Despite its compact size, the banana is a nutritional powerhouse, packing in vitamins and minerals in a small package. Here are the top 9 health benefits of bananas that show a banana a day will keep the doctor at bay!
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits worldwide. Their perfect natural packaging and sweetness make them a handy snack and their creamy texture makes them ideal for desserts, smoothies, cakes and ice cream.
Bananas originally come from Southeast Asia but they’ve been cultivated throughout tropical Asian and African countries for millennia.
Eventually, they were brought to Europe and the Americas and nothing could stop their skyrocketing popularity.
Nutritionally speaking, bananas offer impressive statistics – just a single one provides us with 29% of our daily vitamin C, 24.8% of our potassium and 83.3% of our manganese needs.
Bananas are also bursting with vitamin A, a full range of B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folic acid.
Plus, they also have a good amount of calcium and magnesium and smaller quantities of iron and zinc.
An average banana has 126 kcal, 1.8g protein, 29g carbohydrate (natural sugars), 4.4g fibre and no fat, cholesterol or sodium whatsoever, making it pretty much the perfect snack!
The saying may talk of an apple a day, but bananas have double the carbohydrate, three times more phosphorous, four times more protein and five times more vitamin A and iron.
Bananas are especially known for being high in potassium, which is one of the body’s most important and useful electrolytes.
Top 9 health benefits of bananas
1. Healthy energy
One medium banana (about seven inches long), provides about 14 grams of sugar, three grams of fibre and six grams of starch.
This carbohydrate mixture means that fibre and starches slow down the absorption of the sugars. As a result, you get a gradual energy release after eating a banana.
In other words, a banana won’t cause a blood sugar spike and fall but rather it will give you lasting energy.
2. Digestive support
There is a type of soluble fibre in bananas called pectin, which helps to maintain healthy gut function and may reduce bloating.
And another type of banana fibre provides ‘food’ for your good gut bacteria, which contribute to good digestive, immune and overall health.
3. Perfect for potassium
One medium banana covers about 12 per cent of your daily potassium needs. This mineral is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and muscle function.
Low levels of potassium have been linked to muscle cramps so bananas are also great for active people who may need more potassium as well as healthy energy.
4. Magnesium top-up
Each banana covers about eight per cent of your daily magnesium needs.
This mineral is vital for healthy nerve and muscle function, immune system, steady heartbeat, many important metabolic reactions and healthy bones.
5. Heart health buddies
Bananas contain phytosterols – compounds similar in structure (but not function) to cholesterol.
In fact, phytosterols can help lower your cholesterol levels and that, in turn, lowers your risk of heart disease.1
Phytosterols, potassium and magnesium make bananas the perfect heart-healthy food.
6. Vitamin galore
Bananas are also a great source of B vitamins, particularly B6 which is important for energy metabolism and red blood cells.
On top of that, each banana contains about 17 per cent of your daily vitamin C needs! Who would have thought?
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7. Mood boosters
In order to produce the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, your brain needs the amino acid tryptophan and bananas are an excellent source!
And it just so happens that to produce serotonin from tryptophan, you also need vitamin B6 and bananas provide plenty of both.
Once your body produces serotonin, it doesn’t only make you feel better, it also improves your sleep.
8. Amazing antioxidant source
Bananas contain some powerful antioxidants and health-protective compounds, such as flavonoids and phenols.2
These help to protect your tissues from damage and make them more resilient. They may also help prevent some chronic diseases.
9. Versatile egg replacers
Mashed banana works great in cakes and biscuits, adding moisture and providing nice consistency to your bakes. And it’s much healthier than an egg, too!
Nutritional info of bananas
Each medium banana (118 grams) contains:
- 105 kcal/440 kJ
- 14.4 g natural sugars
- 3.1 g fibre
- 0.4 g fat
- 1.3 g protein
- 22% of recommended vitamin B6 intake
- 17% of recommended vitamin C intake
- 6% of recommended folate intake
- 8 % of recommended magnesium intake
- 12% of recommended potassium intake
- 16% of recommended manganese intake
- Small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5
Are dried bananas healthy?
Yes, when it comes to those brown, naturally dried bananas – they lose much of their vitamin C content but they retain their minerals, amino acids and health-protective compounds.
Freeze-dried bananas can also be a healthy snack with a similar nutritional content so they have the same health benefits of bananas.
When it comes to banana chips, that’s a different story – they are typically made by deep-frying bananas before drying them and are often sweetened too, so far from a healthy choice!
Banana chips are typically deep-fried and sweetened, so opt for naturally dried bananas instead for a healthy snack.
How to pick and store bananas
Green bananas contain mostly starch and much less sugar than ripe bananas and can cause digestive issues in some people.
However, if you prefer your bananas green, there’s nothing wrong with that. Otherwise, it’s best to let them ripen until they’re a nice, bright yellow.
As bananas ripen, their starch content reduces and sugar content increases – when they’re just about ripe, there’s a good balance of both.
When banana skin turns speckled and brown, they’re still absolutely fine to eat, just a little more sugary.
If you bought a big bunch of green bananas and want to speed up their ripening process, tear them apart and place near other fruit and/or put them in a paper bag. This helps to increase their production of ethylene, the ripening gas.
Unripe (green) bananas should only be kept at room temperature as refrigeration interrupts their ripening process and they may be unable to resume it when taken out of the fridge.
Ripe bananas can be stored both at room temperature or in the fridge – their peel may darken in the cold but the flesh remains unaffected.
And if you have more bananas than you can use, peel them, cut into chunks and freeze – they are great for smoothies, ice cream, or iced coffee shakes.
Are bananas sustainable?
Bananas only grow in tropical and some subtropical regions and their cultivation brings along a host of environmental and human rights issues.
Whenever possible, choose organic bananas to protect the environment and Fairtrade to ensure banana farmers and workers are paid a fair wage.
Rainforest Alliance certification (green frog logo) offers some reassurance about environmental, social and sustainable aspects but is not as strict as organic and fair trade.
Health benefits of banana peel
Don’t be so quick to throw your banana peels away! They boast their own list of proven uses that range from the medicinal to the aesthetic.
Did you know that rubbing an insect or mosquito bite with the inside of a banana skin can reduce itching, swelling and irritation, for example?
It’s also said that by taping a piece of peel over a splinter, the enzymes help the splinter to work its way out. In fact, many people swear that rubbing banana peel on the forehead can even cure a headache.
And one last little titbit – you’re actually meant to peel your banana from the bottom up, holding on to the stem like a handle. This way you avoid all the annoying stringy bits!
Now that you know all about the health benefits of bananas, why not enjoy some in these banana cream cupcakes!
- Sidhu JS and Zafar TA, 2018. Bioactive compounds in banana fruits and their health benefits. Food Quality and Safety. 2 (4): 183–188.
- Amini Khoozani A, Birch J, Bekhit AEA, 2019. Production, application and health effects of banana pulp and peel flour in the food industry. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 56(2):548-559.