There are many reasons why bananas are one of the most popular foods in the world: They offer the perfect portion size, come in their own handy, natural protective wrap and are extremely economical.
Bananas are among the most important crops and most cultivated tropical fruits worldwide.1 They’re a close relative of the plantain, which is larger and darker.2
Fresh and creamy, bananas go well with other fruits and are a favorite lunchtime addition or for noshing on the go. Read on to learn more about the benefits of bananas to your health.
Health Benefits of Bananas
Over centuries, bananas have been used to help stimulate brainpower and relieve a variety of health issues, including upset stomach, stress, acidity, constipation and premenstrual symptoms.3 ,4 Their long list of nutrients accounts for their medical uses.
For one, bananas contain health-promoting flavonoids and phenolics such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene,5 all of which act as free radical-fighting antioxidants.6 They’re also high in vitamin C, which is known for its infection-fighting properties, and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which may help prevent anemia and coronary artery disease.7
A 100-gram serving of raw banana contains 358 milligrams of potassium,8 a mineral that may help regulate your heart rate and blood pressure. Bananas are excellent source of dietary fiber as well, which may help maintain optimal gut health.9 Some of the other nutrients that bananas provide include:
- Magnesium — Helps support healthy function of your heart, kidneys and muscles. It also aids in the production of energy in your body, helps improve mitochondrial health, and promotes mental and physical relaxation.
- Manganese — Plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol. It also helps activate the antioxidant enzyme and support bone development.10
- Folate — Necessary for the creation of DNA and other genetic materials, folate also helps lower the risk for cancer and birth defects.
If you’re planning to add bananas into your diet, you should learn more about their nutritional content. Check out the table below:11
Banana Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calcium 5 mg
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies Done on Bananas
Research showed that among fruits and vegetables proven to be associated with cutting your risk of renal cell carcinoma, bananas were the highest.12 Another study showed that bananas, which are rich in vitamin A and carotenoids, have the potential to help lower your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other types of cancer.13
More positive proof of banana’s singular health benefits emerged in a study showing an important link between foods containing high levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber — like bananas, for instance — and a reduction in the risk of stroke in men.14
How to Pick Good Bananas
Bananas come in different sizes, colors and shapes, depending on how ripe they are, so choosing the best ones can be tricky. Here are some tips you can follow to ensure that you pick out the right banana that suits your taste:15 ,16
- Pay attention to the color — Bananas that are bright yellow with brown spots have the fullest flavor, while those that have a greenish color are not yet fully ripe and may not be as sweet and soft as fully ripened ones.
- Take note of when you’ll eat them — For immediate consumption, choose bright-yellow bananas with brown specks. For eating in a couple of days, pick bananas that still have green color at the ends, as they will ripen over time.
- Check their texture — Choose bananas that are full and plump, but still feel soft and firm.
- Look out for bruises and dull gray coloring — Although bananas that have light brown speckles are OK to eat, you should avoid those that have depressed, moist and dark spots on the peel since they usually indicate that the flesh is bruised.
Bananas that have a dull gray undertone may have been frozen or overheated right before they ripened properly — this could affect their overall taste, so it’s best to just avoid them. If you bought a bunch of bananas and want to eat them over the course of a week, you should store them in the freezer to keep them from becoming overripe and to maintain the color of their skin.
If you simply refrigerate them, their skin will turn brown. You should also keep them away from other fruits, as they will ripen quickly with other fruits around.17
Healthy Banana Recipes:
Flourless Banana Pancakes
✓ 1 1/2 large ripe bananas
✓ 2 free-range eggs
✓ 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
✓ 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
✓ 1/3 cup honey
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 1
- Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them. In another bowl, lightly mash the bananas with a potato masher or a fork.
- Add the whisked eggs, baking powder, vanilla extract and cinnamon to the bowl of mashed bananas and stir to combine.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter at a time onto a skillet placed over medium-low heat and cook until the bottom appears set, about one to two minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook for another minute. Serve immediately.
(Recipe adapted from Paleo Leap18)
Banana Fun Facts
Bananas were introduced to Europe by Portuguese sailors who brought them from West Africa. But while they thrived in Africa, the original bananas were actually believed to be native to East Asia and Oceania. Eventually, this fruit was carried to North America by sailors that came from the Canary Islands and the West Indies along with Spanish missionary Friar Tomas de Berlanga.19
Bananas provide a long list of health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, fiber, flavonoids, and vitamins A, C and B6.20 A century ago, this convenient fruit was practically unknown throughout North America and Europe.21 Nowadays, however, it’s considered a staple and one of the most important crops in the world.22
There are many ways to incorporate this fruit into your diet — you can eat it as is, bake it into a dessert or even dehydrate it to be eaten along with trail mix. Keep in mind, though, that bananas should be eaten in moderation because they contain fructose, which can be harmful to your health when consumed in excessive amounts.