Bananas are one of the most popular produce crops in the world. They are grown in over 100 countries and are ranked 4th in the list of the world’s most valuable food crops. Bananas grow in clusters of 50 to 150 on plants that can reach over 25 feet in height! There are different varieties of bananas with red, pink, purple, and even black tones. Plantains are a variety of banana that is treated as a vegetable and routinely cooked due to its high starch content and texture. In the United States, people consume more sweet bananas than plantains. Americans also appear to favor bananas over all other fruit. On average, Americans consume more bananas than both apples and oranges combined! This fruit is a a diet staple for all ages – the perfect first food for babies and a healthy snack option for adults and elderly alike.
Here are 6 great health benefits of bananas.
Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
Bananas are a very rich source of potassium, which is an important mineral with vasodilation properties. While it is necessary to maintain a low sodium intake when trying to lower blood pressure, increasing potassium intake by adding more bananas to your diet could be just as effective. One medium banana contains 422mg of potassium, which is 12% of your reccommended daily value. According to national health surveys, less than 2% of adults in the United States meet the daily recommended intake of potassium, which is 4700mg. This is unfortunate because a diet high in potassium is actually associated with a 20% decreased risk of death from all causes! One observational study that followed over 40,000 men over 4 years found that those who ate diets higher in potassium (as well as magnesium and fiber) had a significantly reduced risk of stroke.
Bananas are a good source of fiber: one medium banana contains about 3 grams of fiber and one third of this fiber is water-soluble. Soluble fiber is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Bananas also contain sterols, which are types of fat that are similar in structure to cholesterol and can block the absorption of cholesterol in our blood, keeping your cholesterol levels in check.
Blood Sugar Control
Research has shown that there is an association between diets high in fiber and improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels in diabetics. Bananas also contain a special type of soluble fiber called pectins, which are water-soluble. As bananas ripen, the pectin content of bananas increases, as does the amount of fructose in comparison to other sugars. The higher amount of pectins and higher proportion of fructose helps to regulate the digestion of carbohydrates and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Memory and Mood
Bananas contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid associated with an improvement in memory and mood in scientific studies. One medium banana contains 10.6 mg of tryptophan.
Bananas are a great source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that scavenges harmful free radicals associated with increased cancer risk. The high fiber content of bananas is also a reason for its cancer-fighting reputation: eating a diet high in fiber from fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Studies also show that consumption of bananas in the first two years of life is associated with a reduced risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Bananas are one of the foods recommended for the treatment of diarrhea. Potassium is an electrolyte which is lost during an extended period of having diarrhea. Bananas are rich in potassium, and the soluble pectin helps to bind the stool and prevent excessive fluid loss.
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Ware, Megan, RDN, LD. “Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks and Nutritional Facts.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 Jan. 2016.