Bananas are incredibly healthy and delicious.
They are among the most popular and nutritious health foods you can eat on earth.
They are high in fiber and antioxidants.
In particular, the nutrients found in bananas have been found to improve digestions and heart health.
But despite being a highly nutritious fruit, bananas have a reputation for being high in calories and carbs.
1 medium size banana contains about 105 calories and is made up of mostly water and carbs.
To be exact, about 90% of the calories in banana comes from carbs, which equals to 27g of carbs in one medium banana.
Even though banana is a moderately high calorie fruit, bananas contain several important nutrients that are beneficial to your health.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional benefits of 'bananas'.
Banana Nutrition Facts
1 medium size banana (7” to 7/8” long 118 grams) has:
- Calories: 105.
- Sugar: 14.43 grams
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI.
- Vitamin A: 2% of the RDI.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDI.
- Calcium: 1% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
- Copper: 10% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI.
- Net carbs: 24 grams.
- Fiber: 3.1 grams.
- Protein: 1.3 grams.
- Fat: 0.4 grams.
1 medium banana contains about 14.43 grams of sugar.
It may seem like a lot for one small fruit, but banana’s glycemic value is not as high as you may think.
If you are not familiar, the glycemic index (GI) is a commonly used food metric to measure how they raise one’s blood sugar levels after eating.
Generally speaking, higher the GI number is, more easily it raises your blood sugar.
For an effective blood sugar management, foods with a lower and moderate glycemic value are often recommended over high GI foods.
For bananas, it falls right under low and moderate GI.
So how could this seemingly carb dominated food with a high amount of sugar not spike the blood sugar levels as much as other foods?
The secret is in other properties found in bananas.
Turns out, bananas contain other properties that help offset their sugar content when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels.
So consuming moderate amounts of bananas is often considered an ok thing to do, even for those in need to keep their blood sugars in check at all times.
But by all means, it's not a green light to eat abundantly without any limitations.
To avoid the overload and potential spike in blood sugars, you may want to avoid eating a large amount of bananas that are full ripe.
Further more, it should be noted that diabetics should always make sure to monitor their blood sugar levels carefully after eating foods rich in carbs and sugar.
Despite some warnings, it appears that bananas are not one of the "foods diabetics should avoid".
Takeaway: Bananas are highly nutritious and eating them in moderation should not raise blood sugar levels significantly. But this does not to say, diabetics shouldn’t carefully monitor their blood sugar levels, especially with fully ripe bananas.
Now we know 'how many calories are in a banana' and nutrients it provides, let's dig into the origin of bananas.
History of Bananas
Bananas are native fruit to Southeast Asia but also grown in many warmer parts of the world.
Banana is a fruit, botanically a berry, produced by several kinds of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa as defined by Wikipedia.
Bananas are now grown in more than 150 countries, producing 105 million tons of fruit per year (3).
This is is what the banana plant looks like.
"And this is how ripe bananas look like."
There are many types of bananas today, varying in color, size and shape.
The most common type and the one you often see at American supermarkets is the yellow bananas, which is yellowish-green when unripe.
Bananas are most consumed raw and fresh in the U.S.
Each year, Americans eat more bananas than any other type of fresh fruits including apples and oranges.
According to the USDA, over 11 pounds of banana were eaten per person in 2013.
Besides banana being super delicious and mess-free, they are convenient, highly portable and easy to consume, making them a perfect on-the-go healthy snack to eat.
It's one of many reasons why banana continues to be the number one fruit in America.
Despite no commercially available bananas is grown in North America and having to be imported on a large scale, banana are relatively inexpensive and widely available throughout the year.
It's versatility also one reasons how this tropical fruit won its popularity.
As delicious as they are, they can be perfectly enjoyed eaten raw, fried, baked, and used in a shake or smoothies.
They are one of the main ingredients that gives Jamba juice smoothie their smooth texture and sweetness.
