With such a huge consumption of the banana fruit worldwide and in the United States (ranks fourth among the world’s food crops vis-a-vis financial value), people do want to know about its health implications: Are they beneficial or do they pose any health risks? This post clears these doubts about its health advantages and disadvantages.
Its long-term and instant energy giving property makes it a favorable snack for athletes during sports breaks.
In addition, its benefits on skin and hair make it the ideal dietary addition for both men and women.
Moreover, its role in helping you lose weight has made it a popular choice among the overweight and obese.
Benefits that accrue from consuming bananas span across many systems of the body. Here is the list and the explanation for each benefit.
The banana exhibits specific nutritional benefits. Though low in proteins, fat and calorie content, its richness in healthy carbs, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants makes it a very valuable addition to your diet.
The banana is also a rich source of potassium, which helps in regulating the heartbeat, blood pressure, and keeps the brain alert and healthy.
The healthy carbohydrates provide instant energy and also prevent blood sugar spikes. One banana provides enough energy for a 90-minute workout.
The antioxidants reduce your risk of heart disease and degenerative diseases. They also have anti-aging properties.
A brief look at the nutritional content of the banana:
One medium sized banana contains 105 calories. Being low in calories, it does not increase our weight.
In addition, a medium sized banana also provides you with 35% of the daily value for vitamin B-6, 20 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, 10 percent for magnesium, 8% for riboflavin, 6% for folate, 4% for thiamine and niacin, and 2% of the daily value for vitamin A, iron and phosphorus.
For more details on the nutritional content of banana, follow the link.
How does the fiber in banana help?
A medium-sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber, making it a rich source. Pectin is the form of fiber that is present in this curvy yellow fruit.
The fiber in the banana helps in digestion and makes you feel full and therefore, you eat less. This helps in controlling your weight.
The soluble fiber binds with bile and dietary cholesterol so that the body excretes it. (You should know that bile contains a lot of cholesterol). This reduces the absorption of cholesterol and helps maintain its healthy levels. This keeps your heart healthy.
Regulating blood sugar levels
If you are diabetic, you will be careful what you eat especially concentrating on the carb value of the food.
As a diabetic or one prone to diabetes, you must be concerned about the carbohydrate content of the banana. So let’s get this right when I say that even as a diabetic, you should eat a banana every day.
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly and can shoot up your blood sugar levels. They are, therefore, not advised in diabetes.
Complex carbs are digested slowly and therefore, do not spike your blood sugar levels.
Unripe bananas contain starch, a part of the complex carb. As the banana ripens, the starch is converted into sugar. The most common types of sugar found in ripe bananas are sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
But, that shouldn’t bother you. Because the rich fiber content of the banana slows the digestion and absorption of sugar and prevents the blood sugar rise.
Secondly, the glycemic index of the ripe banana is 51, which is low and indicates that the banana does not have any significant effect on blood sugar levels. However, be moderate about its intake. While a non-diabetic can consume two bananas a day, a diabetic should stick to one banana.
Two of banana’s ingredients, potassium, an essential mineral and soluble fiber help you digest food and more.
How does the potassium help?
The average-sized banana contains more than 450 mg of potassium, which is about 13 percent of your daily requirement of potassium per day.
If you have diarrhea, eating a banana helps to restore potassium levels, which fall due to loss of this electrolyte through the loose motions.
Potassium also facilitates proper peristaltic movements of the intestine facilitating the proper evacuation of the bowels.
How does the fiber help?
Dietary fiber does not give any nutritional benefits but has other advantages. The banana contains dietary fiber, which is of two types: soluble and insoluble.
70% of the fiber in banana is insoluble, which does not dissolve in liquid but adds bulk to your food. This helps the food to move freely through the gut facilitating better evacuation. It also prevents constipation.
30% of the fiber in banana is soluble. It mixes well with the food and forms a gel. It slows down the absorption of the carbohydrates and fats in the food, which helps to keep the blood sugar levels within the normal range.
Soluble fiber also promotes the intestinal health by preventing the growth of harmful pathogens on the intestinal walls.
This high fiber fruit prevents digestive problems such as the formation of gas and bloating.
How does banana aid in weight loss?
Bananas are low in calorie content:
One ripe medium-sized banana contains only 105 calories and your recommended daily intake is 2500 cals for men and 2000 for women. Therefore, the calorie content of the banana does not contribute to weight gain.
