Takeaway: Bananas aren’t just a great source of potassium; they have the potential to help us with weight loss, exercise, heart and kidney health, digestion, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, and more. Bananas won’t ever get boring because of how many variations and banana-based products exist out there. Different bananas offer different health benefits of varying strength, so be sure to look into the right banana for your needs.
You were always told as a child to eat your fruits and vegetables, and bananas were probably one of the more popular choices. But, did you know that bananas actually provide a huge number of health benefits aside from giving you your daily dose of potassium? Bananas may have the potential to aid in many health-related issues, ranging from weight loss to proper kidney function. Keep reading to check out exactly what health benefits that adding bananas to your diet can provide to your body.
A Brief History of Bananas
Originating in Southeast Asia, bananas are a fruit that is produced by flowering plants within the genus Musa. Bananas are currently grown in 135 countries, but they’re not only used as a food source. People use them to make fiber, wine, beer, ornamental plants, and more. There are several types of banana varieties, such as the Cavendish banana and plantains.
What Is the Nutritional Content of Bananas?
Bananas are chock-full of nutrients and antioxidants, making them one of the most important fruits that you should be incorporating into your diet. With a typically sized banana, you can expect to find the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Fiber (Resistant Starch and Pectin)
- Antioxidants (Dopamine and Catechins)
Additionally, bananas only have about 0.4 grams of fat and 105 calories per fruit.
What Are the Health Benefits of Bananas?
Since bananas are packed with so many different types of nutrients and antioxidants, it’s apparent that they come with a plethora of health benefits. Here are some of the major health benefits of bananas:
Bananas for Blood Sugar
When you think of bananas, you probably think of the soft, sweet fruit. However, when it comes to blood sugar, bananas have the potential to moderate blood sugar levels after meals and reduce appetites according to research. This is because of the fibers pectin and resistant starch that are found in large amounts in bananas. Additionally, bananas rank low when unripe and medium when ripe on the glycemic index, which measures how quickly the things you eat increase blood sugar levels.
Bananas for Digestive Health
Fiber has been historically linked to a variety of health benefits, but most commonly it’s able to improve digestion. Bananas are a great source of fiber, having about 3 grams on average per medium sized banana. One type of fiber, resistant starch, escapes your digestion and travels to your large intestine, where it provides nutrients for beneficial bacterias. The other type of fiber, pectin, has also shown in studies to potentially help protect against colon cancer.
Bananas for Weight Loss
Bananas are a great dietary supplement when you’re trying to lose weight for a variety of reasons. Firstly, eating more fiber from fruits and vegetables, like bananas, has been linked to lower body weight and weight loss. Also, both the resistant starch and pectin fibers found in bananas have been shown in research to have appetite-reducing effects and the ability make you feel fuller after eating.
Bananas for Exercise
Often going hand-in-hand with weight loss, bananas are also a great supplement to your exercise routine. Some scientists have hypothesized that eating bananas may help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness, possibly due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance causing them. However, the evidence is conflicting; some studies have found that bananas can be helpful with cramps from exercise, while others have come up short. Regardless, bananas have been well established to provide the body with the fuel it needs for endurance training before, during, and after a workout.
Bananas for Heart Health
Bananas are an excellent dietary source of the nutrient potassium, which is essential for good heart health and blood pressure control. Studies have proven that a potassium-rich diet can help to lower blood pressure, with one showing that those who ate large amounts of potassium had up to 27% lower risks of heart disease. In addition to potassium, bananas also contain a large amount of magnesium, which research has shown is also important for a healthy heart.
Bananas for Kidney Health
In addition to heart health, the potassium in bananas is also essential for kidney health. One study, which lasted 13 years, showed that women who ate bananas 2 to 3 times a week were 33% less likely to develop kidney diseases. Other studies showed that individuals who ate bananas 4 to 6 times a week were about 50% less likely to develop a disease in the kidneys.
The Different Types of Bananas
Bananas can come in all shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and consistencies. Here are the most common types of bananas that you may come across:
The Cavendish banana is the most common variation of banana. This is the one that you’ll see most often in your grocery store; long, sweet, and go from green to yellow when ripening. When they’re overripe, they’ll develop large brown spots on their peel.
These bananas are small, sweet, and have a deep maroon-colored skin when ripe. The flesh of red bananas is a creamy white color with a slightly pink hue. There are actually a few red banana health benefits that typical Cavendish bananas don’t have:
- Help to support good eye health
- Helps to maintain a healthy immune system
- Contain more vitamin C than Cavendish bananas
- Higher in some antioxidants than regular bananas
- Has a lower glycemic index score, regardless of how sweet they are
Also called nino bananas, baby bananas are short and chubby in size; they typically average to about 3 inches long. When baby bananas are ripe, their skin is a bright yellow like Cavendish bananas. Baby bananas are very sweet and creamy, most likely due to their smaller size.
