Their low cost and good taste makes bananas one of the most consumed fruits. The health benefits bananas provide include fiber, which aids digestion, and antioxidants for health and anti-aging benefits. Antioxidants are phytochemicals found in plants. Your body cannot manufacture antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium and vitamins A, C and E; you must obtain them from plant foods: fruits and vegetables. The size, portion and kind of fruits and vegetables you select determine the amount and type of antioxidants they contain. The antioxidants bananas contain include beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, vitamins A, C and E, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A, provide protection against cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Lutein, also a carotenoid, functions as a natural sunblock for the retina, reduces the risk of cataract formation in the eyes, as well as mitigating the effects of age-related macular degeneration, according to the University of New Hampshire.
According to the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, selenium plays a role in regulating immune function, and may provide benefits for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS and prostate cancer. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging reported on a study of the effect of selenium on elderly subjects consuming high fish diets. The study determined lifelong consumption of selenium provided the health benefits previously attributed to omega-3 fatty acids, including retention of cognitive function. A study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology supports these results. Based upon a two-year cross-sectional survey, researchers theorized low selenium levels contributed to low cognitive capacity in the study population.
According to MayoClinic.com, strong scientific evidence establishes the health benefits of vitamin C for treatment of the common cold, scurvy, urinary tract infection and as an aid in iron absorption. Limited research points to the possibility of vitamin C playing a useful role in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, arthritis, asthma and cancer.
The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health reports cardiac benefits derived from vitamin E include dilation of blood vessels and suppression of blood-clot formation. Additional benefits of vitamin E include prevention or delay in the onset of heart disease, cancer, eye disorders and cognitive decline – diseases related to cell damage caused by free radicals.
Antioxidants in Whole Foods vs Supplements
According to a study published in the “Journal of Nutrition,” a combination of phytochemicals obtained from eating a variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, provides greater health benefits than individual antioxidant supplementation.
- University of New Hampshire; The Carotenoid Story; Drs. David and Dean Kopsell; December 6, 2004
- “Can J Diet Pract Res.”; The Relevance of Selenium; Milly Ryan-Harshman, Ph.D., R.D., et al; 2007
- “J Nut Health Aging”; Selenium Intake in Elderly High Fish Consumers; Berr C, et al; January 2009
- “Am. J. Epidemiol.”; Selenium Level and Cognitive Function; Sujuan Gao, et al; May 2006
- MayoClinic.com; “Vitamin C”; August 1, 2011
- Office of Dietary Supplements; “Vitamin E”; June 24, 2011
- "J. Nutr."; Potential Synergy of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention; Rui Hai Liu; December 2004