Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits, commonly available across the globe to eat on their own, sliced up and on top of cereal, in smoothies and many Indian dishes like sheera, kheer, and malpua. This natural “fast” food is not only convenient and easy to take on the go, when you eat one, you’ll be flooding your body with all sorts of important nutrients to support better health.
Originally grown around Malaysia, bananas made their way to India and eventually to the West, but it wasn’t until 1876 that they reached America’s shores. There are many types of bananas, which vary in size, color, and shape, though the most common types if the yellow banana, which is actually green before it ripens.
The average, medium-sized banana contains just 105 calories but is jam-packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, C, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, a good amount of fiber and even a small amount of protein.
Here’s a look at just what happens to your body when you eat a humble banana.
1. You’ll Improve Your Digestive Health
The average banana contains about three grams of fiber. A ripe banana contains pectin fiber, while an unripe banana contains resistant starch. As dietary fiber is known to help improve digestion, when you eat a banana you’ll be supporting your digestive health. In addition to aiding digestion, the pectin in ripe bananas helps to eliminate heavy metals and toxins in the body.
The high amount of fiber in bananas also gives the fruit the ability to address problems like constipation by normalizing bowel motility. On the opposite end of the spectrum, they also soothe the digestive tract to aid in restoring lost electrolytes after a bout of diarrhea. Bananas are also considered to work as a potent natural antacid, offering relief from issues like heartburn and acid reflux.
2. You’ll be Able to Learn Smarter & Faster
Bananas are a great food for the brain. In fact, a wide array of research has suggested that consuming them might even make you smarter, thanks to some of its vitamins, minerals and amino acids which play a role in keeping the brain functioning at optimal levels.
This wonderful yellow fruit contains vitamin B6, a nutrient that’s important for cognitive function. Research out of Tufts University in Boston published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition including giving a series of cognitive tests to men aged 54 to 81, found that those who had a higher concentration of B6 in their bloodstream were able to perform better on two measures of memory, as compared with those who had lower levels of B6.
The magnesium in bananas plays a key role in brain functioning too. When your body metabolizes protein, it produces ammonia. Magnesium triggers an enzyme that transforms ammonia to urea so that the body can eliminate it. Even traces of brain ammonia can negatively impact the ability to focus and pay attention, which means consuming foods rich in magnesium can also help improve brain function, aiding in the facility of electrical activity between nerve cells.
Ever experience brain fatigue? It may be because your brain had a lack of fuel. Just like a car, it’s not going to run well without it. Cells in your brain use glucose for fuel, and as the brain can’t store it, it requires a continuous supply through the food you eat. If you consume foods like candy, pastries, sugary cereals and so on, the body quickly depletes those carbs, particularly from sucrose, which leaves you feeling sluggish. It also results in hunger pangs not all that long after you’ve eaten. But if you eat a banana, its fiber content helps to slow the breakdown and release of sugars, primarily from fructose, into the bloodstream. As your body is able to utilize fruit sugars more gradually than foods with refined sugars, when you eat a banana, you’re getting a steady stream of brain fuel.
3. Your Mood Will Be Lifted
Feeling blue? Eat a banana. It provides both tryptophan and tyrosine, amino acids in the body that are utilized for making the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, “feel-good” hormones that are known for their ability to regulate one’s mood. When your body gets an adequate amount of these amino acids, it can help you stay more focused and calm, while easing stress and feelings of anxiety at the same time.
4. You’ll Be Supporting Better Heart Health
Bananas are a superfood for the heart, thanks to their high level of potassium, a mineral considered essential for heart health, and particularly controlling blood pressure levels. Your body depends on potassium for many functions in the body, including keeping control of the electrical balance of your heart. Many studies have shown that following a potassium-rich diet can help to lower high blood pressure. In fact, those who get lots of potassium in their diet have been shown to have as much as a 27% lower risk of developing heart disease.
Arteries tend to stiffen as we age, and that rigidness is a significant risk factor for heart disease, which is something that, according to the CDC, kills roughly one in four Americans every year.
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, conducted a study to determine if potassium might help keep the arteries more flexible. Mice that were engineered to be susceptible to heart disease were given minimal, average or large amounts of potassium. Scans of their hearts taken afterward found that the animals who were given the least amount of potassium, had stiffer aortas and harder arteries, as compared to those who were given more of the mineral. The experts say the results reveal a causative association between healthier arteries and potassium.
Additionally, foods high in fiber are also said to be good for the heart. Research out of the UK from the University of Leedsfound that eating more fiber-rich foods like bananas, also helps to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
5. You’ll Be Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance is one of the major risk factors for type 2 diabetes, a serious disease that’s been skyrocketing across the globe in recent decades, rising from 180 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, according to the World Health Organization. A number of studies have shown that consuming foods with resistant starch like bananas may help improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 50% in just four weeks. Of course, it’s unripe bananas, as mentioned, that contain resistant starch, so you may want to toss one in a smoothie to make it more palpable.
In addition to their resistant starch content, the fiber in bananas is especially important for those with diabetes as it helps to slow the absorption and digestion of carbohydrates. This, in turn, reduces blood sugar spikes and improves blood sugar control overall.
6. You’ll Improve Athletic Endurance & Ease Muscle Cramps During &/or Following a Workout
Bananas are considered by many to be the ideal food for athletes, mainly because of their mineral content and easily digested carbs. Eating a banana before a workout may help to decrease that exercise-related soreness and muscle cramps, which is a common problem for about 95% of the population.
At the same time, they’re great for fueling activity to improve endurance too. Bananas are famous for providing energy, something that occurs due to the combination of all those important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that work together to fuel the body, providing an instant hit of energy when you need it the most. As bananas are mostly carbohydrates, they also help power-up the muscles.
7. You’ll Start to Look Younger
Eat bananas regularly, and you may start to look younger too, as their benefits show up on the outside as well as inside. Rich in phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other nutrients, get in the habit of eating a banana a day, and you’ll be nourishing and revitalizing dry skin, and protecting it against free radicals that can lead to premature aging. If you suffer from acne, you may find that it clears up too, as the fruit is great for skin that’s acne prone, thanks to its zinc and lectin which battle against acne-causing bacteria.
8. You’ll Be Protecting Your Vision
While carrots get the spotlight when it comes to supporting healthy vision, bananas should share some of that praise due to their vitamin A content which is well-known for protecting the eyes. Vitamin A helps you to maintain normal vision and even see better at night.
9. You’ll Be Supporting Weight Loss
A medium banana, as previously mentioned, contains just 105 calories, and calorie for calorie, they offer a ton of fiber which can play an important role in weight loss. Consuming the fiber your body needs has been associated with a lower body weight in several studies, likely at least in part because that fiber will make you feel fuller for longer, resulting in fewer calories eaten overall.