Blue Java Bananas
Also referred to as ice cream bananas because of their flavor, blue java bananas are chubby in shape. Typically growing to be up to 7 inches in length, blue java bananas have bright blue skin, with a creamy white flesh on the inside.
Manzano bananas, also referred to as apple bananas, are short and chubby in shape. People often compare their taste to apples or strawberries, due to their flesh’s mild flavor. When ripe, the Manzano banana’s skin is black.
When compared to typical Cavendish bananas, plantains have a much higher starch content. For this reason, in addition to the fact that they don’t become sweet when ripe, plantains are more commonly cooked and served as a vegetable. However, they change in color when ripening similar to regular bananas.
What Type of Banana Is More Beneficial?
If you’re wondering which banana type is healthiest, that all depends on what you’re looking for out of your bananas. The health benefit of a banana varies between its levels of ripeness.
When bananas aren’t ripe, they’re still green in color. In this state, they have higher amounts of nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Green bananas are also lower in carbohydrates and have higher levels of resistant starch, which means less sugar content. However, green bananas have a lower concentration of antioxidants and may cause gas due to the higher starch content.
Ripe yellow bananas, on the other hand, are much easier to digest. This is because, as the banana ripens, the resistant starch in the banana becomes simple sugar. Ripe bananas also have higher levels of antioxidants, because the level increases as the banana ripens. However, more sugar means a higher glycemic index, as well as a loss in micronutrients.
Tips to Buy the Best Bananas
So, you’ve been convinced of how good bananas are for you, and you’re going out to the store to buy some. But, first you need to ask yourself a few questions to help you choose the right ones:
- How ripe do you want your bananas? If you’d like a less ripe banana, then go for ones that are more green in color. However, if you’d like a more ripe banana, look for bunches where every banana is bright yellow and color and has a slight tinge of green on both ends.
- When do you plan on eating your bananas? If you plan on eating your bananas immediately, then you should pick yellow bananas that have almost no green on the ends. Don’t worry if there are a few light brown spots; these just mean that the bananas are ripe, sweet, and ready to eat. However, if you’re eating them in a few days, buy bananas that have green on the ends, because they’ll ripen in your home at room temperature while you wait to eat them.
- Are the bananas you’re looking at full and plump? When selecting a banana, be sure to gently feel them for firmness. If a banana is too firm, then it’s probably not ripe enough to eat yet. If a banana is full, plump, only slightly firm, and is entirely intact from tip to stem, then it’s ready to take home and eat.
- Do the bananas have bruised or split peels? A few small brown spots here and there on a banana peel is ok, because this is a sign that the banana is ripe. However, you should avoid bananas with deep brown spots or splits in the peels, because this is typically due to bruised flesh and over-ripeness.
The Best Banana-Based Products
If you don’t want to get all of your banana from simply eating the fruit, there’s a variety of banana-based products that you can use to supplement your diet.
Strawberry Banana Smoothie Health Benefits
Strawberry banana is probably one of the most common smoothie flavors out there, and for good reason. By combining the health benefits of strawberries and bananas, you’ll be getting up to 70% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C by drinking one. They also provide 8-10% of your daily calcium intake. In addition to all of the fiber and potassium benefits of bananas, you’re also getting the strawberry benefits of promoting eye health and antioxidants when you drink a strawberry banana smoothie.
Green Banana Flour Health Benefits
One of the best ways that you can use banana as a substitute is with green banana flour. Acting as a paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and grain-free flour alternative, green banana flour gives you all the great benefits of green bananas in a powdered form. Green banana flour contains high amounts of resistant starch, insulin, and insoluble fiber, which act as beneficial prebiotics. It’s also rich in minerals like zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese.
Banana Milk Health Benefits
Just like with green banana flour, banana milk is one of the best and easiest to make non-dairy milk alternatives to make. Banana milk offers all of the same benefits of bananas, with the added benefit of being in a convenient liquid form that you can use as a milk replacement in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to utilize banana milk is as a drink after a workout, helping you to avoid muscle cramps.
If you’d rather take your daily dose of banana in supplement form, then your go-to option will most likely be a banana powder that you can dissolve into a daily protein shake, breakfast cereal, or anything else that you desire.
The banana powder that we recommend is the NTERA Banana Whole Food Powder for a few important reasons. First, their powder is USDA Organic and Non-GMO, making it a safe and sustainable option. Additionally, the way this powder is made means that it isn’t stripped of the bananas fiber, protein, nutrients, and other vital components. Whichever supplement you decide on, be sure that the process to make it into a supplement doesn’t take away any of the original banana nutrients.