Health benefits and risks of bananas

Bananas are among the most common fruits worldwide. These provide vital nutrients that can have a beneficial effect on wellbeing.

Eating bananas can help lower blood pressure, and can minimize cancer risk.

This article will look at the possible health benefits of bananas, such as heart health enhancement and regularity promotion. It also looks at potential health risks associated with bananas according to doctors.

Bananas
Bananas are rich in potassium, and have decent protein and dietary fiber levels.

The following parts describe some of the potential health benefits of bananas.

The nutrition information comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FoodData Central database.

Regular requirements for the Americans come from the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines. These are for adults but they are provisional, as the values vary depending on the age and sex of a person.

Blood pressure

The American Heart Association (AHA) urges people to reduce their salt or sodium intake, and increase their consumption of potassium-containing foods. Potassium can help to regulate blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular strain.

According to nutritional information from the above sources, a medium banana provides approximately 9 per cent of a person’s daily potassium needs.

Asthma

A research in 2007 indicated eating bananas could help to avoid wheezing in children with asthma. The antioxidant and potassium content in bananas may be one explanation for this. There is therefore a need for further work to validate these results.

Cancer

Laboratory study has indicated that lectin, a protein which occurs in bananas, may help prevent the growth of leukemia cells.

Lectin functions as an antimicrobial. Antioxidants help eliminate molecules called free radicals from the body. If too many free radicals are building up, cell damage can occur which can lead to cancer.

Researchers noticed in 2004 that kids who ate bananas, orange juice or both appeared to have a lower chance of developing leukemia.

The authors of the study suggested that this could be due to the quality of vitamin C, because it has antioxidant effects, too.

Heart health

Bananas contain vitamin C, such as fiber, potassium, folate and antioxidants. Both of these help the protection of the heart.

A 2017 study showed that people eating a high fiber diet had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those on a low fiber diet. Those who ate more fibre often had lower levels of LDL or “poor” cholesterol.

Diabetes

The American Association for Diabetes suggests consuming bananas and other fruits as they contain fibre. Eating fiber can help to lower blood sugar levels, they note.

The author of a 2018 analysis concluded that consuming a high fiber diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and may reduce blood sugar in those with the disease already.

Digestive health

The bananas contain water and fibre, both encouraging regularity and encouraging digestive health. One medium banana accounts for around 10 per cent of the fiber needs of a person for a day.

Bananas also form part of an strategy known as the BRAT diet, which is suggested by certain physicians to treat diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, toast, beans, applesauce.

Diarrhea can lead to water and electrolyte loss, for example potassium. Those nutrients will replace bananas.

High fiber foods in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may cause bloating, gas and stomach cramps, according to a 2012 study. Bananas can however improve symptoms, concluded the authors.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America recommend banana as a snack food in their diet plan.

Preserving memory and boosting mood

Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid which can help maintain memory, improve the ability of a person to learn and remember information, and regulate mood.

Potassium

Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral. Potassium helps to control fluid levels in the body and controls the passage in and out of cells of nutrients and waste products.

Potassium also makes muscles contract, and responds to nerve cells. It keeps the heart pumping steadily, and can decrease the blood pressure effect of sodium.

Potassium can reduce the risk of developing kidney stones as humans age. In addition, healthy kidneys ensure the right amount of potassium remains within the body.

One medium sized banana contains 422 mg of potassium.

Trying to get potassium from dietary sources like bananas, is safe.

Nutrition

The following table shows how much every nutrient is in a medium-sized banana. It also indicates how much each nutrient requires an adult according to the Americans ‘Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020. Requirements differ according to sex and age of the person.

NutrientAmount in one medium bananaDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)1051,800–3,000
Carbohydrate in grams (g)27, including 14.4 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)3.125.2–33.6
Protein (g)1.346–56
Magnesium (mg)31.9320–420
Phosphorus (mg)26700
Potassium (mg)4224,700
Selenium in micrograms (mcg)1.955
Choline (mg)11.6425–550
Vitamin C (mg)10.375–90
Folate (mcg DFE)23.6400
Beta carotene (mcg)30.7No data
Alpha carotene (mcg)29.5No data

Alpha and beta carotene, selenium, choline and vitamin C all have the properties of antioxidants.

Bananas in the diet

The new bananas are available throughout the year. In comparison to other fruits, after selecting bananas tend to ripen.

Bananas can constantly ripen at room temperature. People should try to hold them in a paper bag to mature faster.

Refrigerated bananas are more sluggish to ripen. The banana’s outer peel will darken in the refrigerator but the banana itself will stay intact for longer.

Tips for serving and eating

Here are some tips for using bananas:

  • Add a sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a more nutritious breakfast.
  • Mash ripe bananas and use to replace butter or oil in baked goods.
  • Add mashed bananas to muffins, cookies, and cakes for a naturally sweet flavor.
  • Add bananas to a smoothie.
  • Take a banana to work or school for a healthful, portable snack.

Other banana products

Others include banana chips and banana powder.

Before buying them, people should check the label of processed goods, because they may contain added sugar, salt or fat.

Plantain is a savory banana cousin very popular in Central America. People need the plantain to cook before they consume it.

Risks

Some people should take care not to eat too many bananas.

Beta-blockers: Physicians also prescribe such medications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease-associated complications. Beta-blockers can increase levels of potassium in the blood.

Too much potassium will damage those whose kidneys aren’t fully functional. If the kidneys can not absorb excess potassium from the blood, this could be fatal. Those who are using beta-blockers will eat high potassium foods in moderation, such as bananas.

Allergy: In some people bananas can cause an allergic reaction. Someone experiencing itching, hives, swelling, wheezing, or breathing problems should seek urgent medical attention. A serious reaction will result in anaphylaxis, which may endanger life.

Migraine: In some people bananas can cause migraines.

Summary

Bananas are a common fruit which contains essential nutrients that help maintain a healthy person.

It is worth noting that while banana nutrients may improve health and prevent disease, banana eating does not have the same effect on everyone.

A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, however, can provide an abundance of vital nutrients that can help keep a person healthy.

Q:

Are bananas really good for people with diabetes? Don’t they contain a lot of sugar?

A:

People with diabetes can eat bananas as part of a balanced diet. They contain naturally occurring sugars, so each person should consider the portion size. One-half of a medium banana equals one carb choice or about 12–15 g of carbohydrate. Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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