Bananas are the fourth most important food crop after rice, wheat and corn, and eaten around the world. Given their ample nutrient and fiber content, as well as low cost and wide availability, the popularity of bananas is not surprising. Eating fiber-rich bananas can be beneficial to your health, as studies have shown that those who consume more fiber have reduced risk of chronic disease.
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How Much Fiber?
All bananas contain fiber, and the amount varies with the banana's size. A small banana of 6 to 7 inches in length contains 2.6 grams of fiber; a medium banana contains 3.1 grams of fiber; and an extra large banana -- over 9 inches long -- contains 4 grams of fiber. While the average daily fiber intake in the United States is a mere 15 grams per day, dietary guidelines recommend that women consume 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume 38 grams.
Types of Fiber
Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body is incapable of digesting. Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble, and both are favorable for your health. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows digestion, helping to lower glucose levels and cholesterol. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water and helps move food through your digestive system. A medium banana that contains 3.1 grams of fiber is made up of 1 gram of soluble fiber and 2.1 grams of insoluble fiber.
Why Fiber is Good
It's best to get your fiber from plant sources directly, as few fiber supplements have been examined for effectiveness. Fiber helps your body regulate its use of sugar, keeping your blood sugar in check. Fiber also has a favorable effect on the risk factors for numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition to helping reduce the risk of chronic disease, high-fiber diets are more satiating and affiliated with lower body weight.
Banana's Other Benefits
The nutritional benefits of bananas extend far beyond fiber content. One cup of sliced banana contains more than 500 milligrams of potassium, which helps to counterbalance some of sodium's harmful effects and reduce your blood pressure. Given their sweetness, bananas make an excellent sweet snack or dessert. Use them to make a healthy smoothie or slice them atop breakfast oatmeal or cereal to naturally sweeten it up.
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Nutrition Education Program
- United States Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- EatRight.org: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber
- MedlinePlus: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
- GlobalRPh.com: Calculators
- Department of Health and Human Services: Sodium and Potassium