Bananas, eaten in moderation, will more likely help than harm your cholesterol levels. They provide a good source of dietary fiber, which can help reduce your low-density lipoprotein – LDL or "bad" cholesterol. The potassium in bananas can also help lower your blood pressure, which may, in turn, lower your cholesterol.
A medium banana -- 7 in. to 7 7/8 in. long -- contains 105 calories, providing 1.3 g of protein, 27 g of carbohydrates and practically no fat with only 0.4 g. The carbohydrate in a banana includes 14.4 g of natural sugar, 3.1 g of fiber and 6.35 g of starch. Bananas make a good source of potassium -- 422 mg per medium banana -- and also provide some B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin A.
The fiber in bananas compares favorably to the fiber in strawberries, oranges, baked potatoes with skin attached, brown rice and pistachio nuts. Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, helps slow the absorption of cholesterol and sugar in your bloodstream, reducing LDL cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Adding fiber to your diet may also help you lose weight, which can help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure naturally. Fiber fills you up faster and keeps you feeling full longer than foods that contain little or no fiber. Women should include 25 g of fiber in their daily diet and men about 38 g. Although bananas provide a good source of dietary fiber, better sources include raspberries, black beans, whole wheat spaghetti and peas.
Adding potassium to your diet can help lower your blood pressure. It helps offset the effects of sodium, which raises your blood pressure. Blood pressure and cholesterol are connected -- high levels of one may boost levels of the other, and high blood pressure boosts cholesterol deposits in your blood vessels, which contributes to cardiovascular disease. The 422 mg of potassium in a medium banana can help you meet the recommended 4,700 mg of potassium in your daily diet. Other good sources include baked white or sweet potatoes with skins attached, yogurt, spinach, orange juice and soybeans.
Fructose and Triglycerides
Too much sugar in your diet may elevate your triglycerides, a type of fat included in your blood cholesterol profile. The American Heart Association or AHA recommends you limit calories from added sugar from sources such as regular soda, cookies and candy to about 100 to 200 a day, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The AHA also recommends you limit consumption of fructose between 50 g to 100 g. Bananas contain fructose, but you would need to eat more than eight a day to reach 50 g of fructose. Fruits more likely to elevate your triglycerides include raisins and pineapple.
Is This an Emergency?
- United States Department of Agriculture: Bananas, Raw
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- American Dietetic Association, Eat Right; Potassium Power; Joan Salge Blake; August 1, 2010
- American Dietetic Association, Eat Right: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber, 2008
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure; Jan. 21, 2011
- "Circulation"; Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease...; Michael Miller, et al.; April 18, 2011
- American Heart Association;Weight Management and Blood Pressure; Jan. 21, 2011