12 Benefits of Bananas For A Healthy Life
Bananas are lauded for many reasons. It is one of the most versatile and important food crops. They are accessible and easy to travel with. They are heavenly in smoothies or as a tasty topper on cereal or oatmeal. These nutrient-dense golden wonders can even be baked into muffins and bread.
Additionally, bananas are a healthy source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients. Health experts vouch for them and recommend having at least one a day because they provide tons of benefits. With that, here are 12 amazing benefits of bananas for a healthy life.
1. Maintain Heart Health And Blood Pressure
Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral important for a healthy heart and normal blood pressure. Having enough potassium in your diet can help maintain your blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that daily consumption of potassium is linked to a 26% lower risk of heart disease.
Additionally, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) designed to help combat high blood pressure, recommends getting five servings of fruits for sufficient potassium intake. One of these fruits could be a banana because a medium banana contains 10% of your daily recommended potassium intake.
2. Manage Sugar Levels
We often eat food high in carbohydrates, which is not ideal for the body. Carbohydrates raise our blood sugar levels, and having high blood sugar can damage the kidneys, blood vessels, eyes, and nerves.
Bananas contain sugar and raise our blood sugar, but since it is high in fiber, our body’s ability to control blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates is enhanced.
3. Aid Digestion
Most adults do not consume enough fiber every day. Fiber has many health benefits, including aiding digestion and maintaining gut health. Pectin, a type of fiber, is found in bananas, which helps regulate bowel movement and eliminate waste more effectively. This keeps your gut healthy and safe from harmful bacteria.
That said, bananas can also help combat gastrointestinal issues such as gastritis, constipation, and stomach ulcers. Kelly Swanson, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, claimed that the benefits of increasing your fiber intake can be felt quickly. “You start to see the changes in gut bacteria within just a few days,” says Swanson.
4. Promotes Weight Loss
Many food help with weight loss, but eating bananas could be a good way to start. As mentioned before, this fruit is a excellent source of fiber, which is helpful for weight loss. The reason behind this is that fiber is super-filling. This nutrient digests slower than simple starches and sugars and, in turn, keeps you full longer, preventing you from eating too much.
Although more research is needed, there is some evidence that people with higher fiber intake have healthier weight. According to a 2023 study in Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers found that people who ate the most fiber weighed less than those who did not.
5. Enhance Mood
Whenever we are feeling blue, we often resort to calorie-laden foods to boost our spirits. This can have dire consequences, and to avoid it, you can always turn to healthier food like bananas. Yes, bananas are great for enhancing your mood.
The fruit contains an amino acid called tryptophan to produce 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a compound that makes serotonin and melatonin. The former plays a crucial role in regulating mood, sleep, and digestion. Meanwhile, the latter helps manage your sleep-wake cycle. Bananas help improve mood and give a good night’s sleep. That is also why the fruit makes a great bedtime snack.
6. Boost Memory
Our brain helps us carry out bodily functions such as breathing, talking, and remembering. But as we age, our cognitive abilities decline, and we rely on food like bananas to maintain and improve our brain health. Not many know this, but bananas are great at boosting our memory. The tryptophan in bananas helps preserve memory and increase the ability to absorb and remember information.
Additionally, bananas contain catecholamines such as dopamine, which help in emotional stability and stress management. When we are emotionally sound and stress-free, our memories work better.
7. Gives Energy
If you are feeling low on energy, bananas are great for a quick pick-me-up. It has carbohydrates that is broken down into three natural sugars–sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
These sugars are then digested and transported to your cells. Here, it undergoes oxidation, where the stored energy is converted to energy that your cells can use. These nutrients change into energy quickly. Thus, bananas are often eaten 30 to 60 minutes before a workout to maximize performance.
8. Support Exercise Recovery
But if your goal is muscle recovery, you should consume the banana after exercising. When you exercise rigorously, you sweat and lose electrolytes that improve muscle function. You also lose glucose required for energy.
Therefore, it is important to resupply your body with potassium and magnesium by eating a banana. These nutrients help balance hydration levels in our body and reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness. It also helps stimulate your muscles’ ability to utilize protein needed for gaining muscle mass.
