The nutrient profile of bananas
Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits. It is full of fiber and antioxidants.
A medium-sized banana (118 grams) has 24 grams of carbs, 3.1 grams of fiber, 1.3 grams of protein, and only 0.4 grams of fat.
Bananas also contain the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin B6 (33 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake [RDI])
- Manganese (14 percent of the RDI)
- Vitamin C (11 percent of the RDI)
- Copper (10 percent of the RDI)
- Potassium (9 percent of the RDI)
- Magnesium (8 percent of the RDI)
Eating a banana gives you only 105 calories. The fruit is mostly made of water and carbs. It also contains very little protein and almost no fat.
(1) Bananas can boost digestive health.
Studies suggest that dietary fiber offers many health benefits, such as improved digestion.
Bananas contain two main types of dietary fiber: pectin, which decreases in quantity as a banana ripens, and resistant starch, which is found in unripe bananas. Resistant starch isn’t digested in the gut; instead, it ends up in the large intestine where it turns into food for the “good” bacteria in the gut.
Data from a test-tube study published in Anticancer Research reveal that pectin can help fight colon cancer. In the study, researchers tested the effects of pectin on human colon cancer cells and found that pectin inhibits tumor growth. The researchers also noted that pectin, together with substances produced from its breakdown, has anti-cancer properties.
(2) Bananas can promote weight loss.
While researchers haven’t tested their effects on weight, bananas are believed to have properties that make them a weight-loss-friendly fruit.
Bananas are delicious, nutritious, and filling. Consumption of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is associated with lower body weight and weight loss.
(3) Bananas can make you feel more full.
Resistant starch is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that functions like soluble fiber in the body.
In general, the greener a banana is, the higher its resistant starch content. Meanwhile, yellow, ripe bananas contain lower amounts of resistant starch and total fiber but proportionally higher amounts of soluble fiber.
Both pectin and resistant starch have appetite-reducing effects. The fibers also increase the feeling of fullness after meals.
(4) Bananas contain nutrients that regulate blood sugar levels.
The pectin in bananas gives the fruit its spongy structural form. Meanwhile, unripe bananas contain resistant starch that acts like soluble fiber and escapes digestion.
Both pectin and resistant starch help regulate blood sugar levels after meals. The fiber in bananas also reduces appetite by slowing the emptying of the stomach.
Bananas have low to medium glycemic index (GI) values. GI is a measure of how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels. Unripe bananas have a GI of about 30 while ripe bananas have about 60. The average GI value of all bananas is 51.
Since the fruit has a low GI, it wouldn’t cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in healthy individuals. However, if you have Type 2 diabetes, you should avoid eating too many well-ripened bananas.
(5) Unripe bananas can improve insulin sensitivity.
Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for several health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, studies suggest that consuming at least 15 to 30 grams of resistant starch daily helps improve insulin sensitivity by about 33 to 50 percent within four weeks.
(6) Bananas can boost cardiovascular health.
Potassium is an essential mineral for heart health, particularly for blood pressure control.
Bananas are full of potassium, so a diet rich in bananas can help lower blood pressure. Additionally, individuals who consume plenty of potassium have a 27 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Bananas also contain magnesium, another important mineral that supports cardiovascular health.
(7) Bananas can improve kidney health.
Potassium is needed for blood pressure control and healthy kidney function. Consuming potassium-rich bananas regularly can help keep your kidneys healthy.
According to studies, people who consume bananas at least four to six times a week are at least 50 percent less likely to develop kidney disease compared with those who don’t eat the fruit.
(8) Bananas are rich in potent antioxidants.
Bananas contain powerful antioxidants like catechins and dopamine, which are associated with several health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and degenerative illnesses. (Related: Why you should be eating a banana right before you sleep.)
(9) Bananas can ease cramps and soreness due to exercise.
Bananas help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness. While the exact reason behind this benefit remains largely unknown, it is believed that the fruit addresses dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Additionally, bananas are the perfect snack before, during, and after endurance exercise. Bananas are convenient to carry and can be enjoyed on their own. Alternatively, you can add bananas to plain yogurt or smoothies for a creamy, sweet snack.
The fruit is also used as a sugar alternative when baking and cooking. Because bananas are versatile, you can easily incorporate them into a balanced diet.
Eat bananas regularly to boost your digestion and improve your heart health.