Top 10 Health Benefits of Bananas

Bananas are the leading fruit produced and consumed in the world. They are not only convenient, but the benefits of bananas extend far beyond their nutritional punch. Eating bananas can supply antioxidants, electrolytes, amino acids and fiber that can help maintain proper digestion, manage your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease.

The potassium in a banana may help keep your blood pressure under control. (Image: vikif/iStock/GettyImages)

1. Bananas Are a Powerhouse of Nutrients

Bananas are a nutrient-dense, low-fat source of a multitude of vitamins and minerals. Eating a banana will provide an abundance of fiber and 3 percent of your daily protein requirement. Bananas are high in B vitamins, especially vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and thiamine.

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant for your immune system. So trade in your apple a day for a banana, and you'll get more vitamin C per fruit.

A good source of manganese for the function of your brain and nervous system, each banana provides 18 percent of your daily value (DV). Bananas also offer 10 percent DV for potassium and 9 percent DV for magnesium. Additionally, bananas' nutrition includes copper, iron, phosphorus, calcium, sodium and selenium.

2. Bananas Control Your Blood Pressure

The potassium in bananas, 487 milligrams in each banana, is an electrolyte that helps keep a normal balance between your body fluids and cells. Foods high in potassium help to significantly lower blood pressure, according to American Heart Association recommendations.

The rich potassium content in bananas also helps your body's circulatory system deliver oxygen to your brain. This is important in maintaining a regular heartbeat and lowering blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health.

More evidence of the role that potassium plays in reducing blood pressure is demonstrated in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern. This diet emphasizes a recommended potassium intake of three times more than the average American diet from foods such as bananas.

3. Bananas Make You Happy

Your body makes protein from a group of compounds called amino acids. The amino acids that your body needs to get from food are called essential amino acids. Bananas contain varying amounts of many of these, one of them being tryptophan. In fact, one banana offers 4 percent of your DV for tryptophan.

If you felt a content relaxed feeling after your last big Thanksgiving dinner, it may have been tryptophan in the turkey that was responsible. Tryptophan is the precursor of both serotonin and melatonin.

Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter essential for regulating sleep, appetite, pain and mood. It is a common ingredient in antidepressants. Melatonin promotes sleep and is found in sleep-aid medications.

A study published in Nutrients in 2016 examined the effect of manipulating levels of tryptophan on emotion and cognitive reaction. Researchers found that low levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with poor memory and depressed mood.

4. Bananas Wake Up Your Digestive System

One banana provides 14 percent of your daily requirements for fiber. Dietary fiber is the part of food that your body can't digest or absorb. It adds bulk or roughage and passes relatively intact through your digestive system and out of your body.

Fiber can help you avoid constipation and irregular stool by increasing the size of your stool and softening it. Fiber can also help prevent diarrhea by absorbing water and adding bulk to your stool.

The fiber in bananas may also help decrease your risk of developing diverticulitis or hemorrhoids, according to Mayo Clinic. In addition, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015 found that a high-fiber diet may have the benefit of lowering your risk for colorectal cancer.

Bananas are such a good source of fiber that veterinarians often prescribe bananas for dogs that have gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, says the American Kennel Club.

5. Bananas Help With PMS Symptoms

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), you may have experienced symptoms such as moodiness, anxiety, breast tenderness and bloating during your menstrual cycle. Bananas contain a vitamin that may help you: B6.

Supplying 25 percent of the DV in just one banana, vitamin B6 has been effectively used as a complementary therapy for alleviating symptoms of PMS, including nausea and vomiting, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A meta-analysis aimed to investigate the effects of vitamin B6 on premenstrual syndrome found significant reductions in PMS symptoms, both physical and psychological, after treatment with vitamin B6 compared to control groups.

The conclusion of the study published by Research Gate in 2016 confirmed the use of vitamin B6 as an inexpensive and effective treatment for the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

6. Bananas Reduce Your Risk of CVD

According to the American Heart Association 2014 report "Potassium Intake and Stroke Risk," potassium plays a major role in the prevention of stroke. Consuming three to five portions of fruit containing potassium lowered the risk of stroke 11 to 26 percent when compared to those who consumed less than three servings per day. Bananas each contain 10 percent DV for potassium.

In addition to helping with digestion, the fiber in bananas may also be help with heart disease. A review of 22 cohort studies found that total dietary fiber intake was inversely associated with risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease. The results were published in BMJ in 2013.

7. Eat Bananas to Lose Weight

Bananas score 2.5 on the fullness factor scale, which is a scale of 0 to 5 that assesses the satiety of food as compared to bread. That value means that you are more likely to satisfy your hunger by eating a banana than a slice of white bread. That could help you to eat less and forgo snacking between meals that would sabotage your weight loss.

Although bananas are loaded with carbohydrates, 31 grams each, the type of carbohydrate may help you lose weight. Bananas have a low glycemic index (GI) of 51, meaning they won't cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels, compared to other high-carb foods. Dieters look to low-glycemic foods to control hunger, avoid overeating and slim down by keeping blood sugar levels stable.

A six-month study published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2014 examined the effects of a low GI diet on 122 overweight subjects in regard to weight loss, satiety and inflammation. The conclusion was low-GI and energy-restricted diets containing moderate amounts of carbohydrates may be more effective than a high-GI and low-fat diet at reducing body weight and controlling glucose.

8. Bananas Can Help With Cramping

You may have experienced muscle cramps while sleeping, which can be associated with excruciating pain. Many athletes often develop muscle cramps during exercise.

One factor that can contribute to the painful contraction of muscles is mineral deficiencies in potassium, calcium, magnesium and/or sodium. Bananas contain all of those minerals in one fruit, so eating a banana may help alleviate the discomfort of cramping.

Magnesium is needed for muscle relaxation and contraction in addition to nerve conduction and electrolyte balance. A deficiency of magnesium causes muscle contractions and cramps.

The calcium in bananas is essential for smooth muscle flexing and plays a role in nerve impulses. A deficiency in calcium may cause muscle tightness and cramping.

Potassium also plays an important role in the contraction of your muscles and nervous system transmission and response. A deficiency in potassium can cause muscle weakness and fatigue.

Finally, sodium in bananas maintains normal fluid balance in your body and works with other electrolytes to generate nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Lack of salt can cause muscle cramps in athletes.

9. Trade Your Sports Drink for Bananas

Have you ever wondered if fruit, such as a banana, may be a healthier alternative to sports drinks during exercise? If you rely on carbohydrates to fuel your body and speed up recovery after your workout, you'll be pleased to know that a study has shown that bananas have natural substances that may be beneficial.

A study compared the ingestion of two types of bananas with a carb beverage and water-only drink on oxidative stress, muscle damage and inflammation following a 75-kilometer cycling trial. Results of the study, published in PLOS|ONE in 2018, found that a banana provides comparable or greater anti-inflammatory and other benefits for athletes than sports drinks. Researchers concluded that a banana may be a natural, neatly packaged and inexpensive alternative to sports drinks.

10. Soothe Symptoms of Heartburn

Acid reflux happens when stomach acid moves up into your esophagus. This can cause heartburn or other complications. Often, the food you eat is key to controlling acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Although it won't cure your condition, eating a banana may provide some relief by soothing that burning feeling in your throat or chest. The potassium in bananas has alkalizing properties that may help reduce acidity in the stomach.

The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences published a study in 2017 that investigated the relationship between fruit, including bananas and vegetables, and GERD. Researchers found that participants with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had 33 to 42 percent lower risk of GERD. The study concluded that increasing the intake of vegetables and fruit has an impact on the prevention and management of GERD.

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