Are Bananas Good For You? 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits 2023
Though bananas are native to tropical climates, they are enjoyed all over the world, not only for their taste, but numerous health benefits.
What Are Bananas?
Bananas are tropical fruits that grow on trees which are consumed and enjoyed by people all over the world, not just in the tropics. Bananas are part of the genus Musa from the Musaceae family, a flowering plant with dozens of other species. Inside the banana’s peel, the soft form of the fruit makes it ideal for eating alone or mashing into baked goods. Plantains are a starchier, rather than sweet, version of bananas and are mostly eaten cooked.
Nutrition Information For Bananas
The nutritional breakdown of a banana is never constant, as the fruit’s macro and micronutrients change as the fruit ripens. However, a medium, ripe banana has high amounts of fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, copper, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. A medium banana also contains 110 calories and has about 28 grams of carbohydrates (which break down into 15 grams of naturally-occurring sugar), making it one of the more “sugary” fruits. There is no fat in a banana and only 1 gram of protein.
The Many Health Benefits Of Bananas
Lower Risk Of Heart Disease
Bananas are excellent for preventing heart disease. The nutrients in bananas, such as potassium, fiber, and antioxidants are designed to support optimal heart function. Fiber helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and studies have shown that people who have more fiber in their diet tend to have lower risk of heart disease than those who eat a low-fiber diet.
Decrease Blood Pressure And Reduce The Risk Of Stroke
Potassium is the most commonly associated nutrient with bananas, and potassium is imperative for the heart, in particular, for managing and lowering our blood pressure. Just one medium banana offers 126 grams of potassium, which equates to 10% of our daily value. By extension, foods which contain high amounts of potassium lower the risk for stroke. The magnesium in bananas also aids in heart health.
A Healthy Fuel Source For Workouts
Bananas are an ideal pre-workout snack because they offer more energy and endurance during exercise. Carbohydrates are our body’s main fuel source, the building blocks of energy, and since one banana packs in a high amount of carbs along with a decent amount of fiber, it makes for an easy choice. The fiber with the carbs is an important combination because sugar alone can trigger a blood sugar spike, followed by a crash, whereas adding fiber helps to regulate and slow down the sugar’s absorption. Bananas also help cell and muscle recovery, so they’re equally great to eat after a workout.
Support Weight Management Goals
Some don’t consider bananas good for weight management because they’re higher in sugar than other fruits, however, they’re forgetting many important elements. Bananas have numerous benefits when it comes to supporting weight goals. The fiber in bananas helps to maintain satiety, which prevents overeating, as well as stabilizes blood sugar – an essential component of a healthy weight. The sweetness of bananas also helps to satiate sweet cravings, making unhealthy desserts less appealing. Bananas also have a high nutrient value in relation to their calories. And, bananas aid in better sleep and exercise, two non-negotiables for maintaining a healthy weight.
Improve Mood And Anxiety
Bananas not only boost endurance, they also boost mood. Bananas can influence tryptophan, which in turn boosts our serotonin (the “happy” hormone and neurotransmitter) and improves the quality of our sleep. The B6 in bananas also aids in making (and correctly using) serotonin. Additionally, bananas support mood via the gut-brain axis. Ripe bananas in particular act as resistant starches, or prebiotics, fibers that feed our good bacteria, and our mood is heavily influenced by the state of our gut.
Promote A Healthy Gut
Bananas are one of the easiest foods to digest, often prescribed for a variety of gut disturbances, including diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, and fodmap intolerance. The pectin in bananas is soothing to the GI tract and the fiber assists in regulating the bowels. The prebiotics (fiber that feeds probiotics) in ripe bananas helps to grow a healthy community of bacteria in the gut. These bacteria perform a number of functions beyond the gut, including enhancing immunity, protecting heart health, and boosting brain function – but it starts in the gut.
Full Of Antioxidants
Bananas are packed with antioxidants, compounds that prevent or reduce oxidation in the body, which, if left unchecked, can damage DNA and lead to serious illness. Antioxidants combat the free radicals which can damage cells, and in turn, restore health. Bananas contain flavonoids and amines, two powerful antioxidants. Eating foods high in antioxidants can reduce the oxidative stress burden.