In this article, I will discuss 8 amazing ways you could benefit from adding bananas to your diet.
Banana Calories, Nutrition and Benefits
1. Bananas Are High In Potassium
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, containing as much as 420 mg of potassium or 12% of daily recommended value in 1 medium banana.
According to Nutritionfacts.org, most of us are in a desperate need of this essential mineral.
Michael Greger, M.D. explains, less than 2% of Americans meet the recommended minimum intake of potassium, which leaves the rest of 98% of American diets deficient in potassium.
It's essential that we take enough potassium. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, potassium is a very important mineral known to aid in the proper functions of all cells, tissues, and organs, and they help replace electrolytes lost from heavy drinking or exercising (4).
And that's not all.
Potassium is also proven to reduce your risk of muscle cramps (5).
For those who need a little extra help in the bathroom, potassium can be your help as it helps with restoring normal bowel functions.
On a more serious note, this mineral often found in plant foods can also be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and protecting against hypertension (6).
2. Bananas May Help You Lose Weight
I'm not advising you to go on a banana diet, but eating a banana or two may help with your bodyweight.
Even though bananas are moderately high calories for a fruit, they are very nutritious and filling.
1 medium banana contains about 3 grams of dietary fiber.
This fiber content can work as an appetite suppressant as fiber offers a feeling of satiety, keeping your stomach feel full longer, causing you to automatically eat fewer calories daily (7).
Eating fewer calories than you burn is essential for weight loss.
In fact, according to University of Minnesota's systematic review on the effect of fiber, fiber intake is linked to a lower body weight (8).
3. Bananas May Treats Depression
Banana is a rich source for Tryptophan, which gets converted into serotonin, the happy-mood brain transmitter, according to Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science (9).
Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. (10).
Because of widespread distribution of its cells, it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and body functions. This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire, and function, appetite, sleep, memory, learning and regulating body temperature and more, according to WebMD (11).
According to Duke University, serotonin deficient brains are more vulnerable to social stress and its deficiency has been linked to psychological issues from biochemical glitches in our brains. This includes depression, compulsive disorder, anxiety, panic and anger problems (12).
Bananas contain serotonin, a much-needed substance that the brains of depressed people seem to be short of (13).
However, if I said eating more bananas can increase serotonin and directly impact your brain, mental and psychological health, it wouldn't be all that accurate.
Bananas can in fact help- yes certainly, but it does so indirectly.
According to Simon Young, Editor-in-chief of Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, and Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, serotonin, the happy-mood transmitter lacks the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore it cannot get into your brain to increase and supplement your brain’s serotonin content to leave all the positive impacts (14).
What can actually help with serotonin level is not the serotonin in bananas itself, but another nutrient, vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is a vitamin known to help your body synthesize its own serotonin and boost its production level.
By eating more bananas, you can thus increase your vitamin B6 level, which leads to more production of serotonin, which then lowers the risk of depression and improves your mental, brain and psychological health (15).
For women age between 19 and 50 are recommended to have "1.3 mg of vitamin B6" per day. With one medium size banana, you can take in about 20% of the daily-recommended dose.
4. Bananas Are Good for Your Eyes
61 million adults in the United State are estimated being at high risk for serious vision loss (16).
Poor eye health is a big threat to us, Americans.
You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eye health, but you probably didn’t know about bananas’ benefits to your vision.
Bananas contribute to your eye health the similar way carrots do. They both contain a lot of vitamin A (17).
Vitamin A helps protect the surface of the eye, a pretty essential part of the eye if you ask me (18).
As we get older, the macula in the eye, part of the eye that gathers light and is responsible for short vision, degenerates, and vitamin A helps combat age-related muscular degeneration (19).
5. Bananas Are High In Antioxidants
Yes, when you think of antioxidants, like most people, you probably think of strawberries and blueberries.
But not bananas...
Granted, bananas’ level of antioxidants may not be as high as berries or other dark color fruits. But according to Science Direct, bananas contain anthocyanin, a plant compound that acts as an effective antioxidant within the human body (20).
