Bananas can be one perplexing food. We know that they are high in sugar- and that sugar is anything but good for us- but we also hear that they are full of important nutrients. So what’s the verdict on banana nutrition being healthy or not?
This is actually one of the questions I get asked most often, so allow me to explain more about the pros and cons of eating bananas.
They can provide a quick source of energy before a workout and also vital post-workout nutrients that are needed to repair muscle and balance water retention. Additionally, bananas contain filling fiber too.
All of these benefits within one 100-calorie piece of fruit sounds like a good deal, but bananas can also be tricky for certain people and may not be the best fruit choice for everyone.
Because bananas contain a relatively high amount of sugar and carbohydrates, but practically no protein or healthy fats, they can quickly spike blood sugar levels. This is a problem for anyone who has a form of insulin resistance, including those who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes. Therefore bananas make a great fruit choice for most people, but not all.
If you are someone who is otherwise healthy and relatively active, bananas are a smart and beneficial food choice to add to your diet. However if you have sensitives to insulin, trouble managing blood sugar, and substantial weight to lose, you may want to go with other fruit and food options over bananas.
Because bananas have both positive and negative attributes, let’s first focus on the positives of banana nutrition.
One medium size banana has roughly (in daily recommended values):
- 110 calories
- .5 grams of fat
- 27 grams of carbohydrates
- 14 grams of sugar
- 3 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of protein
- 25% vitamin B6
- 16% manganese
- 14% vitamin C
- 12% potassium
- 12% fiber
- 10% copper
- 10% biotin
- 8% magnesium
Top Health Benefits of Banana Nutrition
Bananas also have many amazing health benefits to the body such as:
1. Boosts Energy
Bananas are a great pick-me-up snack because they provide carbohydrate in the form of quick-releasing sugars which your body can use for energy. After a workout, your body uses carbohydrates to refuel and repair muscle fibers that have been broken down.
After exercising, banana nutrition contains sugar molecules that are able to reach muscle tissues fast right when they are needed most. This helps restore glucose reserves quickly, which is vital for giving your body the energy it needs to build muscle and strength. Bananas are useful either before exercise or immediately after, providing your body with the sufficient carbs and nutrients that it needs.
Instead of relying on sugary snacks or sports drinks surrounding your workouts, or during your afternoon energy “slump”, try having a banana instead. At just 100 calories, bananas make a great pre or post workout snack choice, especially considering they are a whole food and contain no processed or artificial ingredients like many packaged snacks do.
2. Loaded with Potassium
Bananas are one of the richest sources of potassium in the world, with about 500 mg of potassium per banana. Potassium is another nutrient that is crucial for those who are physically active, but also for everyone else too. Potassium acts as an electrolyte and promotes circulatory health, helps to manage blow flow and hydration levels within the body, and helps oxygen to reach your cells (1).
Potassium is useful in preventing high blood pressure and decreases the risks for heart disease and strokes because it regulates circulation, sodium, and water retention within the body (2). Potassium helps to lower high blood pressure because it counteracts the effect of sodium within the blood. Fortunately, studies have shown that the best way to benefit from potassium is to consume more of it naturally though whole food sources, especially fruits and vegetables (3).
Potassium also assists in the prevention of muscle cramping following exercise and helps you to heal and build muscle. This makes it an important nutrient for anyone who is especially physically active or who is recovering from an injury.
3. Helps Improve Digestive Health
Each banana contains about 3 grams of fiber, which is roughly 10% of the daily fiber you should be consuming. The fiber in bananas helps to prevent constipation, bloating, and other unwanted digestive symptoms. Fiber helps to regulate restoration and maintenance of regular bowel functions because it binds to waste and toxins within the digestive tract, helping to pull them out of the body.
Dietary fiber also importantly helps you to feel full for longer. This is another reason why bananas can make a great snack, especially when you’re on the go and need something portable to throw into your bag. Another benefit of banana’s high fiber content? Studies have found that a diet high in dietary fiber is protective against heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
Fiber helps to reduce inflammation as it removes waste and toxins from the body, keeping arteries clear from dangerous plague build-up (4) (5). Additionally, bananas are easy to digest and can help prevent cases of diarrhea. This is because of their starches and fiber which can help to bind waste within your digestive tract, while their potassium facilitates in balancing water retention in the gut and keeping you from becoming dehydrated.