9. Boost Immunity
Bananas are great for boosting immunity because of the vitamin C and B6. Vitamin C helps produce white blood cells, which help protect the body against infection and shorten wound healing time.
It also helps these white blood cells function more effectively and protects them from damage by harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Meanwhile vitamin B6 supports the immune system. It is essential for the production of proteins that are responsible for the body’s immune response.
10. Prevent Iron Deficiency
The vitamin C in bananas also helps prevent iron deficiency. Our body needs iron to carry out many functions, including producing red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C helps absorb iron better by converting poorly absorbed iron, especially from plant-based sources into a form that is easier to absorb.
This is useful for people who are vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians and vegans get their iron from plant-based food and are often prone to iron deficiency as a result. This can increase the risk of anemia. However, they can combat this by including bananas regularly in their diet.
11. Reduce Free Radical
Our body is constantly fighting against free radicals, a type of unstable atoms. But as we age, our body cannot fight these effects of free radicals. This, in turn, increases the free radicals in our body and leads to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can cause inflammation, damage our cells, and lead to chronic inflammation, which is the cause of chronic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. However, these free radicals are reduced by antioxidants naturally found in food like bananas. These antioxidants prevent the effects of free radicals and reduce their reactivity, keeping us stronger and healthier in the long run.
12. Good For Your Skin
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but did you know a banana a day keeps your skin problems at bay? That’s right. Bananas are chock full of vitamins and minerals that help your skin flourish. It contains vitamin A, which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles and vitamin C, which helps brighten your skin tone.
Additionally, the potassium in bananas revitalizes dehydrated and parched skin, while the zinc speeds healing and reduces inflammation. These multifaceted benefits have encouraged many to create DIY banana face masks at home.
Different Types of Banana
Most of us are only familiar with the yellow or the green bananas. You would be surprised to learn there are over 1,000 kinds of bananas in the world. They are contained in 50 subgroups but can be broadly categorized into two groups- cooking and dessert. So here are the two types of bananas and some of their common examples.
1. Cooking bananas or plantains
These are a staple food in many countries. All of them have green skin that turns black. There are many types of plantains, each with unique characteristics and uses, but these are the four kinds of plantains you should know about.
- French Plantains
French plantains are popular in many parts of the world. They are shorter and thicker than other plantains and typically yield more fruit. French plantains are usually sweeter and softer than other plantains, making them suitable for hearty dishes like Ugandan stew and South Indian curries.
- French Horn
The French horn plantain looks similar to the French plantain but is longer and thinner. The French horn plantains are less sweet and have a firmer texture than the French plantains. They are often used to make plantain chips, empanadas and ceviche.
- False Horn
The False horn plantain is almost as long as the French Horn, but they are more curved. They are not as sweet as the other two and have a firmer texture and a starchy taste. The starchiness pairs well with sweet ingredients like sugar and milk, making them great for baking desserts.
Horn plantains are the largest plantain and have a distinct horn-like shape. Like the false horn, these plantains are less sweet and have a firmer texture with a starchy taste. These plantains can be boiled, fried, mashed, or baked.
2. Dessert bananas
These are the yellow bananas that we know of. These bananas are eaten raw and become sweeter, darker, and softer as it ripens. They are endless types of dessert bananas, but these are the five common ones.
- Cavendish Banana
The most common type of dessert banana is a Cavendish. It is the yellow banana that you see at the grocery store. They are perfectly sweet and creamy and thus loved by many.
- Red Banana
As the name suggests, these bananas have a reddish-purple skin that turns yellow-orange as it ripens. It has a light pink-colored flesh that is sweeter and softer than the Cavendish.
- Lady Finger
Lady Fingers, sometimes labeled baby bananas, are 4–5 inches long, with thin and light-yellow skin. They have a sweet and creamy flesh with notes of honey.
- Manzano Bananas
Manzano Bananas, or apple bananas, are shorter and chubbier than the Cavendish. They are sweeter with a hint of apple-strawberry flavor and turn black when completely ripe.
- Blue Java
Also called “ice cream” bananas, the blue java bananas are extra creamy with a sweet vanilla flavor. These bananas have a beautiful blue skin that turns pale yellow when ripe. While most bananas grow in the tropics, the blue java can withstand colder climates.
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