Bananas are one of the most popular fruits eaten in the United States, and for good reason. Not only is their sweet, yellow flesh supremely delicious, it offers an array of nutritional benefits.
There are a number of reasons to add this tropical delight, thought to originally hail from Malaysia, to your daily diet. The following are just eight of the many:
Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral crucial to balancing out sodium levels in the body. When your body’s sodium to potassium ratio is too high, it can result in hypertension. Consuming foods high in potassium, such as bananas, can keep sodium in check, thus keeping blood pressure levels down.
This is important to your heart because high blood pressure may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Potassium is also essential for supporting optimal cardiovascular function in general.
Additionally, bananas contain sterols, compounds which have been shown to help block the body’s absorption of cholesterol, as well as containing a good amount of heart-healthy fiber.
Immediate – and sustained – energy
Whether you’re an athlete or just have a busy day ahead, having a banana with your breakfast is a great choice in terms of energy. The natural sugars in the banana give you a quick pick-me-up, and their rich fiber content helps sustain this energy throughout the day.
A 2012 study published in PLOS One focused on the effects of bananas on athletic performance, and concluded, “in general, ingestion of bananas before and during prolonged and intensive exercise is an effective strategy, both in terms of fuel substrate utilization and cost, for supporting performance.”
Bananas are also a great workout food because their potassium content helps to reduce muscle cramping.
Another well-known benefit of bananas is their gentle and restorative effect on the digestive system. Bananas function as a mild natural laxative, helping to ease constipation, and also aiding in relieving diarrhea and other digestive disturbances due to their high fiber content.
Bananas also help to reduce stomach acid, and coat the lining of the stomach, which may help to ease ulcer symptoms.
These tasty fruits are rich in B-vitamins, which help to mitigate both anxiety and depression. They also contain tryptophan, a protein which converts to serotonin in the body, helping to boost your mood. Due to their tryptophan content, bananas may even help to ease a nasty case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The tryptophan present in bananas not only serves to boost your mood, it can also promote a more restful sleep. As we know, without a proper sleep, nothing else in the body can function correctly, so this benefit is absolutely key.
Reduced PMS symptoms
One of the B-vitamins found in bananas is vitamin B6, which can help balance blood sugar levels, and ease up some of those “that time of the month” symptoms. It may also help to alleviate some of the morning sickness that many pregnant women experience, especially in the first trimester.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry reported on the use of bananas for both PMS and morning sickness relief.
Due to bananas’ ability to neutralize stomach acid, they can help to stop heartburn in its tracks. These fruits have been used traditionally for many generations for their antacid properties.
Immune system support
Bananas contain ample vitamin C content, which is essential to optimal immune system function, as well as for fighting free radicals and reducing oxidative stress damage. Another antioxidant found in bananas is gallocatechin, which is also found in green tea.
A 2002 study published in Food Chemistry stated, “antioxidant capacity of the bananas may be attributed to their gallocatechin content. Bananas should be considered as a good source of natural antioxidants for foods.”
Note: While bananas are extraordinarily healthy, they are also high in natural sugars, and should be consumed in moderation. Eating them with a protein is often recommended. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, talk to a health professional before making bananas part of your daily diet, to determine how much banana intake is safe for your individual condition.
-The Alternative Daily