4. Can Help Boost Your Mood
Bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is facilitates in the regulation of serotonin, one of our main “happy hormones” (6). Healthy levels of serotonin work to lift your mood and prevent mood disorders including anxiety and depression. Banana nutrition also includes antioxidants that help with the release of dopamine within the brain, another mood enhancing hormone (7). Regularly consuming bananas can help to increase your energy, prevent fatigue from over-exerting yourself, and to keep a positive mindset.
5. Good Source of Brain, Skin, and Bone Health-Boosting Manganese
Banana nutrition can benefit your brain, skin and bones because just one banana contains 16% of the manganese you need for the day plus it is a good source of Vitamin C (about 14%DV) that aids in collagen production to keep you looking young.
Manganese is important for many functions within the body, including maintaining healthy skin, keeping the skeletal structure strong, maintaining proper brain function, and reducing free radical damage.
Studies have shown that manganese can help with healthy brain function and to prevent conditions including epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease (8) (9). Some animal studies have shown that low levels of manganese contribute to poor bone health and possibly evn conditions like osteoporosis.
Manganese benefits the health and appearance of your skin by contributing to the production of collagen, an important structural component that maintains skin’s youthful appearance and elasticity. Manganese also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, two crucial properties that are useful in naturally slowing aging since they reduce free radical damage and oxidative stress.
6. Affordable, Portable, Low in Calorie Snack Choice
Bananas are low in calories with only about 100-110 calories for one medium size banana. Compared to many other processed or high calorie snack choices, bananas make a great healthy snack because they are pre-portioned and full of nutrients and fiber. This makes bananas a good choice for anyone who is watching their calorie intake in order to lose weight.
Because bananas contain high amounts of fiber and have a high water content, they can help to fill you up and keep you from snacking on other processed foods between meals. This makes bananas a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth with something completely unprocessed, without derailing your weight loss efforts too much.
While it may be difficult to clean something like berries, put them in a container, and take them along with you as a snack, bananas are easily portable and don’t need to be refrigerated.
Try keeping them at work on your desk, in your gym bag, or even in your car as an “in case of emergency” snack to ward off hunger between meals and lessen the chances of you later overeating. Another benefit of bananas? They are one of the least expensive varieties of fruit you can buy; even organic bananas are usually very affordable.
I do however caution people to consume bananas in moderation if weight loss is your first health priority, since the sugar content of bananas can impact your blood glucose levels and potentially lead to food cravings or energy spikes and dips.
If you are going to have a banana as a snack, try combing with it a source of healthy fat or protein to slow down the release of its sugars into your blood stream. Adding some almond butter, coconut, or protein powder to your banana snack can make it even more filling and impact your glucose levels less abruptly.
Bananas Side Effects & Concerns
As previously mentioned, even though they are packed with certain beneficial nutrients, bananas may not make the best food choice for everyone.
Those who have trouble keeping blood sugar levels at a healthy state or who are trying to lose weight may be better off leaving bananas behind or at least only consuming them in moderation in order to keep blood sugar at its safest levels (10).
Compared to other fruits- like berries, citrus, and kiwis- bananas are somewhat high in sugar and lower in fiber. Fiber is crucial for helping to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. It’s ideal to consume something that is high in carbs and sugar that also has a high amount of fiber, this way you do not experience a sudden spike in blood sugar, followed by a rapid decline.
Berries are an example of this ideal ratio of sugar to fiber; they are relatively low in sugar for a fruit, yet are very high in fiber and extremely high in beneficial antioxidants. For this reason, I recommend people who have diabetes, a form of metabolic syndrome, or weight to lose to stick with consuming berries and other forms of low sugar/high fiber fruits like green apples, kiwis, and citrus. These lower sugar fruits are considered to be lower on the glycemic index than bananas so they have a less dramatic impact on blood glucose.
Interestingly however, studies have shown that bananas contain a lower glycemic index score and more slowly-absorbable sugars when they are under-ripe (11). So if you struggle to keep your blood sugar stable and you have the option to consume either a very ripe or under ripe banana, go for the less ripe. This is because under ripe bananas contain more resistant starches which break down more slowly in the body (12).
That being said, if you are between consuming any food that is packaged, processed, and full of artificial ingredients, a banana is always going to be the better choice even if you do have blood sugar issues or weight to lose.
Bananas are also less carbohydrate-rich than many grains are, so I even encourage you to have a banana over something like oats, cereals, rice, or other grains. When you do a side-by-side comparison of bananas against other grains, you are ultimately consuming less carbs, sugar, calories, and more nutrients when you choose the banana.
