Bananas are sweet and tasty fruits conveniently packaged by nature in a happy yellow peel. Their easy portability makes them great for grabbing and snacking on the go. In addition to being delicious fruits to consume on their own, bananas make flavorful additions to salads, desserts, and even stir-fries. Apples have long been associated with good health, and many bright and colorful fruits are now touted as “superfruits.” However, the humble banana contains many nutrients and potential health benefits as well. Read on for 12 reasons bananas make great additions to your diet.
Bananas are great sources of potassium, with one medium banana containing about 422 mg of this important mineral. Potassium is a critical component in blood pressure regulation. It also plays a role in metabolism, fluid balance, muscle contraction, and healthy nervous system function. The CDC reports that most Americans do not get enough potassium in their diet, and therefore it is listed as a nutrient of concern for Americans. Furthermore, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing the consumption of foods like baked potatoes, salmon, and bananas in order to improve potassium levels.
11. Vitamin B6
One banana contains 20 to 33% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B6. This vitamin is helpful for metabolism, red blood cell formation, and healthy immune and nervous system function. A deficiency in vitamin B6 can cause a skin rash, cracked or dry lips, depression, confusion, and a weakened immune system. Whip up a refreshing tropical pineapple and banana smoothie for a delicious dose of vitamin B6 that will help keep your body, brain, and skin strong and healthy.
10. Vitamin C
One medium banana contains about 17% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for collagen and connective tissue formation in healthy skin and bone structures. It helps with immune function and in the healing of wounds. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which may help prevent heart disease or certain cancers. Enjoy a delicious boost of vitamin C by mixing sliced bananas with mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and apple chunks. Next, top them with a dab of Greek yogurt or a splash of lemon juice and enjoy!
9. Fiber for Satiety
The fiber provided by bananas improves digestive health and improves feelings of satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction that follows a meal. Choosing foods that keep you feeling satisfied longer helps prevent overeating and snacking between meals. Increase the satisfaction factor of this fruit by pairing it with other high-fiber foods. Chop up a banana onto a warm bowl of steel cut oatmeal, or slice a banana to enjoy on a wedge of whole wheat toast spread with your favorite nut butter.
8. Probiotics for Gut Health
According to the Mayo Clinic, probiotics are foods like yogurt that contain live microorganism cultures. These cultures provide benefits to the lining of your digestive tract. Prebiotics are fibrous foods that supply nourishment to these helpful gut microorganisms. Bananas are a source of prebiotics utilized by normal gut flora to aid in the digestive process. Top a creamy dish of Greek yogurt with bananas and berries for a treat that will be good for your gut as well as your taste buds.Related: Gut Bacteria Fights Cancer?
Antioxidants are generally associated with vibrant and colorful fruits and berries such as blueberries, sweet potatoes, and spinach. However, Oxford University Press reports that bananas, with their sunny yellow peels and creamy white fruit, also contain phenolic compounds. Bananas contain carotenoids and phytosterols beneficial in preventing cellular damage from free radicals in the body. Increase your antioxidant intake by blending a frozen banana with chunks of apple, mango, pineapple, almond milk, and kale for a satisfying green smoothie.
Bananas are a great source of energy before hitting the gym or heading out on a run. One study compared the effects of pre-exercise banana consumption to pre-exercise carbohydrate energy drink consumption. This study found the bananas to be as beneficial in fueling exercise as the carbohydrate drink, with the added benefits of fiber and antioxidants. Grab a banana before starting your daily workout for an extra boost of energy to keep you powering through.
5. Post-Workout Recovery
Bananas are great sources of nutrients after working out as well. Light exercise may warrant nothing more than rehydration with water and a simple banana. More punishing workouts such as endurance training may require a dose of protein in addition to carbohydrates. According to Openfit, the right balance of protein and carbohydrates will aid in muscle recovery and prevent muscle fatigue. In these cases, enjoy a banana along with a glass of chocolate milk or a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread.Related: The Low-Down on Carbs and Belly Fat
While eating a banana will not fulfill your day’s water requirements, it will help keep you hydrated by affecting the balance of electrolytes in your body. Enjoy potassium-rich foods like bananas and limit high-sodium foods like processed snacks or meats. This will help you maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes. Skip the salty chips and pretzels and indulge in bananas, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. A refreshing bottle of coconut water along with a banana makes for a revitalizing, tropical treat.
3. Heart Health
Bananas may be beneficial for preventing heart disease. According to the CDC, increasing dietary potassium can help lower blood pressure in adults who suffer from hypertension. Lowering your blood pressure has the added benefit of decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. For a tasty dinner entrée with the heart benefits of banana and curry, try Food and Wine’s recipe for Chicken with Banana Curry Sauce. Serve this dish with brown rice for the extra fiber provided by whole grains.
2. A Healthy Substitute in Recipes
The versatile banana is not only delicious and nutritious, but it can also be a healthy substitution for eggs, oil, or sugar in recipes. To bake a vegan cake or batch of brownies, simply substitute one ripe, mashed banana for one egg. To cut back on the calorie content in muffins, skip the oil and use a banana puree instead. For natural sweetening and fruity banana flavor in baked goods, try using a very ripe mashed banana in place of sugar. This recipe at Allrecipes for No-Sugar-Added Blueberry and Banana Wheat Muffins utilizes the sweetness of bananas and blueberries for a fruity taste without added sugar.
1. Prevent Acid Reflux
AARP lists bananas as a food that is helpful in preventing painful episodes of acid reflux. Acid reflux is a painful condition in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. Since bananas are low in acid, they won’t further irritate tender esophageal tissues. The fiber found in bananas also keeps food moving through the digestive tract, rather than remaining in the stomach to stimulate more acid production.Related: 10 Foods That Help Decrease Acid Reflux