Bananas contain dietary fiber, of which 70% is insoluble and 30% is soluble. The insoluble fiber is not absorbed but only adds bulk to your food. This gives you a feeling of fullness and prevents a feeling of hunger, as a result of which you eat less and lose the extra weight.
Improving heart health
Banana benefits on the heart stem from its electrolyte composition. The high potassium content helps the cardiac muscles to beat regularly and the nerve cells to respond promptly. This keeps the electric conduction of the heart in good health.
Secondly, potassium can help control your blood pressure by reducing the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium.
A new research provides another benefit of high potassium on the arteries. Potassium prevents the arteries from hardening. Hardened arteries are linked to reduced blood flow, high blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke.
The low sodium content in the banana ensures that the cardiovascular system stays protected against increased blood pressure.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, the banana contains several powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, vitamins A, C, and E.
Beta-carotene offers protection against various diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Lutein protects the retina of the eye and reduces the risk of cataract formation.
Selenium strengthens the immune system and provides relief in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS, and prostate cancer. In elderly persons, selenium helps in retaining the cognitive function.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in providing relief from common cold, scurvy, and urinary tract infection. It also helps in iron absorption.
Vitamin E benefits include dilation of blood vessels and inhibition of blood-clot formation. Additional benefits of vitamin E include the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and eye disorders.
Unripe bananas improve insulin sensitivity
You should know that you develop diabetes type 2 because your body cells do not take up the insulin from the blood due to which the blood sugar rises. This is called insulin insensitivity, which increases your risk of prediabetes and diabetes.
It is recommended that you consume foods containing carbohydrates with a glycemic index below 55 and a glycemic load in the lower teens, as these foods cause very little spikes of blood glucose and insulin.
A glycemic load more than 20 is considered high, a GL of 11–19 is considered medium, and a GL of 10 or less is considered low.
The glycemic index of the banana is 51 and the glycemic load is 13. Both these figures indicate that the banana does not affect your glucose and insulin levels
According to a study published in October 1992 in “Diabetic Medicine,” the under-ripe banana makes less of a change in the insulin levels than an overripe banana. This is because the under ripe has a higher starch content.
According to another study published in December 1993 in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition,” the just ripe or the overripe bananas do not alter much the insulin blood levels.
While the exact reason for this not known, the greener bananas have shown to increase the insulin sensitivity.
Benefits on blood pressure
Research actually shows that a low sodium, high potassium diet helps reduce blood pressure and risk of stroke by 21%.
According to a study, two bananas a day can reduce your blood pressure by 10 percent.
This essential mineral helps to balance out the effect of sodium on the body and lessens its effect. This helps in the proper functioning of the kidneys.
If your blood pressure is more than 120/80 mm, you should increase your potassium intake by taking potassium-rich food like bananas.
Good for the athletes
Bananas are a great source of energy. This property of the banana makes it a favorite snack for the athletes during a workout and competitive sports breaks.
It competes with any sports drink in terms of providing you with energy and sustaining exercise performance.
Besides, as mentioned above, it provides you with a wide range of vitamins, dietary fiber, macro, and micronutrients.
The 30 g of carbohydrates present in the average sized banana is what provides you with the energy.
Besides energy for muscle activity, the carbs also keep your central nervous system sharp and active. This is of great benefit as it keeps your mind responsive and reflexes sharp.
Health risks of consuming too many bananas
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends no more than two ripe bananas for men, one and a half for women per day.
The bad effects of bananas on health stem from its over-consumption. Eaten in moderation, they do not cause any problems.
Eating raw bananas can give you constipation. Raw bananas contain plenty of starch, which is difficult to digest. Bananas also contain pectin, a fiber that withdraws fiber from the intestinal wall.
However, ripe bananas clear your bowels and do not cause constipation. This is because as the banana ripens the starch in it is converted into glucose. This makes it easier to digest.
Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
The banana is rich in fiber content. Consuming too much fiber can cause abdominal cramps, gas and bloating of the stomach.
Too much fiber also interferes with the absorption of certain minerals such as calcium and iron.
Headaches and sleepiness
Eating excess of bananas can give you a headache and can make you feel sleepy.
The headaches are due to the amino acids present in bananas. These amino acids dilate the blood vessels in the brain and give you a headache.
The high amount of tryptophan present in bananas contributes to sleepiness when eaten in excess.