Bananas have many benefits for your health because of their high potassium and fiber content.
Potassium helps to balance sodium levels in your body, which regulates blood pressure and may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Eating bananas may also help with weight loss because they contain pectin and resistant starch, which can help you feel full for longer.
Bananas have long been a lunchbox and brown bag staple. And that's not just because they're an easily portable food item. They're also nutritious and beneficial for your heart, blood sugar, digestion, and more.
Here are five health benefits of eating bananas.
Bananas are highly nutritious
A single medium banana offers 110 calories with zero fat. It also provides the following:
Protein: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 28 grams
Sugars: 15 grams (naturally occurring)
Fiber: 3 grams
Potassium: 450 mg
Magnesium: 32 mg
Vitamin C: 10.3 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg
"Bananas are well known for their potassium content, but there are other vitamins and minerals that deserve some attention as well. The banana provides a significant source of B6 and fiber, which play vital roles in important functions of the body like reducing cholesterol and balancing mood," says Lisa Richards, a certified nutrition consultant.
In fact, just one banana can give you 9% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of potassium and 8% of magnesium. As for vitamin C, a banana might not be the first food to pop into your mind. But the fruit supplies around 11% of your RDI.
Bananas can help regulate blood sugar
The idea that people with prediabetes or diabetes should avoid eating sweet fruit is a myth, as long as you're staying within your carbohydrate needs. This is about one-half of a Cavendish, which is the most ubiquitous banana type.
Indeed, bananas, which contain pectin and resistant starch, might actually help lower blood sugar. Richards says that these soluble fibers act in concert with each other by increasing the sensation of satiety, preventing overeating, and slowing the rate of digestion.
In addition, the glycemic index (GI) of a banana is 30 to 60, depending on ripeness. The glycemic index measures how carbohydrates in foods will alter blood sugar, from a scale of 0 to 100. "The lower the GI, the less likely the food will cause a rapid spike," Richards says. For a lower GI, eat greener fruit.
"The key is to pair the carb source with protein and fat. Otherwise the blood sugar will spike and then go down," says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RDN, the lead dietitian at Miami's Essence Nutrition. She suggests combining high-carb bananas with eggs, yogurt, or peanut butter.
Bananas may support heart health
Potassium is a double threat. While most people think of it as a mineral, it also functions as an electrolyte. Electrolytes are instrumental for regulating muscle contraction. "Because the heart is a muscle," Moreno says, "potassium and heart health are very closely linked."
Potassium can also help balance sodium levels. Potassium, which monitors fluid inside the cells, has a push-pull relationship with sodium, which controls the fluid outside the cells. Too little potassium and too much sodium means more fluid and a higher blood volume in the bloodstream. This increases blood pressure with an added risk of heart attack and stroke.
A 2017 review found that potassium supplements reduced blood pressure for people with hypertension, or high blood pressure. Because of the research on potassium and high blood pressure, FDA has approved the following health claim:, "Diets containing foods that are a good source of potassium and that are low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke." The analysis noted that bananas are especially high in potassium.
Bananas may help with weight loss
Moreno says that the banana has become "very stigmatized in diet culture" because of its carbohydrate content. "People vilify them. But we don't have weight issues because of bananas."
In fact, the fruit might actually help you feel fuller, faster. The combination of pectin and resistant starch delays stomach emptying, leading you to eat less calories, Richards says.
Green bananas are better for this because as a banana ripens, or ages, it loses pectin. Also, the greener the banana, the more resistant starch it contains. When you eat them with a balanced diet, Moreno says, the carbs help you produce more serotonin, which helps regulate your metabolism and energy levels. Keep in mind, however, that green bananas have higher fiber and can cause gas, bloating, and constipation.
These satiety and weight stabilizing findings were confirmed in a 2019 review. It concluded that green bananas, whether consumed as fresh fruit pulp, cooked, or dried and pounded into flour to be used as a product for baking, make you feel fuller. Because of their high fiber content, the researchers also theorized that green bananas could assist in prevention of or healing intestinal diseases, reduce blood cholesterol, and help prevent intestinal cancer.
Bananas are good for digestive health
When it comes to gut health, bananas both give and take away. Green, or greener, bananas can promote constipation, "due to the higher amount of resistant starch and pectin," Richards says, which both slow down your stomach's digestive process.
Yet ripe bananas can help you in the bathroom if you have difficulties in that arena. "Less resistant starch and more fiber can move the stool," Moreno says. The fiber is soluble, drawing in water which makes stool easier to pass.
Bananas also contain insoluble fiber: The insoluble fiber absorbs and processes nutrients, while the soluble fiber creates soft bulk for the body to clear toxins from the digestive system.
However, too many ripe bananas can then cause diarrhea, a common complaint with babies who often begin eating with very ripe mashed bananas.
While eating too many bananas can cause constipation or diarrhea, depending on their degree of ripeness, you can safely eat bananas. Not only do bananas help with gut health, they also may support your efforts with weight loss, promote heart health, and reduce your blood sugar.
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