10 Incredible Health Benefits of Bananas
The humble banana is one of the most interesting fruits on the planet. In fact, did you know that, botanically, the banana is really a berry and a banana tree is not a tree at all, but the world’s largest herb?
First farmed over 7000 years ago, it is the world’s largest fruit crop and the fourth largest produce after wheat, rice and corn. With more than 100 billion bananas being consumed annually, this nutritious fruit has found its place on every plate in the world, and with good reason. Here are the benefits of eating bananas:
#1. “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”
Did you know that in old English, the word “apple” meant “fruit”? Fruits are an indispensable part of a balanced diet and bananas are the most readily available and widely consumed fruit in the world. Bananas are packed with important nutrients that are needed for a healthy body and mind. In addition to being an excellent source of potassium, bananas also provide micronutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and sodium.
Eating fresh fruit is also something that has been recommended for ages by Yogis, siddhas and practitioners of traditional systems of health and medicine. In this blogpost, Sadhguru explains how consuming fruit can do miraculous things for your body and brain, and is also good for the planet.
Bananas are a part of almost every meal served in the Isha Yoga Center. Out of the numerous varieties of bananas locally available, here are the most common ones that are served:
- Grand Naine
- Red Banana
- Monthan Banana
#2. Ensure Good Health by Keeping Your Colon Clean
In Ayurveda, a clean colon is considered the most essential component for general health. Adding bananas as a part of your daily diet will ensure regular bowel movements due to their high fiber content. This article from Harvard University explains how having a regular bowel movement is a sign of a healthy digestive system, and prevents the discomfort of diarrhea and constipation. Studies have also shown how irregular bowel movements can have a significant negative impact on mental health. The benefits of keeping a clean colon are clear, but this is a bigger challenge in today’s world of processed food. A medium-sized banana contains 12% of the body’s daily fiber requirement and can help normalize the effects of constipation. Green bananas are ideal for this because they are full of resistant starch which acts like insoluble fiber and can help keep your bowels working at their best.
#3. Bananas Keep You Happy!
Whether you love the taste of bananas or not, they still make you happy. There are well documented studies that show how external factors, such as our diet, impact the chemistry of the brain to produce feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Bananas contain serotonin which is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. They are also a rich source of Vitamin B6 which facilitates the natural production of serotonin in the brain. A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a high-potassium diet helped relieve symptoms of depression and tension in participants. According to Dr. Caroline Longmore, depression can be linked to low levels of serotonin and you can improve your body's serotonin levels by eating foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan – like cottage cheese and bananas. She recommends eating at least four bananas a week.
So the next time you are feeling low, try this Date and Banana Smoothie. The wonderful natural sweetness of dates combined with fresh bananas is sure to leave you happier.
#4. Bananas Improve Immunity
In these challenging times, a robust immune system could mean the difference between life and death. Bananas are a prebiotic food, which means that they support the formation of the right kind of gut bacteria which has a direct impact on the body’s ability to fight disease.
Researchers say that an adequate amount of protein, essential fatty acids and at least 11 vitamins and minerals work together to keep the immune system healthy. One medium-sized banana has 2 percent of the recommended daily intake of five of the 11 nutrients: iron, zinc, Vitamin A, selenium and protein. It also provides larger amounts of four other nutrients essential to a normal immune response.
A single banana can supply up to 11% of your daily Vitamin C requirement which is essential in producing white blood cells – the foundation block of the immune system. Red bananas have been found to have higher Vitamin C content than yellow ones. But the biggest reason why bananas support the immune system is because of their high Vitamin B6 content. Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of the proteins responsible for the body’s immune response. One medium-sized banana has 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B6.
To boost your immunity, go for the riper bananas. According to a 2009 research published in Food Science and Technology Research, riper bananas were eight times better at improving white blood cells than raw bananas.
#5. Bananas Are Great for Your Heart
Potassium is a mineral electrolyte that is needed by cells in the nerves and muscles. It regulates heart function and fluid balance which is crucial in regulating blood pressure. Potassium deficiency can contribute to serious health problems, including high blood pressure or hypertension. The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas in lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease and strokes is well known and backed by scientific evidence. Research also shows that a potassium-rich diet may reduce blood pressure by limiting the amount of sodium in the bloodstream.
Bananas are one of the best natural sources of potassium available, with a single medium-sized banana containing 12% of the required daily intake.
#6. Benefits of Bananas for Women with Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
Bananas also contain melatonin which aids sleep and regulates our body’s natural rhythms, as well as iron, which can help fight the fatigue associated with PMS. A lack of potassium can cause muscle cramping, and eating a few bananas can effectively replete the body’s store of potassium. Potassium also prevents water retention in the body which is extremely useful for women. The Vitamin B6 present in bananas produces red blood cells which are good for the body during menstruation.
#7. An Excellent Source of Prebiotics
Suffering from gas? Having trouble digesting your food? This may be because you lack the necessary gut-bacteria. There are around 40 trillion bacteria in our body, most of which live in our intestines. Collectively, they are known as gut microbiota and play a huge role in determining our health. As we looked at earlier, bananas are an excellent source of prebiotics which helps create the right conditions for gut bacteria to flourish. The high amount of resistant starch, especially in green bananas, is not absorbed in the small intestine but passes into the large intestine where it acts as food and fuel for microbiota to grow.
#8. The Perfect Workout Food
An average-sized banana can contain up to 12mg of choline, a kind of B vitamin that affects the genes responsible for storing fat in the body. The high fiber content in a banana also promotes satiety or a feeling of fullness which can lead one to eat less. Marathoners and other high-endurance athletes love bananas because they contain good carbs and are rich in glucose which is an easily digestible sugar that provides direct energy to the body. Bodybuilders love bananas because they are a good source of pectin which has been scientifically proven to curtail the amount of fat that the cells in our body can absorb. Ripe bananas are best for this as they contain higher levels of fast-digesting natural sugars.
Tired after a hard workout session? This delicious Groundnut-Banana Shake makes a perfect post-workout power-up.
#9. Bananas for Strong Bones
When we think of healthy bones, the first thing that comes to mind is calcium. A medium-sized banana contains only 1% of the body’s daily calcium requirement. However, it can help the body absorb calcium better. According to a key scientific research, certain prebiotic chemicals present in bananas live in the gut and improve the amount of calcium that gets absorbed. The high potassium content in bananas is also good for your bones. Studies have also conclusively shown that people who have a higher amount of potassium intake have greater total bone mass, leading to stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
#10. Bananas Are Easily Available
This is perhaps the biggest benefit of bananas! Bananas are available in almost every single market in the world at an affordable price. The thick peel of the banana prevents pesticides or other harmful chemicals from polluting the soft and delicious inner flesh, also making it convenient to carry and transport. This ease of availability combined with the versatility of the fruit makes it the ultimate healthy snack. Just two to three medium-sized bananas can make for an easy and filling meal on-the-go. A fantastic addition to smoothies, bananas are also useful in baking, where they act as an egg substitute and also reduce the amount of sugar needed for the recipe. They are also the go-to ingredient for no-bake recipes like this simple and scrumptious Chocolate Peanut No-Bake Pie.
So what are you waiting for? Add some banana to your diet and reap rich rewards in terms of health and wellbeing!