After discovering the incredible health benefits of bananas, you’ll never look at this fruit the same way again. Bananas have been a staple food for individuals for many centuries and still to this day top at one of the top 5 fruits in the homes of families. Bananas provide an array of benefits for the human body, including lowering the risks of cancer and asthma and lowering blood pressure, among others.
10 Health Benefits of Bananas
1. Reduce depression
Bananas contain catecholamines, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine (1). They also contain tryptophan which metabolizes the neurotransmitter serotonin (the “happy” molecule) as well as tyrosine (1). Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters, with dopamine being involved in movement, motivational and pleasure seeking behaviours and serotonin being involved in physical, emotional and psychological conditions. These two chemical help to reduce depression and improve your mood (2).
2. Regulate the bowel system
Bananas are high in non-digestible fibbers like cellulose, hemicellulose and alpha-glucans (4) which helps prevent constipation and restores and maintains regular bowel function. A 7-8-inch banana has more than 3g of fibre! This composes nearly 8% of your total daily requirement of fibre, and helps ease waste through the GI tract.
Bananas will help with both constipation and diarrhea. Bananas also contain pectin, and because of this, they have the ability to absorb water in the intestine giving them a bulk producing ability.
3. Reduce blood pressure & risk of heart disease
Bananas are rich in potassium (as we all know), and potassium is required for muscle contraction as well as correct functioning of the heart and nervous system. Eating just one banana will provide you with enough potassium for the day!
Bananas also contain flavonoids which show anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic (ability to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol), hypoglycemic and antioxidant activities. Because of their hypolipidemic properties, flavonoids in bananas can reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation and aging (3).
4. Help our bones grow stronger
Bananas help our body retain minerals like calcium, nitrogen and phosphorous, all of which help to build healthy and regenerated tissues. How do bananas help the body absorb these minerals? Bananas contain healthy prebiotics called fructooligosaccharides which nourish the friendly probiotic bacteria in our colon (4). When we eat a banana we are better able to absorb nutrients and compounds that protect us against bad bacteria because of the prebiotic capability of the banana, helping us to produce vitamins and generate digestive enzymes. Our friendly probiotic bacterium in our intestine ferment the fructooligosaccharides and thus increase the amount of probiotic bacteria (4) which allows the body to absorb more calcium!
5. Help individuals to quit smoking
Did you know that bananas can help you quit smoking? They help to reduce the amount of stresses and help you deal with nicotine withdrawal. Bananas contain Vitamin C, A1, B12, B6, potassium and magnesium which help to relax your body and ease off the terrible side effects of nicotine withdrawal such as stomach cramps, stress, headaches, shakiness, irritability and nausea. They also help with the mental and physical symptoms of quitting cigarettes such as keeping your hands busy with something else, other than the cigarette. Holding a banana in your hand and consuming it will keep your hands busy, and will also deliver your body with potassium and magnesium which help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
6. Help prevent anemia
Individuals with anemia have a hard time producing enough healthy red blood cells. The common treatment is to take iron pills, however, the banana can provide similar benefits. Bananas are incredibly high in iron, and help to stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood – thus, they are helpful in cases of anemia.
Around 8mg of iron is needed daily for men and women, however, during menstrual cycles women should consume up to 15mg of iron. One medium sized banana contains around 0.4mg of iron, which is high for a fruit! Consume a 6-8 RIPE banana smoothie and you will get nearly 3-5mg of iron in one shot!
7. Provide us with energy
We all know bananas are a rich source of sucrose, fructose and glucose, all of which compliment the high fibre in the banana, and thus releases the sugars slowly into the bloodstream to give us stable energy throughout the day. Bananas also contain high levels of potassium which help to keep our muscles contracting properly during exercise and prevents lactic acid build up (less cramping). Just TWO bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout!
8. Reduce menstrual pains
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which helps to regulate blood glucose levels and thus positively affect your mood. One study found that treating premenstrual women with 100mg of vitamin B6 per day effectively treated their premenstrual symptoms and premenstrual depression (5). Instead of taking pills like ibuprofen or Midol (and reaping the side-effects of those drugs), simply eat a banana!
9. Power our brains
Our brains run on glucose – therefore, bananas are great to help boost our brain power. Bananas also contain potassium, which research has shown can help assistant learning and memory by making pupils more alert. Children who consume a potassium-rich fruit breakfast often do better on tests than children who do not.
10. Help prevent ulcers
Bananas have also been shown to neutralize the acidity of gastric juices and thus reduces ulcer irritation (4). They also protect against the formation of ulcers and ulcer damage by increasing the thickness of the mucous membrane layer of the stomach thanks to the flavonoid in the banana called leucocyanidin!
(1) Ohla, S., Schulze, P., Fritzsche, S., & Belder, D. (2011). Chip electrophoresis of active banana ingredients with label-free detection utilizing deep UV native fluorescence and mass spectrometry. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 399, 1853-1857.
(2) Smith, K., Fairburn, C., & Cowen, P. (1997). Relapse of depression after rapid depletion of tryptophan. The Lancet, 349, 915-919.
(3) Vijayakumar, S., Presannakumar, G., & Vijayalakshmi, N. (2008). Antioxidant activity of banana flavonoids. Fitoterapia, 79, 279-282.
(4) Kumar, K., Bhowmik, D., Duraivel, S., & Umadevi, M. (2012). Traditional and medicinal uses of banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 1, 57-70.
(5) Wyatt, K., Dimmock, P., Jones, P., & O’Brien, P. (1999). Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: systematic review. BMJ, 318, 1375.