Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world for good reason. The curved yellow fruit packs a big nutritional punch, wrapped in its own convenient packaging. Some scientists believe that the banana may have even been the world’s first fruit.
Health Benefits of Bananas
The many health benefits of bananas are attributed to its rich vitamin, mineral, and organic compound content. Here are the actual content of what makes bananas such an important, powerful, and beneficial fruit.
1. Cardiovascular Benefits
Bananas represent an important part of overall heart health for a variety of reasons. First of all, bananas are rich sources of potassium, so they reduce blood pressure, since bananas are vasodilators. By relaxing the tension of arteries and veins, the blood can flow more smoothly through the body and oxygenate the various organs of the body to increase their function. This can help eliminate atherosclerosis and the subsequent strokes and heart attacks that are so commonly associated with that condition. The fiber in bananas also scrapes excess cholesterol from the arteries and blood vessels, as a further message of reducing stress on the cardiovascular system.
2. Fight Cancer
Consuming bananas, oranges and orange juice in the first two years of life may reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. As a good source of vitamin C, bananas can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables like bananas are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
3. Treat Diarrhea
Bland foods such as apple sauce and bananas are recommended for diarrhea treatment. Electrolytes like potassium are lost in large quantities during bouts of diarrhea and may make those affected feel weak. Bananas can help to promote regularity and replenish potassium stores.
4. Weight Loss Benefits
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings. They also help sustain blood sugar levels during workouts.
5. Athletic Performance
The unique mix of vitamins, minerals, and low glycemic carbohydrates in bananas has made them a favorite fruit among endurance athletes. Their easy portability, low expense, and great taste also help support their popularity in this exclusive group.
A 2012 study of distance cyclists found that eating the equivalent of about one half a banana every 15 minutes of a three-hour race was just as good at keeping energy levels steady as drinking an equivalent amount of carbohydrate and minerals from a processed sports beverage. Bananas have long been valued by athletes for prevention of muscle cramps.
Since bananas are a good source of potassium, and since low potassium levels are known to contribute to risk of muscle cramps, it is logical to think about the potassium content of bananas as being the reason for fewer muscle cramps after consumption of bananas. There is actually some recent research in support of this reasoning. In a recent study, consumption of one or two bananas prior to an hour of exercise was shown to keep blood potassium levels higher after the training. But there are still some big unanswered questions here, since researchers are not convinced that low potassium levels are the most frequent cause of muscle cramps with training.
6. Increase Your Brain Power
In addition to banana health benefits, they can also help you with your mind. A study with 200 students who were asked to eat one banana three times a day – breakfast, recess and lunchtime – along with their normal meals. What they found was that the potassium in the bananas boosted their brainpower and made them more alert during their classes while they followed the regimen.
7. Good for Ulcers
Eating bananas regularly may help protect against stomach ulcers. Compounds in bananas seem to create a thicker protective barrier in the stomach against hydrochloric acid. Bananas also contain protease inhibitors that work to eliminate certain bacteria in the stomach implicated as a major cause of stomach ulcers.
8. Treat Anemia
Bananas contain high iron content and therefore aid in treating anemia because iron is an essential part of red blood cells, which is why anemia occurs, low blood cell count due to lack of iron. Anemia also has a significant content of copper, which is an important element in the creation of red blood cells. By increasing red blood cell count, not only do you prevent anemia, but you can increase circulation to all parts of the body, thereby oxygenating various parts of the organ and optimizing their functionality.
9. Improve Vision
Carrots may get all the glory for helping your eyes, but bananas do their share as well. The fruits contain a small but significant amount of vitamin A, which is essential for protecting your eyes, maintaining normal vision and improving vision at night, according to the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A contains compounds that preserve the membranes around your eyes and are an element in the proteins that bring light to your corneas. Like other fruits, bananas can help prevent macular degeneration, an incurable condition, which blurs central vision.
10. Good for Your Gut Bacteria
You’ve probably heard of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that aid digestion and are found in certain foods like yogurt. Well, there’s also such a thing as prebiotics, and bananas happen to be a great source of them. Prebiotics are actually carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the human body. Still, they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy gut. Prebiotics supply food for probiotics. So they help the ‘good’ probiotic bacteria grow. Bananas aren’t the only food that will help you get your fill of prebiotics: You’ll also find them in raisins, asparagus, onions, and garlic.
11. Prevent Insomnia
Bananas are rich in amino acids known as Tryptophan. This substance triggers production of melatonin (sleep hormone) which induces sleep. Eating banana a few hours before bedtime ensures a peaceful night’s sleep.
12. Stronger Bones
Bananas are one of the best fruits for guaranteeing strong, healthy bones throughout your life. One of the best reasons for this is the presence of fructooligosaccharide, which is a prebiotic and eventually a probiotic, beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract that boosts the intake of minerals and nutrients by the body.
Specifically, bananas are linked to increased absorption of calcium. Some bananas also possess short-chain fatty acids, which humans cannot absorb, but the organism that live in our stomach lining can consume those fatty acids, which increases their ability to absorb minerals like calcium. Calcium is the most important element in the production and regrowth of bone matter in the body, thereby reducing the chances of osteoporosis and natural weakness commonly linked to aging.
13. Bananas Reduce Depression
The banana isn’t a magical cure for depression, but nutrients found in the fruit can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin, an important brain chemical that regulates mood and emotion. Eating more bananas can raise serotonin levels in the brain and lessen depressed feelings. In fact, studies have shown that eating only one banana can elevate a depressed mood.
14. Relieve Menstrual Problems
Cooked banana flowers help in providing relief from painful and excessively bleeding during the menstrual cycle as well as other menstrual disorders.
15. Skin Benefits of Bananas
Even the skins of this amazing fruit have their uses. Banana skins have been used externally to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.
The freshly peeled inside of the banana skin is gently rubbed over the affected area and the residue left on. This might be better done on a day indoors or before bed to avoid the banana smell when out and about.
Note too that in the case of psoriasis there apparently may be some further reddening initially, but this should improve after a few days of use. Patch test on a small area first if you have any concerns. It also usually take several weeks to get the full effects from this treatment.
Banana peel treatments are even used to heal warts. You rub a small piece of banana peel over the wart and then tightly tape it there overnight for at least a week, possibly several, changing it to a new one each night.
16. Arthritis and Gout
Various compounds inside of bananas are anti-inflammatory in nature, meaning that they can reduce swelling, inflammation, and irritation from various conditions like arthritis and gout. These conditions are very common as people age, or if they have poor diets or unhealthy diets. Therefore, adding a banana a day to your dietary regimen can keep you ache and pain-free for many years.