Surprisingly enough, bananas also contain other antioxidants including beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, Vitamins A, C, and E, offering a wide range of health benefits including protection against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and risk reduction for cataract formation in the eyes as well as age-related macular degeneration.
Here is also another interesting study from Japan about banana and its fighting power against cancer.
A Japanese Professor from the University of Tokyo named Senji found that the more brown spots the banana have, the more cancer-fighting properties it has (21).
Interesting point; however, this is an area of some debate for more research whether or not eating brown bananas can, in fact, help cure a certain type of cancer. Until then, its finding should be taken with a grain of salt.
6. Bananas May Help Prevent HIV Transmission
This is probably the most shocking to me of all.
A new study reported in Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests eating bananas can help prevent HIV transmission (22).
According to the original University of Michigan study and reports from Mother Nature Network, here is how the spread of HIV can be prevented with bananas (23).
Sugar-binding proteins found in a variety of plants including bananas are said to have the ability to halt the chain reaction that leads to certain viral infections.
In the case of BanLec, it works by binding naturally to the sugar-rich envelope that encases the HIV virus, thus blocking its entry into the body (24).
Although this may not mean that bananas can cure HIV, it may mean that development of a BanLec ointment could save millions of lives.
Especially in regions where women may not always have the control over sexual encounters, the introduction of a cheap, self-applied ointment derived naturally from bananas may mean more protection and power to women whose family production preferences are too often undermined and ignored.
It's an amazing benefit, yet this is also a controversial topic and in need of more in-depth research for further confirmation. Stay tuned for more research to come.
7. Bananas May Improve Your Digestive Health
It's well known that a diet rich in dietary fiber is good for digestive health.
1 medium size banana provides about 3 grams of dietary fiber, making banana an excellent source of fiber.
Fiber helps manage the speed of digestion, and by keeping digestion in check, you can better regulate the carbohydrate to sugar conversion.
Bananas contain two types of dietary fiber: pectin and resistant starch.
- As bananas get riper, pectin decreases.
- Resistant starch is also found more in unripe bananas.
Resistant starch is believed to escape digestion and end up in the large intestine, where it becomes food for the beneficial gut bacteria (25).
8. Bananas May Benefit Your Exercise Performance
Eat a banana before an intense workout (HIIT) to boost your energy and sustain your blood sugar level.
Bananas are easy to digest and won’t irritate your stomach, which makes them an ideal pre-workout snack.
Replace your high carbs and high sugary sports drink with a much healthier natural banana.
The Appalachian State University and the Dole Food Company study compared the effects of eating bananas versus a 6% carbohydrate pre-workout drink on a 75 Kilometer cycling performance (26).
They measured the post-exercise inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune function.
They found the performance was the same between the banana and the sports drinks.
So another good reason to skip the pricey sports drinks which can run you about $ 3-4 whereas a dollar banana you can get on your way to the gym.
9. Bananas Are Easy to Incorporate Into Your Diet
Bananas are one of the most versatile fruits there is.
They can be incorporated into many different recipes including yogurt topping, smoothies, and baking.
Bananas can also be enjoyed as a healthy snack on-the-go since they are conveniently portable and mess free.
They can also be eaten raw by itself or be combined with other items like Greek yogurt and smoothies. Even pies and pancakes taste delicious with bananas.
From pancakes to ice cream, this mouth-watering fruit is everyone's favorite for a reason.
My favorite banana recipe is my peanut butter and banana smoothie. It only has three ingredients.
Despite being high in calories and sugar, bananas have a ton of nutrients hard to get elsewhere.
With those nutrients, bananas offer a bundle of health benefits including disease prevention (see #6).
The truth is, this often neglected fruit is one food that does more good to your body than harm. For those that need to be extra cautious, always eat in moderation.
Which benefit strikes you the most? Leave us a comment below to let us know.