What’s The Low Down On Bananas?
by Laura N. Brown, MS, RD, LDN, ACSM-CPT
Last Updated: June 25, 2021
Are you going bananas trying to figure out what the deal is with bananas? The tropical fruit seems to get mixed messages, with some swearing bananas are bad for your health while others encourage their consumption. So we are here to set the record straight! Bananas have a unique nutritional profile and are nutritionally dense, meaning a regular intake of bananas may deliver various potential health benefits.
- Despite rumors, there is no evidence bananas cause weight gain. In fact, large prospective research studies indicate banana consumption to be associated with less weight gain over time. Bananas are low in calories, with one medium banana delivering approximately 100 calories. Due to their high fiber content, adding a banana to your breakfast routine or enjoying it as a healthy afternoon snack may improve satiety and fullness, leading to decreased caloric intake throughout the rest of the day.
- A medium banana delivers 3 grams of fiber, 11% of the recommended amount to consume daily. Adequate fiber intake is essential for gut health, as fiber adds bulk to stool and promotes regularity. Additionally, a greener banana is jam-packed with prebiotics, non-digestible carbohydrates that stimulate the growth of naturally occurring bacteria in the gut (probiotics), which may further improve the health of the GI system.
- Looking for a natural mood booster? Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that increases the production of serotonin in the body. Therefore, researchers have hypothesized that adequate consumption of tryptophan-containing foods may play a role in preserving memory and boosting mood.
- During a pandemic, adequate vitamin C intake is essential, as this naturally occurring antioxidant may help support the immune system. Citrus fruits get a lot of credit, but bananas are also a good source of vitamin C. Since you typically enjoy bananas raw rather than heated, the vitamin C content is protected and not at risk of being destroyed.
- Most Americans do not consume the recommended amounts of potassium, a mineral important for hydration and blood pressure regulation. Lucky for banana lovers, the yellow fruit is a good source of potassium, delivering 362 mg of potassium per medium-sized fruit. Adequate potassium intake may help to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
- Bananas are also a great source of vitamin B6, a micronutrient that plays a critical role in many functions within the body, including converting food to energy. One medium banana delivers 25 percent of the daily recommended intake for vitamin B6. Adequate B6 consumption may prevent excessive fatigue, so consider unpeeling a banana to combat an afternoon slump.
- A medium banana contains approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates. For people with diabetes counting carbohydrates, this is 2 carbohydrate servings. If you are concerned about consuming too many carbohydrates, consider cutting the banana in half and drizzling it with nut butter. The protein present in nut butter will help to better control blood glucose response.
- Refuel after an intense workout with bananas! Bananas are a great post-workout snack for many reasons. Bananas replace carbohydrates utilized during activity, replenish electrolytes lost in sweat, and deliver a dose of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, bananas increase the body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, which may increase antioxidant capacity and help combat oxidative stress. When compared with sports beverages, refueling with half a banana is just as effective for athletic recovery.
- Bananas contain approximately 14 grams of natural sugar called fructose. Unlike other sugar-containing foods, the fiber present in bananas helps slow the digestion and absorption of fructose in the body. As a result, snacking on a banana provides a stable release of energy for the body. Consumption of bananas (and other fruits) can help to reduce intake of added sugars, serving as a nutritious replacement for sweets and desserts. In fact, you can cut back on added sugar in baked goods by using bananas! Replace one-half of the required sugar with mashed bananas and cut out ¼ cup of liquid in your favorite baked goods recipe.
- Like other fruits and vegetables, bananas are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. These disease-fighting compounds help to defend against free radicals and decrease stress in the body. However, unique to bananas, antioxidant content levels increase as the fruit ripens, giving you more reason to find a way to use overripe bananas!
- If you struggle with falling and staying asleep at night, snacking on a banana before bed may help. Nutrients found in bananas, including magnesium, vitamin B6, and tryptophan, help to produce serotonin. Serotonin plays a key role in the production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate sleep. Researchers have found that banana consumption can increase concentrations of melatonin in the body.
Only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, making inexpensive, portable, and delicious bananas an excellent way to increase nutrient-rich fruit. Increased intake of fruit may be associated with less stress and can help manage weight. Also, consuming at least 2 servings of fruit per day may help lower diabetes risk. Specific to bananas, research has indicated children who consume just one banana per day to be one-third less likely to develop asthmatic symptoms. Additionally, early banana consumption may be associated with decreased risk for childhood leukemia. All this and more are great reasons to go bananas for... bananas!
For more helpful nutrition information, schedule a nutrition consult with a Kroger Health dietitian from the comfort of your home.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.