History of Bananas
Bananas were believed to first be grown and eaten in parts of Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea thousands of years ago, sometime around 5000 BC according to some sources. Records also show that bananas were cultivated in regions of Africa and the nearby island Madagascar shortly after this time. Bananas spread across regions of the Middle East and North Africa, including areas of Egypt and Palestine, around the 9th and 10th centuries. They were even mentioned in Ancient Islamic Texts.
When explorers from the Middle East and Europe began to travel to Central and South America, they brought bananas along with them on their journeys, introducing the fruit to an entirely new population. Portuguese explorers were the first to bring bananas to newly discovered regions and populations in this area where they are still highly consumed today.
Bananas were easily grown in the tropics of South and Central America, so they quickly began to be harvested in large quantities while their popularity spread up to North America. Today, areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America are still regions that grow high amounts of bananas, specially Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. However India, Uganda, and China have today become the three biggest exporting nations of bananas. While original wild bananas contained large seeds, the modern type of bananas we eat are known as parthenocarpic fruits, meaning their flesh swells and ripens without its seeds even needing to be fertilized. Today we see much smaller seeds in bananas and a more compact size than originally consumed bananas.
Purchasing and Preparing Bananas
Today, the Cavendish banana is the most common type of banana sold. Worldwide, most nations do not make a distinction between bananas and plantains and use them almost interchangeably. Bananas constitute a major staple food crop for millions of people living in developing countries today across Latin America, Africa, India and the South Pacific.
They are an important crop because they grow in abundance year-round and are very inexpensive. Bananas can be cooked in numerous ways depending on the type of cuisine; they are commonly fried, boiled, baked, blended, or sliced and “chipped” then dehydrated. Banana chips are a great addition to a grain-free granola to add a little extra boost of energy after a workout or when you hit that afternoon slump.
NOTE: It is best to slice and dehydrate your bananas yourself whenever possible. Many “chips” you buy at the store are often fried with hydrogenated oils and it counteracts any nutrition you might get from the fruit. So double check the ingredients when purchasing or try to get from an organic market and ask what oil they use or if they are dehydrated.
While it’s ideal to eat as much organically grown food as you can, bananas are one of the fruits that are thought to contain less harmful pesticides than some other fruits. This is because bananas are enclosed in a thick peel, helping to block them from absorbing many of the harsh chemicals and toxins that are sprayed on crops.
Bananas grow high up in trees where they are generally safer from rodents, animals, and certain bugs; therefore they are sprayed less with pesticides and herbicides than some other foods typically are.
Bananas are extremely versatile in recipes, even standing in for things like sugar, refined oils, processed flours, and more. Because bananas are sweet tasting and contain moisture, they make a great substitute ingredient in recipes for less healthy foods and added sugar. One of the most popular ways to consume bananas is to add one to a healthy smoothie recipe. But you can also eat bananas plain, have them with nut butter, or use them in things like healthy pancakes, muffins, and breads. Try incorporating bananas into your diet using some of these simple and healthy recipes below.
This gluten free and grain-free banana bread recipe is a great snack. It’s full of healthy fats, fiber and amazing flavor! Try this awesome classic and let me know what you think!
Total Time: 55 minutes Serves: 6-8
- 4 eggs
- 3 medium overly ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 1/4 cups almond flour
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a bowl, mix eggs, banana, honey, coconut milk, and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
- Combine both mixtures and stir until well incorporated. Grease a bread pan and pour in batter. Bake for 35-50 minutes.
This chocolate banana nut smoothie recipe is delicious and healthy! It’s a great way recipe for a quick breakfast and one that the kids will love! Try it today!
Total Time: 2 minutes Serves: 1
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/3 cup sprouted almond butter
- 1 banana, peeled
- 2 Tbsp. cacao powder
- 2 cup ice cubes
- stevia to taste
DIRECTIONS: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately.
Coconut is one of the healthiest foods you can eat! Coconut is a medium chain fatty acid which are easily digested and converted to energy instead of being stored as fat. Because of this, coconut aids in weight loss, helps to stimulate the metabolism and has amazing anti microbial properties. Combined with banana you’ll get all the flavor and nutrition rolled into one delicious meal! Try this recipe and experience its benefits today!
Total Time: 10 minutes Serves: 2
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 banana
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup water
- Mix all the ingredients into a bowl and stir until combined.
- Heat a saucepan with butter or coconut oil over medium heat. Pour out 1/2 cup of the batter into the pan.
- Cook for 2-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and then flip.
What is your favorite benefit of banana nutrition?
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