Why are bananas good for you?

Bananas are consistently among the most popular fruits around the world.  It isn’t really a mystery why so many people enjoy snacking on them.  They have smooth, slightly sweet taste and when they are ripe (but not overly ripe!) their scent is subtle and pleasant.  They are extremely versatile and go well in everything from bread to pudding to yogurt to smoothies to cereal to ice cream sundaes.  They pair well with other fruits (such as strawberries) and with grains (like oatmeal).  Bananas are compact and neatly ensconced in their own wrapper.  They also have a soft consistency that makes them easy to eat, even for infants, toddlers and people with bad teeth, no teeth or difficulty swallowing.  Bananas are indeed versatile, tasty and convenient.  In this article, we will explore why bananas are so good for you.

Bananas are Power Packed with Nutrients

Bananas contain many important nutrients.  They get a lot of notice for being a great source of potassium.  In fact, the average banana contains 9% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of potassium.  They are also a great source of Vitamin B6 with 33% of the RDI.  Oranges and citrus fruits might get all the attention when it comes to Vitamin C but bananas contain 11% of the RDI.  You might be surprised to find out that they contain 8% of the RDI of Magnesium and 10% of the RDI of Copper.  They also provide 3.1 grams of fiber and 1.3 grams of protein.  They also have powerful antioxidants such as dopamine and catechins. As a bonus, they are low in fat – just 0.4 grams.

Rich in Pectin

What is Pectin?  Pectin is a type of fiber.  It is what gives the flesh of a banana structure.  They also have resistant starch, which acts like a soluble fiber that doesn’t get digested.  The importance of pectin and resistant starch is that they may moderate blood sugar levels after eating.  They also help to keep you feeling full by slowing the emptying of your stomach, so they can act as a natural appetite suppressant!

A Heart Healthy Choice

Heart health is a crucial consideration for many people.  One medium-sized banana contains 9% of the RDI of potassium, which is essential for heart health and particularly blood pressure management.  In fact, a potassium-rich diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by 27%.  Bananas are also a good source of magnesium, which is also good for the heart and as a bonus, potassium also helps to keep kidney health in check.

Aid in Digestion

Bananas may be helpful for your digestion.  With 3.1 grams of fiber, they can improve digestion in a couple of ways.  Some studies suggest that the pectin found in bananas may protect against colon cancer.  The resistant starch in them goes undigested and ends up in the large intestine where it provides food for beneficial bacteria that promotes gut health.

Help You Keep Fit and Trim

Bananas have several properties that can help with weight loss.  They are low in calories: the average banana is just over 100 calories.  They are rich in fiber and fiber from fruits and vegetables has been linked to lower body weight and weight loss.  Unripe bananas also have resistant starch which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.  The mineral content and easily digested carbs also make them a great food before, during and after exercise and they can also help with muscle cramps and soreness that commonly occurs during exercise.  While there are no clear explanations for exercise-related muscle cramps, a popular explanation is that it is caused by dehydration combined with electrolyte imbalance.  Bananas may be able to help with electrolyte imbalance. So, go bananas and keep fit and trim down.

Health Benefits of Green Bananas

We’ve looked at the benefits of eating bananas but what many people don’t realize is that ripeness matters.  Unripe, green bananas are high in resistant starch content.  This means that they are not as high in sugar content.  Warning: this higher level of resistant starch content can cause gas.  Unripe bananas also absorb nutrients (such as calcium) better.  They also have probiotics, which are a good type of bacteria that promote good colon health.

What about ripe bananas? These are easier to digest because the resistant starch in unripe bananas changes to simple sugar as they ripen.  Although that does make them higher in sugar and so people with diabetes should avoid eating them in large doses.  However, the change from resistant starch to sugar also makes bananas easier to digest. Ripe bananas also have higher levels of micronutrients, which are lost in the process of ripening.


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