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Bananas: Health benefits,

facts, research
Last updated Thu 23 February 2017
By Megan Ware RDN LD
Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT

Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world for good
reason. Eating them could help lower blood pressure and reduce the risks
of cancer and asthma.
Today, bananas are grown in at least 107 countries and are ranked fourth
among the world's food crops in monetary value. Americans consume more
bananas than apples and oranges combined.

With the world consuming so many bananas, it's not surprising that people
are asking the question: are bananas good for you?

This article will take a look at the potential health benefits of bananas, such
as improving heart health and promoting regularity. It also examines the
possible health risks associated with them.

Contents of this article:

Possible health benefits of bananas

Health benefits of potassium

Nutritional profile of bananas

Incorporating more bananas into your diet

Risks and precautions

Possible health benefits of bananas


Listed below are the possible health benefits associated with bananas. It is
important to note that more high quality studies are required before these
health benefit links are proved definitive.

Blood pressure

Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure,


however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of
its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4700 mg
recommendation. 3

Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased


risk of dying from all causes.
3

Asthma
A study conducted by the Imperial College of London found that children
who ate just one banana per day had a 34% less chance of
developing asthma.

Cancer
Consuming bananas, oranges, and orange juice in the first two years of life
may reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. As a good source
of vitamin C, bananas can help combat the formation of free radicals known
to cause cancer. High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables like bananas
are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

Heart health
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and B6 content in bananas all support heart
health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium
intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to
reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Mark Houston,
MD, MS, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical
School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St Thomas Hospital in
Tennessee. 3

In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a
49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those
who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day). 3

High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke,
protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral
density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
3

Diabetes
Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets
have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved
blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One medium banana provides about
3 grams of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 g/day for women
and 30-38 g/day for men.

Digestive health
Bland foods such as apple sauce and bananas are recommended
for diarrheatreatment. They are part of an approach known as the BRAT
diet; this stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Electrolytes like potassium are lost in large quantities during bouts of


diarrhea and may make those affected feel weak. Bananas can replace
these lost nutrients.

Bananas can also help to promote regularity and replenish potassium


stores.

Preserving memory and boosting mood


Bananas also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that studies suggest plays
a role in preserving memory and boosting your mood.

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Health benefits of potassium

Bananas are high in potassium and contain good levels of protein and dietary fiber.

Bananas are rich in a mineral called potassium. This mineral is important


as it helps maintain fluid levels in the body and regulates the movement of
nutrients and waste products in and out of cells.

Potassium also helps muscles to contract and nerve cells to respond. It


keeps the heart beating regularly and can reduce the effect of sodium on
blood pressure.

Potassium may reduce the risk of kidney stones forming as people age. In
turn, healthy kidneys make sure that the right amount of potassium is kept
in the body.

One medium-sized banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium.


Nutritional profile of bananas
One serving of banana is considered to be about 126 grams. One serving
of banana contains 110 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of
protein. Bananas are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
2

Bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals:

Vitamin B6 - .5 mg

Manganese - .3 mg

Vitamin C - 9 mg

Potassium - 450 mg

Dietary Fiber - 3g

Protein - 1 g

Magnesium - 34 mg

Folate - 25.0 mcg

Riboflavin - .1 mg

Niacin - .8 mg

Vitamin A - 81 IU

Iron - .3 mg
The recommended intake of potassium for adults is 4,700 milligrams per
day.

Incorporating more bananas into


your diet
Add a sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a more nutritious breakfast.

Fresh bananas are available year-round. Unlike other fruits, the ripening
process of bananas does not slow down after they are picked. Bananas
should be stored at room temperature.

The warmer the temperature, the faster bananas will ripen. However, to
slow ripening, bananas should be refrigerated. The outer peel of the
banana will darken but the banana itself will stay intact longer.

To encourage faster ripening, place the banana in a brown paper bag at


room temperature. 1

In 2008, a popular diet fad known as the Morning Banana Diet


recommended eating a banana in the morning along with water, eating a
normal lunch and having dinner before 8pm.

Add a sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a more


nutritious breakfast.
Like apple sauce, ripe mashed bananas can be used in baked goods to
replace oil or butter. Mashed bananas lend a moist, naturally sweet flavor
to muffins, cookies and cakes.

Peel and freeze bananas for a great addition to any smoothie.

Add sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal, or take a banana


with you on your way to work or school for a healthy, portable snack.

Risks and precautions


Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart
disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High
potassium foods such as bananas should be consumed in moderation
when taking beta-blockers.

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys
are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess
potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.

Dr. Peter S. Gelfand, who practices Internal Medicine in Long Beach NY,
says:

"Certain medications used for heart disease


and hypertension have the potential to increase potassium
levels. Examples include certain beta-blockers such as
Labetalol, medications that work by blocking the actions of
the hormone aldosterone such as Lisinopril and Losartan, and
certain diuretics like Spironolactone and Eplerenone. This is a
partial list only, and you should consult with your doctor if
potassium levels become a concern."
Some people may have an allergy to bananas. If anyone with a banana
allergy eats a banana, they may experience symptoms in the mouth and
throat such as itching, hives, swelling and wheezing.

Bananas may trigger migraines in some people. People who often


experience migraine headachesare advised to eat no more than half a
banana daily.

Bananas also contain a lot of fiber. Eating too much fiber can lead to
bloating, gas, and stomach cramps.

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Article last updated on Thu 23 February 2017.

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