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14 Surprising Health Benefits Of Bananas

Do you know all that bananas have to offer? These tasty fruits can fight cancer thanks to antioxidants and tumor necrosis factor. Bananas even have dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to reward and emotion. It’ll instantly boost your mood! Bananas are also high in potassium, making them ideal for improving muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and risk for kidney stones. Additionally, their phytosterols will lower blood cholesterol, while other properties heal ulcers.

One banana meets1

  • 16% DV of fiber
  • 15% DV of vitamin C
  • 11% DV of potassium
  • 28% DV of vitamin B6

Are you bananas for bananas? If not, you will be after learning these surprising facts. Bananas aren’t called the “fruits of the wise men” without reason. A versatile fruit with several health benefits, bananas can be eaten ripe or unripe, alone or with your oatmeal, yogurt, and toast.

Inexpensive and easily available, bananas deserve a place in your everyday diet. Let’s peel into its benefits to find out why.

1. Reduces Hunger Pangs

One medium-sized banana every day – when eaten along with other high-fiber foods like oats, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables – can help you lose a considerable amount of weight. Bananas are rich in fiber, a carbohydrate that isn’t digested by your body. This slows down the process of digestion and reduces hunger pangs in between meals. Thus, by keeping you full for a longer time and preventing overeating bananas can help you control your weight.2

2. Reduces Muscle Cramps

Eating bananas will keep your muscles healthy. They’re full of potassium, a mineral needed for muscle contraction and nerve signals. Low potassium is linked to muscle cramps. Each banana has 422 mg of potassium, and thus serves as a quick and easy remedy for those pesky spasms.3 So, if you’re an athlete, bananas could help your muscles recover from intense workouts of marathons. However, this isn’t the only way bananas can help sports-persons.

3. Boosts Endurance

Along with reducing post-workout cramps, bananas can also help improve your performance by boosting endurance.  Research indicates that eating half a banana every 15 minutes of the workout could be as effective as consuming energy drinks during the exercise!4 But, opt for fresh bananas as it’s healthier and more nutritious than the canned or frozen kind.

4. Boosts Immunity

We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But did you also know that a banana can give competition to the mighty apple? The vitamin C, which is present in bananas, is a powerful antioxidant that can boost your immunity and reduce the duration and severity of diseases.5

5. Improves Digestion

Eating a banana every day may help aid digestion. Bananas are rich in fructooligosaccharide (a prebiotic compound) that improves digestion by promoting the growth and well-being of your gut bacteria. Bananas are also rich in insoluble fiber (in the form of resistant starch) and soluble fiber (in the form of pectin), which are both essential for smooth digestion. The fiber in bananas also bulks up the stool, ensures proper bowel movement, and prevents issues like bowel irregularity, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery, and irritable bowel syndrome. .6 7

Some studies indicate that the unripe fruit may be better for digestion that the ripened one. However, it’s important to exercise caution while eating unripe bananas, as the fiber in them could lead to constipation, if eaten in excess.

6. Treats Gastric Ulcers And Heartburn

If you’re frequently affected by gastric ulcers, a banana might be just what you need. A 2013 animal study found that bananas can not only shrink the size of gastric ulcers but also speed up its healing process. The credits for banana’s anti-ulcer activity goes to leucoyanidin – a flavonoid present in bananas.8

Studies have also shown that a simple mixture of bananas and milk can suppress the excess acidity in your stomach, thereby reducing your risk of heartburn.9

7. Keeps Your Heart Healthy

The benefits of bananas aren’t limited to proper digestion. They can also keep your heart healthy! Bananas have a high potassium and sodium ratio with 422 mg of potassium and only 1 mg of sodium. When you eat more bananas, the potassium that you intake flushes out the sodium from your system. And high dietary intake of potassium is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.10 Furthermore, bananas also maintain heart health by reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which brings us to our next point.

8. Reduces High Blood Pressure

A high blood pressure can lead to blocked arteries, poor circulation, and even a heart attack. The potassium in bananas can reduce high blood pressure by easing the pressure on the walls of your blood vessels. Also, since excess salt is one of the culprits of high blood pressure, eating bananas helps neutralize the harmful effects of sodium on your heart.11 In fact, some studies have concluded that the consumption of two bananas per day can reduce high blood pressure by up to 10 percent.12

9. Regulates Diabetes

Staying away from sugar is something that most diabetics struggle with. Since bananas are sweet, they satisfy your craving for sweet foods and keep you from turning to other unhealthy sugar-filled foods.

