If you have decided to skip bananas because somebody said they are fattening or loaded with sugar, it’s probably time to re-evaluate. Bananas, like so many other natural whole foods, have so much to offer for your health. Here you will find at least 4 banana health benefits that everyone should know about.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that a 35 year old woman who exercises 30 to 60 minutes a day needs to eat 2 cups of fruit daily. This leaves plenty of room to fit in a banana every day or at least every other day.
So what kind of health benefits do bananas really offer?
1. Bananas Help Keep the Cardiovascular System Functioning at its Best
Bananas rest among other foods rich in potassium, a mineral essential for normal blood pressure and heart rhythm. One medium-sized banana has 400 or more milligrams of potassium, which can help prevent high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Researchers followed 43,738 American men for four years to investigate the impact of diet on blood pressure. Those who consumed higher amounts of potassium-rich foods as well as foods high in magnesium had a greatly reduced risk of stoke.
Other researchers examined 25 years of research outcomes to determine optimal dietary habits for reducing risk of stroke. They found that a diet high in potassium from fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and fatty fish reduced the risk of stroke.
Bananas are high in fiber, with about 3 grams of it in a medium banana. About one third of this fiber is water-soluble, a type of fiber shown to decrease risk of heart disease.
Surprisingly, the fat in bananas confers cardiovascular benefits too. Although bananas are extremely low in fat (less than 4% of their calories), the fat they do contain comes from sterols. Because sterols are able to act like LDL cholesterol in the body, they are able to block the absorption of LDL cholesterol from food, potentially lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.
2. More Banana Health Benefits! Bananas are Friendly to the Digestive System
Adding on to the numerous banana health benefits, bananas have a satisfyingly sweet taste, but they rank low on the glycemic index, meaning that eating them is not likely to produce a blood sugar spike. There are few foods that provide instant energy as the banana does without causing a swift rise in blood sugar levels. It is may be that the fiber content of the banana slows the conversion of carbohydrates to simple sugars.
As part of their total fiber content, bananas have pectins, special types of fiber that may prevent colon cancer. Researchers tested the effects of pectin on human colon cancer cells and revealed that it inhibited tumor growth.
During the ripening process, water soluble pectins help bananas to soften, leading to fructose rising in relation to sucrose content. This is another factor in the ability of bananas to be sweet but not cause a blood sugar problem. It makes the banana a highly user-friendly fruit that should not be overlooked.
Bananas also have fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a prebiotic that helps keep beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract happy. FOS are carbohydrates that are not broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract. Instead, they are able to move intact to the lower intestine where they become food for the micro flora living there. These microbes are highly instrumental in the digestive and immune processes.
In an investigation involving two groups of women, those in one group ate two bananas each day for two months. Those in the other group drank a banana-flavored drink that lacked real banana.
At the end of the study time, the banana eating group had a significant increase in Bifidobacteria, one of the basic intestinal friendly bacteria, while the other group did not.
3. Bananas Could be the Food of Champions
One study found that distance cyclists eating half a banana every 15 minutes during a three hour race maintained peak energy levels as well as those consuming a beverage designed especially for use in sports.
Parameters included blood glucose, inflammation, oxidative stress, and innate immune levels. Heightened production of glutathione was observed in both groups, while a rise in dopamine was detected in only the banana group.
4. Eat a Banana in the Evening for a Good Night’s Sleep
Bananas are good sources of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is particularly important in producing serotonin in the brain. Serotonin regulates mood and can act as a natural sedative.
Eating a banana an hour before bedtime will give it time to be digested before you turn in, but its trypophan will still be active to help you fall asleep. Bananas are also a food that naturally increases melatonin for better sleep.
Don’t wait! Eat more bananas to experience all of the banana health benefits today.