Bananas can act as a quick on-the-go snack, a creamy base for smoothies, or a handy substitute when baking. But what kind of health benefits do these versatile fruits have to offer?
Thanks to the key nutrients they provide, bananas are linked to plenty of wellness perks. What’s not to love? Here’s why you might want to add this fruit to your next grocery shopping list (if it’s not already on there!).
Bananas are one of the most popular fruits out there. They come in different varieties, but you’re probably most familiar with the Cavendish banana. These go from green to yellow as they ripen and have a sweet taste.
- Calories: 113
- Potassium: 375 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 14.1 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.24 mg
- Calcium: 5.75 mg
- Fiber: 5.31 grams (g)
- Magnesium: 32.2 mg
- Protein: 0.85 g
- Fat: 0.33 g
- Carbs: 26.4 g
- Manganese: 0.3 mg
Maybe we should change the saying to “a banana a day keeps the doctor away.” Here’s a closer look at the health benefits of bananas according to research.
1. Bananas could boost your energy levels
Could you sub your fave sports drink with a banana? Maybe. One 2012 study found that bananas are just as beneficial as sports drinks when it comes to improving energy. They even seem to have other advantages over sports drinks, too.
The study found that, compared to the sports drinks, bananas offered just as much energy, more antioxidants, and a greater nutritional boost full of fiber and potassium. Bananas also contain less sugar than a typical sports drink.
2. Might help improve your digestive health
Bananas also could benefit your belly. Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which is a type of fiber. Resistant starches pass through your gut without getting digested. They end up in your large intestine where they can help boost beneficial bacteria.
Bananas might also help decrease gastrointestinal bloating. One 2011 study looked at women who ate a banana on a daily basis in addition to their normal diet. These women reported significantly less bloating than the control group.
Bananas also contain pectin, which can help reduce diarrhea. Some test-tube studies have also found that pectin might help slow the growth of colon cancer cells, but this research is far from conclusive.
3. May promote heart health
All of the potassium found in bananas can lead to better heart health. Studies suggest that a diet high in potassium is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Bananas are also a source of catechin and magnesium. Catechin is an antioxidant flavonoid that has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Older studies suggest that magnesium’s also important when it comes to maintaining heart health.
4. Support bone health
Bananas contain a prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (say that five times fast). An older 2003 study looked at this prebiotic in postmenopausal women. It found that as this prebiotic ferments in the digestive tract, it enhances your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
A 2017 study looked at how eating more fruits and vegetables (including bananas) affects bone health in middle-aged and elderly men and women. The research found that, in general, eating more fruit is associated with a lower presence of osteoporosis.
A separate 2017 study also found that there’s a link between getting enough potassium and achieving better bone density. This is likely thanks to your bod’s improved calcium absorption.
5. Contain vitamins that may help soothe PMS
If you experience painful cramps from premenstrual syndrome (aka PMS), you might want to try adding bananas to your diet. Why? This fruit is a fair source of vitamin B6. That’s a vitamin that may be able to reduce PMS symptoms when it’s taken alongside magnesium. (Remember, bananas have magnesium, too.)
Research from 2019 looked at how diet affected university students’ moods as they were experiencing PMS. The scientists found that bananas may also provide a mood boost during that time of the month. How’s that possible? Bananas contain a large amount of tryptophan, which boosts serotonin (the “happy hormone”).
6. Might aid in weight loss
Eating bananas won’t directly lead to weight loss. But noshing on some ‘nanners is still considered a good dietary option if you’re trying to lose weight.
Bananas are low in calories but have a decent amount of fiber, so they’re nutritious and will help keep you feeling full. Studies have shown that eating more fiber from fruits and vegetables is linked to weight loss and lower body weight.
Bananas can also contain pectin. Research shows that pectin’s able to limit the amount of fat your cells can absorb. The riper the banana, though, the lower the pectin content.
7. Contain nutrients that can help regulate blood sugar levels
Unripe bananas are rich in both pectin and resistant starch. Both of these come into play when it comes to moderating blood sugar levels. An older study found that unripe bananas contain more starch than ripe bananas. Since the body can’t break down starches as easily, there’s a slower and more controlled increase in blood sugar when you eat a less ripe banana.
Studies have also found that eating dietary fiber can reduce blood sugar spikes and improve blood sugar management. This is another time when banana’s fiber content comes in clutch.
Bananas also have a good glycemic index rating. (The glycemic index (GI) is a measure from 0 to 100 that indicates how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels.) Bananas are ranked low to medium, so they shouldn’t cause major blood sugar spikes in most adults.
8. Might help improve insulin sensitivity
The high amounts of resistant starch found in underripe bananas have yet another benefit. It could improve insulin sensitivity. Some studies have found that getting 15 to 30 grams of resistant starch each day might improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 50 percent in just 4 weeks.
A 2010 study found that adults with type 2 diabetes who ate 24 grams of native banana starch each day for 4 weeks had significantly lower body weight and increased insulin sensitivity. Still, it’s important to note that more research is needed on this topic.
9. Contain compounds that might help soothe sore muscles
If you work out often and constantly feel the pain of sore, achy muscles, you might want to consider adding bananas to your diet. Bananas are a good source of magnesium, and research has shown that magnesium can significantly reduce muscle soreness.
Bananas also contain beneficial compounds like dopamine and polyphenols. Studies show that, when combined with carbs, these compounds may help prevent excess inflammation that’s common after exercise. This could help you have a faster, less painful recovery.
10. May improve kidney health
Need another reason to love the potassium in bananas? It’s essential for healthy kidneys. One study from 2005 found that women who ate bananas 2 to 3 times each week were 33 percent less likely to develop kidney disease.
A lack of potassium in your diet can also increase how much calcium’s in your urine. If there’s a lot of calcium in your urine, you could be at higher risk for developing kidney stones.
11. Contain compounds that might help lower cholesterol
If you experience high cholesterol, eating bananas may be able to help. The fruit contains a compound called phytosterols. According to one study, these may help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
12. May support regular bowel movements
Just when you thought fiber couldn’t serve up any more awesome perks, it does. Bananas contain insoluble fiber, which may help you have more regular bowel movements. The resistant starch in bananas also helps boost healthy bacteria in your large intestine and functions like soluble fiber, which may help with constipation.
Remember, the pectin found in unripe bananas also may help prevent diarrhea. That’s why bananas are considered part of the BRAT diet. That’s a dietary pattern that’s often recommended if you’re suffering from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Bananas seem like they cover all the bases. But bananas aren’t a good idea for everyone.
If you already have elevated levels of potassium, you may need to avoid bananas. Too much potassium in your bloodstream can cause hyperkalemia. This can lead to serious heart problems, muscle weakness, and temporary paralysis. In one 2011 case, a patient who ate 20 or more bananas each day experienced this dangerous condition.
Whether bananas are right for you can also depend on the type of banana you’re eating. Some scientists recommend that folks with type 2 diabetes avoid eating too many very ripe bananas. These contain higher amounts of sugar and carbs.
Talk with your doctor if you’re not sure whether adding bananas to your daily diet is right for you.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium and also contain good amounts of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and fiber. All of these nutrients come with some pretty sweet health benefits.
But they’re not right for everyone. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, you might want to avoid eating too many well-ripened bananas, which could contain too many sugar and carbs.