You know that bananas are healthy but what are the real benefits of eating them? Well, bananas may help to maintain gut health while assisting with weight loss. And, they’re also free-radical fighters – which means they’re great for your skin.
Let’s take a closer look at the mighty banana. A nutritional, energy-boosting snack that – believe it or not – is actually a berry.
How Does Dietary Fiber In Bananas Aid Digestion?
One medium banana contains around 3g of fiber.1 That fiber can be broken down into two key parts: soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a kind of gel. This gel slows digestion, allowing foods to be processed properly. This also allows sugar to be released more slowly. Some soluble fiber is made up of resistant starches that don’t get digested and therefore end up in the large intestine as prebiotics. That means they’re ready to feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
- Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools. It helps to move waste through the digestive system (to avoid constipation). It also works to make you feel fuller, while supporting healthy cholesterol.
Bananas will change from green to yellow once picked and will show brown spots when ripe.
You may have heard people recommend eating slightly green, unripe bananas. This is because bananas have the most of these two fibers before they’re completely ripe.
As they ripen, these fibers start to slowly decrease. In addition, green bananas have less sugar, making them a bit healthier for you.2
Which Vitamins And Minerals Are Present In Bananas?
Aside from aiding digestive health, bananas are filled with vitamins and minerals. These include:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
Potassium in bananas acts as a natural electrolyte. Electrolytes help maintain a balance of water in the cells and an electrical charge. This charge sparks cell function in the body… like helping the muscle contractions that keep your heart beating.
Bananas are one of the most potassium-rich foods. And the potassium content of bananas can also help to offset sodium in the body, supporting healthy blood pressure levels.3
Bananas are also a great natural remedy for leg muscle cramps because of this high potassium level.4
Vitamin B6 is required for more than 100 enzyme reactions involving metabolism. In fact, research has shown that those with low levels of vitamin B6 may have double the risk of experiencing a heart issue.5
Magnesium helps keep nerve and muscle function in check. It also supports healthy bones and blood pressure and is needed to produce energy.6
Vitamin C aids the growth and repair process of body tissue by supporting skin health. This vitamin also helps maintain your cartilage, bones, and teeth. As a key antioxidant, Vitamin C also fights free radicals that can prematurely age your skin and body.
This is why you’ll find Vitamin C in so many facial serums.7
Manganese plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol. It’s also essential for bone and skeletal development.8
What Are The Health Benefits Of Red Bananas?
If you’ve never come across a red banana, you’ll notice they’re a little shorter and plumper than your standard variety. They have a lovely reddish-purple color to their skin and the flesh is often sweeter.
Red bananas offer the same nutritional profile as yellow bananas with an added bonus:
They contain more carotenoids. These are antioxidant phytonutrients (found in red and orange plant pigments). They can fight free radicals while also being incredible for your eye health.9
What About Plantains?
Plantains are a unique type of banana with a different flavor and quite different uses. They’re not as sweet and a little too starchy to enjoy as a snack. They’re very popular in tropical regions where they’re often cooked up in savory dishes.
The health benefits are the same between bananas and plantains. But as plantains are popularly fried as fritters, calories can increase significantly.
Bananas On A Diet?
Speaking of calories, are bananas a low-calorie food?
Yes. Bananas are sweet and full of natural sugars, so if you’re avoiding sugar, it may be worth sticking to lower-sugar fruits like strawberries. One medium banana contains just 110 calories. Plus bananas house all those nutrients, making them a great snack.10
But aren’t bananas high in carbs?
If you’re on a very strict low-carb, weight loss diet you may consider skipping bananas. But it’s worth weighing up that decision.
As far as carbs go, bananas are not comparable to processed junk food or refined grains. The positives of eating bananas should far outweigh any carb concerns.
In one study, resistant starches in bananas actually helped support healthy blood sugar levels.11
9 Fun, Healthy Ways To Use Up Bananas
1. Healthy Banana Chips
Slice up bananas while still a little firm (not too ripe). Squeeze lemon juice on top and bake for 2 hours at 200F with a little olive oil spray. Flip them and bake for another hour or so until crispy.
2. Three-Ingredient Banana Cookies
Mix 1 ½ cups of oatmeal with 2 mashed bananas (medium-size) and ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips. Roll into 12 cookies and bake at 350F for 12 – 15 minutes.
3. Quick Breakfast Smoothie
Toss ¼ cup of oats, one banana, ¾ cup of milk, a handful of ice cubes and a tablespoon of almond butter into your blender.
4. Sweet Banana Treat
Slice up 2 ripe bananas and cover both sides with a mix of 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. Pan fry in coconut or avocado oil.
5. Baked Bananas
Slice bananas length-ways (just part-way through) and poke in chocolate chips. Then, wrap each banana in foil and toss into the oven at 390F for about 25 minutes. Serve alone or with ice cream.
6. Healthy, Lightening-Fast Banana Soft Serve
Take 4 ripe bananas and slice into chunks. Place on a tray and freeze for about an hour. Throw into a food processor with just enough milk to achieve a creamy texture ( 2-3 tablespoons). Serve into bowls.
7. Summer Banana Sandwiches
Slice banana and pair the slices up. On one slice smear some almond butter and on the 2nd slice smear a little strawberry jelly. Sandwich the two slices together, and continue to make more of these “sandwiches.”
Then freeze for about 2 hours. Served best straight from the freezer.
8. Frozen Chocolate Bananas
Slice bananas in half across the middle and poke each half onto a popsicle stick. Freeze overnight. Make a chocolate sauce by mixing 3 tbs cocoa powder with 1 tbs maple syrup. Add 5 tablespoons of water (may need less).
Dip each banana into the sauce and sprinkle with coconut or desired topping.
The Health Benefits Of Bananas
There is no denying the incredible health benefits of bananas…
- Better digestion
- A boost in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- A high-energy snack before or after the gym
Bananas are always accessible at your local store and you can usually find green or ripe ones – whichever your tastebuds prefer.
- Note: Though you may have heard that bananas contain serotonin (the happy hormone) they, unfortunately, can’t actually directly affect your mood. This is because this form of serotonin can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.13 But there are plenty of other reasons to keep on eating them!