The Basic Fruit You're Not Eating Enough Of
Here’s everything you need to know about how a banana benefits your health—and metabolism.
Bananas—aka the fruit that’s usually sitting on your kitchen counter until it turns brown—is among the most controversial fruits. Many people avoid bananas because they’re high in carbs and sugar compared to most other fruits. But that doesn’t mean bananas can’t be part of a healthy diet. In fact, there are many banana benefits you probably haven’t considered. Read on for some convincing reasons to add more bananas to your diet.
Bananas are rich in potassium
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. “One of the main reasons we need potassium is to regulate fluid balance in our bodies,” says nutritionist and holistic health coach Jen Silverman. “Potassium has also been shown to lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, and promote proper muscle function.”
Bananas are full of fiber to help you slim down and boost your metabolism
“Bananas contain soluble fiber, which swells like a sponge in the stomach giving food a jellylike bulk that makes you feel full,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD and founder of F-Factor. “Soluble fiber also binds with calories and fat in the stomach and intestines and pulls them out of the body before they can enter the bloodstream, it supports blood glucose levels, supports your body with sustained energy, and helps you have regular bowel movements.” Zuckerbrot also notes that among other banana benefits, they’re a great source of vitamin B6. A medium-sized banana can provide about a quarter of your daily vitamin B6 needs, which is significant for metabolism.
Bananas are great if you’re on a budget
If you’re on a budget, bananas are an affordable fruit option because you can easily opt for non-organic. “They have a thick peel to help protect the edible part from pesticides,” says Dr. Will Cole, leading functional medicine expert, IFMCP, DC, and author of Ketotarian. For this reason, they’ve never been on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen list. That said, it is possible for chemicals to leach into the soil and affect the fruit, so organic is preferred when possible.
Bananas are great for workouts
“If weight loss is not a priority, bananas are a good source of carbohydrates and will provide fuel for workouts,” Zuckerbrot says. “They also may help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness.” She points to a study called Metabolomics-Based Analysis of Banana and Pear Ingestion on Exercise Performance and Recovery in which, after fasting overnight, 20 male cyclists drank only water with pears or bananas before cycling at high intensity the next day. Those who drank water with fruit experienced a 50 percent faster recovery than those who only drank water with no fruit, and were also faster and had more energy. If weight loss is a priority, however, it’s best to work out on an empty stomach as this will allow your body to use fat for fuel, as opposed to the banana you just noshed on.
Do bananas cause constipation?
Bananas are rich in fiber, which is key for fighting constipation and bloating. One reason many people might feel constipated when eating bananas is that fiber needs water to do its job, so make sure you’re drinking at least 2 liters of water a day if you’re eating a fiber-rich diet. According to Silverman, you’ll also want to pay attention to how ripe the banana is. “Unripe bananas–those greenish yellow in color–can cause constipation, while ripe bananas can relieve it,” she says. This is because unripe bananas have more starch, whereas riper ones have more fiber.
Banana nutrition facts
“Your typical banana contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar, which is about double what you’ll get with a cup of raspberries,” says Zuckerbrot. Cole warns that "sugar is still sugar to your body, regardless if it’s in the form of processed sugar or fructose from fruits.”
An average banana also contains 1 gram of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and less than 1 gram of fat. It’s also high in potassium (422 mg), magnesium (32 mg), vitamin C (10 mg), and vitamin B6 (.4 mg). “Depending on the exact size of the banana, the calories, carbs, and sugar, for example, may be slightly higher or slightly lower,” Cole says. He adds that while it’s healthy to eat bananas, you should be conscious of the amount you’re eating and careful not to overdo it.
How to eat more bananas
“My favorite way to enjoy bananas is in a batch of overnight oats. I take 1 cup of rolled oats, ¾ cup of almond milk, ½ banana, 1 teaspoon flax seeds, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and mix them together in a mason jar to make a delicious morning or afternoon treat,” Silverman says. Another option is to slice bananas on a rice cake or piece of toast. “I take a piece of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread, slather on a layer of peanut butter, and add slices of bananas on top,” she says.
Silverman also likes to use bananas in a smoothie to mask the taste of bitter vegatables, since bananas have a strong and overpowering flavor. “Here’s a recipe my family loves: 1 cup fresh spinach, ½ cup frozen collard greens or kale, ½ cup almond or oat milk, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 banana, 1 tbsp hemp seeds, and ½ tbsp almond butter. Simply blend all together,” she says.
Zuckerbrot suggests using bananas in baking. “Mashed banana has the ideal consistency to be used in place of butter and oil in recipes for cookies, brownies, pancakes, and muffins.” Check out her recipes for banana chocolate chip bread pudding and muffins.
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