We’ve all grown up hearing the age-old saying “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Not to undermine the merits of an apple, but there are other fruits in the health basket as well that can help keep the doctor at a comfortable distance. Case in point, bananas!
Figuring among the most widely consumed fruits around the world, bananas are so popular and are not restricted to monkeys alone. In fact, bananas are more in demand than any other fruit in the US so much so that their consumption is greater than the combined consumption of both apples and oranges.
So, why is everyone going bananas about bananas? Well for one, it’s incredibly easy on the taste buds, but you probably already know that. What isn’t common knowledge, however, is the nutritional worth of this fresh fruit that makes it competent enough to be classified as one of the “superfoods.” Among health and fitness circles, bananas are treasured for a wide array of inherent health-promoting virtues.
This power-packed potential of bananas can be attributed to the vitamins and nutrients concealed in its sweet, creamy goodness. Enriched with carbohydrates, vitamin A, C, and B6, iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, and natural sugars such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose, there are plenty of reasons to make bananas an integral part of your diet. Additionally, the ideal combination of high fiber, low calorie count, and negligible fat content makes this fruit all the more worth considering.
Wrapped in a thick biodegradable peel, bananas are more or less protected from contamination by pesticides and other environmental toxins. The sturdy covering also makes them easy to carry in your bags and purses or to pack them as a healthy addition to your kid’s school lunch. Thus, they serve as the ideal snack when you are on the move. Although raw bananas are a treat by themselves, they can even be used to add spunk to your cereals, smoothies, and yogurt. Their versatility doesn’t stop there: bananas can also work as a preferable alternative to sugar in a range of baking and cooking preparations.
Why Bananas Are Good for Health
Here are top 9 supercharged health benefits of bananas.
1. Regulates Bowel Movements
When it comes to irregular bowel movements, there is nothing that a well-ripened banana can’t fix. Bananas contain a good amount of insoluble fiber (1.2 grams/100 grams of the edible portion of banana) that travels through the digestive tract, sweeping up waste and adding bulk and softness to the stool. This helps improve bowel motility by facilitating a regular and smoother movement of stool through the bowels.
However, excessive consumption of bananas without adequate water intake may prove counterproductive by leading to constipation. Moreover, eating bananas that are not completely ripe may also give rise to constipation and gas.
In addition to this laxative property, bananas are also a recommended food choice when you have got the runs. They contain pectin, a water-soluble fiber that acts as a gelling agent and helps absorb fluids in the intestines. Bananas also help replenish the nutrients and electrolytes lost, particularly potassium stores, when suffering from a bout of diarrhea.
2. Provides Natural Energy
As energy boosters, bananas pack quite a solid punch of minerals and carbohydrates that provide a quick supply of natural energy. In addition, bananas have a healthier blend of three natural sugars: glucose, sucrose, and fructose. The combination of these sugars provides a substantial amount of energy.
In a study published in PLOS ONE in May 2012, researchers examined the comparative refueling effect of bananas and a 6 percent carbohydrate drink, respectively, on two separate groups of endurance athletes competing in long-distance cycling races. Both groups demonstrated similar results with regards to the athlete’s performance time, blood glucose levels, and immune measures. However, owing to the presence of dopamine and serotonin in bananas, one group showed improved antioxidant capacity and reduced oxidative stress than the other.
Bananas are one of the few fruits that contain both complex and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates give you endurance energy, and simple carbohydrates give you quick energy. Thus, bananas can help sustain your energy levels during extensive workouts and serve as breakfast on-the-go to help you kick-start your day with an instant boost of energy.
3. Soothes Stomach Ulcers
Bananas are beneficial for your stomach health in two ways. First, bananas stimulate the secretion of the thick protective mucus lining in the stomach that serves as a barrier against corrosive stomach acids, thereby averting the risk of gastric ulcers.
4. Supports a Healthy Heart
Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral electrolyte that is essential for your heart health. It helps maintain a regular heartbeat and a proper balance of water in the body.
People who eat diets high in potassium-rich foods like bananas can also substantially reduce their risk of stroke, regulate blood pressure, and prevent various heart diseases. Moreover, bananas have the added bonus of a low sodium content, which together with its rich potassium content makes it an ideal contender for reducing blood pressure.
Furthermore, banana is a rich dietary source of vitamin B6 with one large banana containing about 0.5 milligrams of the essential nutrients. Vitamin B6 is credited with health-protective attributes that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing homocysteine levels as well as the risk of some kinds of cancer, as per the National Institutes of Health.
5. Aids in Weight Loss
If you are looking for a food that can help you lose weight, bananas are a perfect choice. Not only do they boast a favorable nutritional profile, but bananas offer the added advantages of being low in fat and calories. Furthermore, they are replete with dietary fiber that absorbs water and takes up a lot of space in your stomach, thereby keeping you satiated for a longer period.
This is compounded by the fact that unripe bananas are generously supplied with resistant starch that has a filling and appetite-reducing effect.
Plus, enriched with several B vitamins, bananas help give your metabolism the desired boost.
Because your weight loss diet renders sugary goods totally off limits, the sweet-tasting flavor of banana can help satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you from feeling deprived of dessert. As per the US Department of Agriculture, one large banana contains about 16.6 grams of natural sugar or fructose, which is different from and far healthier than the refined sugars found in cookies and candy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, it is this fructose content that is responsible for the lower glycemic index of bananas compared with foods laden with refined carbohydrates, making it a safer and preferable source of energy for diabetics.
6. Treats Anemia
Bananas are also well endowed with iron and folate. A medium banana contains approximately 0.4 milligrams of iron (2 percent of the daily value) and 23.6 micrograms of folate (6 percent of the daily value) and can be helpful for people suffering from anemia if eaten regularly and in sufficient quantities.
This health benefit draws from the simple fact that a deficiency of iron is often held culpable for anemia, and thus a banana-rich diet can help replenish the iron stores in the body and raise your red blood cell count and hemoglobin level.
Additionally, it is suggested that the vitamin B6 found in bananas can play a hand in increasing the production of red blood cells.
7. Treats Morning Sickness
If you are pregnant and looking for ways to combat morning sickness, grab a banana. Banana is easy to digest and low in fat and has calming properties, which help replenish the body and restore a healthy blood glucose level. This, in turn, helps combat nausea.
Pregnant women are advised to eat a banana after waking up in the morning and after each meal. Also, bananas have several nutrients that can help lift your mood and support the physical development of your unborn baby.
8. Heals Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites cause a lot of itchiness and are sometimes painful. You can treat these symptoms with banana peels.
Rub the inside of the banana peels on the bite for about 5 to 10 minutes. This will help reduce the itching and swelling. In fact, this simple remedy often works better than the creams or medications you find at the drugstore.
9. Helps Manage Depression
According to a recent survey of people suffering from depression, many of the participants felt much better after eating a banana.
In a study conducted on a mouse model, researchers reported antianxiety, antidepressant, and memory-boosting effects of banana fruit pulp and peel.
Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, which is known to help you relax, improve your mood, and generally make you feel happier.
Furthermore, when suffering from insomnia due to depression, you can eat a banana before going to bed; its tryptophan helps induce better sleep.
Bananas also contain tyrosine, an amino acid that increases norepinephrine and dopamine levels. Low levels of these neurotransmitters that are responsible for stimulating brain activity, alertness, and concentration have often been associated with depression.
Given all these health benefits of this low-cost fruit, bananas should be added to your grocery list every time you shop. They are a great choice for a healthy sweet snack between meals, too.
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