May Improve Kidney Health
Like all organs in the body, the kidneys can benefit from having bananas in the diet. For example, bananas can be beneficial for kidney stones, due to their potassium, vitamin B6, and magnesium. However, for people with damaged kidneys, potassium can build up in the blood to dangerous amounts. Therefore, people with AKD (advanced kidney disease) are advised to avoid bananas.
Ways To Enjoy Bananas
Bananas are one of the most versatile fruits as well as most convenient. They are easily transportable (they travel well), they can make their way easily into cereals, oatmeal, and smoothies, and can enrich or replace almost any dessert.
Bananas In The Diet
Tips For Serving And Eating
There’s really no wrong way to eat a banana – even the peel has nutrients (though it’s not recommended to eat the peel)! Here are some ways to serve and enjoy bananas:
Freeze unpeeled bananas for later. This prevents them from going bad. You may wish to add frozen bananas to smoothies, banana bread, or other baked goods.
Use frozen bananas to make “nice cream.” Nice cream is ice cream made with frozen bananas instead of milk. Simply add frozen bananas to a blender or food processor and blend until it becomes a creamy consistency. Add in other fruit, a dash of vanilla extract, cinnamon, and other flavors to taste.
Fry sliced bananas for a salty-sweet side dish or snack. Fried plantains are a staple of many cultures. Add slices of banana to a frying pan with healthy oil (try olive or avocado oil) and fry until they turn a little brown and crisp. Pat dry, sprinkle a little sea salt on top, then serve warm or cold.
Helpful tip: Sometimes a banana is hard to peel if the stem doesn’t break easily. If this is the case, grab the middle of the banana with both hands and twist your hands firmly in opposite directions (for example, right hand forward, left hand back). This will cause the peel to rip in the middle. While the tear will not be at the top of the banana, it will create an opening for you to take the peel off.
Other Banana Products
Bananas can be used to create other products besides banana bread, pancakes, and smoothies. Bananas can be turned into chips (thinly sliced bananas fried or, preferably baked). It can also be ground into flour, which can be used for baking, or can be used to make banana pasta.
Risks Of Bananas
Bananas are natural beta blockers, which, in medication form, work to “block” adrenergic receptors in the heart from getting stimulated (which can increase heart activity). Beta-blockers are used to control heart rhythm and lower blood pressure. This can work well for those who need to reduce their blood pressure. However, if you’re already taking a beta blocker, consult with your physician about whether adding bananas to your diet is right for you.
Many people are allergic to certain foods and bananas can be one of them. As with any allergy, the reaction can range from mildly unpleasant to life-threatening. If you are allergic to bananas, you’ll likely feel itching or swelling in the mouth or throat shortly after ingesting the fruit. It’s always best to avoid any substance you know (or suspect) you have an allergy to.
For people who experience migraines, bananas may be a trigger. This is due to tyramine, an amino acid, in bananas. The riper a banana is, the more tyramine builds up, so sticking with unripe bananas may be a better option. Additionally, studies suggest that the peel of a banana has higher amounts of tyramine than the inside fruit, so any loose “stringy” parts of the banana should be avoided.
Bananas are one of the healthiest fruits to add to almost any diet. They are high in nutritive value–full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, conferring great benefits for heart, gut, and brain health. They make for excellent energy sources for workouts, can stabilize blood sugar, improve mood, and help to maintain healthy weight and sleep patterns. Bananas are versatile, easily transportable, and can be added to many dishes. For those with unique health conditions, such as kidney disease, bananas should be avoided – always consult a medical professional.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally, bananas are a healthy food that almost anyone can eat. Only those with serious medical conditions (such as kidney disease, banana allergies, or migraines) should avoid them.
Either! Bananas have a ton of nutrients, raw or cooked. Whether you decide to eat them raw or cooked is a matter of preference. Cooking bananas brings out the sweetness, so cooking them can make for great dessert options.
Bananas are a great snack either before or after a workout. Eating a banana before a workout helps with endurance. The carbs help the body produce more energy. Eating a banana after a workout can help repair muscle and cells. Your personal fitness goals can help you establish whether eating a banana before or after a workout is best for you, but generally, either time has its benefits.
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