 33% less likely to develop kidney disease (38).
Eating a banana several times a week may reduce your risk of kidney disease by up to 50%.
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% of the general population (40).
However, research gives mixed findings about bananas and muscle cramps. While some studies find them helpful, others find no effects (44).
That said, bananas do provide excellent nutrition before, during and after endurance exercise (45).
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 foodsaround.
Bananas make a great addition to yogurt, cereal and smoothies. 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 — they simply have to be peeled and eaten.
It doesn't get much easier than that.
Bananas make an excellent snack food, dessert or breakfast. Their versatility makes them easy to add to your diet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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