Additionally, raw bananas have a low glycemic index, which means they won’t raise your blood sugar levels. Also, bananas are high in soluble fiber, which slows down digestion. The slow digestion prevents you from eating between meals or overeating, thus preventing further spikes in your blood sugar levels.13 It’s interesting to note that unripe bananas – thanks to its high starch content – may have an even lower glycemic index than the ripe or over-ripe ones.14

10. Prevents Cancer

Have you noticed the dark patches on ripe bananas? According to a Japanese study, these dark brown-black patches produce a substance called the tumor necrosis factor, which eliminates cancer cells. The tumor necrosis factor also stimulates the production of healthy white blood cells and prevents the progression of cancer.15

Bananas contain lectin, a group of proteins that are believed to prevent the multiplication and cause the death of cancer cells.16 Plus, bananas are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids that can stop cancer in its early stages.

11. Prevents Kidney Stones

The potassium in bananas is found to reduce kidney stones. By preventing calcium deposit in your kidneys and urinary tract, bananas may help those with kidney stones. However, there isn’t enough research to back this theory.[ ref]Potassium. University Of Maryland.[/ref]

Also, it’s important to note that a few individuals with kidney stones may also suffer from kidney disease. And high-potassium foods are a no-no if you’re affected by kidney disease. Therefore, it’s best to avoid bananas if you also suffer from kidney disease.

12. Elevates Your Mood

Feeling down? Take advantage of banana’s vitamin B6. This vitamin is responsible for producing serotonin, a chemical that influences mood. Low levels of serotonin in your body are linked to depression and other psychological disorders. However, there isn’t substantial research to say that bananas can significantly reduce symptoms of depression.17

13. Reduces Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Bananas carry phenols, which are antioxidants that delay aging and prevent the degeneration of your nerves. Studies have revealed that the phenols in fresh bananas prevent toxicity in nerve cells and therefore, may have a role to play in reducing your risk of disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.18

14. Keeps Your Skin Healthy

When you eat a banana, do not throw away the peels. Banana peels are rich in alpha-hydroxy acids. These are the same compounds that are commonly found in chemical cosmetic peels for your skin. But fortunately, the peel is devoid of harmful chemicals as opposed to commercial beauty products. While the peel may take some time to work its magic, it is relatively harmless and can help fight skin pigmentation and aging.19 Just rub the inside of a banana peel all over your face and neck and rinse after a few minutes. You can do this every day.

Who knew that such an unassuming fruit could have so many benefits? Time to incorporate bananas into your day. Toss them into smoothies or pancake batter. Craving a sweet snack? Freeze banana slices and blend to treat yourself with some healthy banana ice cream.

References   [ + ]

1. Bananas. Michigan State University.
2. Making one change — getting more fiber — can help with weight loss. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
3. Potassium. University Of Maryland.
4. Bananas are as beneficial as sports drinks, researchers find. Appalachian State University.
5. Wintergerst, Eva S., Silvia Maggini, and Dietrich H. Hornig. “Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 50, no. 2 (2006): 85-94.
6. Slavin, Joanne. “Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits.” Nutrients 5, no. 4 (2013): 1417-1435.
7, 9, 12, 18. Kumar, KP Sampath, and Debjit Bhowmik. “Traditional and medicinal uses of banana.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 1, no. 3 (2012).
8. Onasanwo, Samuel Adetunji, Benjamin Obukowho Emikpe, Austin Azubuike Ajah, and Taiwo Olayemi Elufioye. “Anti-ulcer and ulcer healing potentials of Musa sapientum peel extract in the laboratory rodents.” Pharmacognosy research 5, no. 3 (2013): 173.
10. Sodium, potassium together influence heart health. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
11. How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association.
13. Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
14. Hermansen, K., O. Rasmussen, S. Gregersen, and S. Larsen. “Influence of ripeness of banana on the blood glucose and insulin response in type 2 diabetic subjects.” Diabetic Medicine 9, no. 8 (1992): 739-743.
15. Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) in Bananas Help Prevent Cancer. Asian Fund for Cancer Research Limited.
16. Singh, Senjam Sunil, Sanjenbam Kunjeshwori Devi, and Tzi Bun Ng. “Banana lectin: a brief review.” Molecules 19, no. 11 (2014): 18817-18827.
17. Vitamin B6. University of Maryland Medical Center.
19. Green, Barbara A., J. Yu Ruey, and Eugene J. Van Scott. “Clinical and cosmeceutical uses of hydroxyacids.” Clinics in dermatology 27, no. 5 (2009): 495-501.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.