Are bananas bad for you? You have probably heard that bananas contains a large amount of sugar and can spike your blood sugar, but this certainly does not tell the whole story.
Hearing these stories is possibly why you may have been avoiding eating too many bananas, even thought they are the most easiest self packed snack out there.
You might have missed some very important information about bananas.
In-fact, bananas could even be healthy!
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the banana is America’s favorite fresh fruit, and also among the most widely consumed fruits on the planet. Bananas are very high in potassium, and pectin (a form of fiber).
They are also a good source of vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Bananas are high in antioxidants which gives us protection from the free radicals that we constantly encounter daily; from the sunlight, itself, to the lotions that we put on our skin.
Bananas are presently grown in at least 107 countries, and are ranked as fourth among the world’s food crops in monetary value.
These curved yellow fruits that are wrapped in a convenient packaging of its own is being consumed by Americans much more than even the apple.
So, are bananas bad for you after all? Let’s find out!
A Brief History of Bananas
Originally, bananas were found in South East Asia, specifically in India.
They were brought west by Arab conquerors in 327B.C. Following this, they were moved from Asia Minor to Africa, before finally being carried to the New World by missionaries and the first explorers of the Caribbean.
In 1834, mass production of bananas commenced, and later exploded in the late 1880s.
Based on the reports of UNCTAD, fair trade and the production of organic bananas has been increasing, as the market for the organic bananas in 2003 hit 152,000 tons, and fair trade bananas also hit 46,000 tons.
There are about 50 recognized species of bananas, and nearly all bananas that are sold in stores are cloned from one variety (the Cavendish banana plant).
The Cavendish banana plant was originally native to Southeast Asia, as it replaced the Gros Michel which was wiped out by fungus.
The Gros Michel reportedly tasted better, had a longer shelf life, and was bigger; before its demise.
Are Bananas Bad for You, Rather than Good?
It turns out that bananas have several qualities that are beneficial to you, and the fear of a blood sugar spike from eating this carbohydrate is not well-grounded.
There are a lot of reasons that bananas are actually healthy for you.
One of the main reasons is due to the high amount of fiber, together with the beneficial phytonutrients and magnesium that bananas contain.
Although bananas do contain a lot of carbohydrates, these other nutritional properties make it so that your body doesn’t need to store sugar into fat cells, to protect you from high blood sugar.
Instead, your body takes that sugar that bananas contain and brings it to your muscles for immediate use, or stores it for short-term use in your liver where you body can easily take it and shuttle where ever needed.
This is one of the many reasons why athletes often choose to snack on bananas at half-time of their competitions!
Read Also: Complex Carbs for Bodybuilding
Nutritional Facts of Banana
While in an unripe state, the banana consists mostly of resistant starch, and starch.Each banana contains about 105 calories, and exclusively consists of carbohydrates and water.
When it ripens, however, the starch will turn into sugar (sucrose, glucose, and fructose). This simple factor makes bananas themselves excellent for athletes while in competition, as they are full of fast-absorbing nutrients you need to be successful over a sustained period!
One medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium, and 32 mg of magnesium; making it an excellent source of these two vital minerals.
The leading causes of death and disability worldwide are heart disease and stroke.
Luckily, bananas can protect you from both of them because of their high potassium levels that dilate blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. The fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6 content in bananas all support overall heart health.
Moreover, a study shows that high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.
Furthermore, potassium in bananas helps to maintain proper fluid balance, which keeps swelling from occurring.
If those are not good enough reasons to eat your daily banana, keep reading below!
The Many Health Benefits Of Bananas
Fiber in Bananas
Dietary fiber has been associated with many health benefits, most notably improved digestion. Bananas are a good source of fiber, because a medium sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber. Bananas contain two main types of fiber, both soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Resistant starch, which is found in unripe bananas
- Pectin, which decreases as the banana ripens.
The resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in our large intestine, where it serves as food for beneficial stomach bacteria. Cell studies have proposed that pectin may be able to help protect against colon cancer.
Together, these two types of fiber are an incredible team for your digestion and overall health!
Soluble fiber being the one that forms a gel-like material when dissolved with water, which helps to slow down digestion, reduce blood cholesterol, and lower your glucose levels.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve; making it great help at moving fecal matter through your intestines. This is very helpful to people who suffer from constipation, or irregular bowel movements.
Bananas and a Healthy Heart
One of the many minerals that is essential for the health of the heart is potassium, especially when talking about blood pressure control. Even though potassium is very important, most people are not getting nearly enough of it.
Bananas are a good, natural, dietary source of potassium; as a medium sized banana contains 9 percent of the RDI.
A diet that is rich in potassium can help to lower blood pressure, and people who eat plenty of potassium have up to a 27 percent lower risk of contracting heart disease.
Another mineral which can be found in bananas that is important for a healthy heart is magnesium.
Combining high levels of both magnesium, and potassium, in one fruit is a recipe for a healthy and functional heart!
Eating bananas can protect you from developing Type-2 diabetes by helping you to maintain a healthy metabolism.
Strengthen Nervous System
Due to the high Vitamin B6 content, bananas strengthen the nervous system and help with the production of white blood cells.
The magnesium in bananas helps to relax muscles, and decrease the risk of cramping during heat or exercise.
Read More: Magnesium for Leg Cramps
Bananas can help to overcome depression because of the high levels of tryptophan, which converts to serotonin ( a mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter).
The Vitamin B6 that is contained in bananas helps you to sleep well and helps induce REM sleep.
Eating just one banana a day can prevent your child from getting asthma by 34%, according to a study conducted by the Imperial College of London.
Additional Information: Home Remedies for Asthma
Bananas can reduce the risk of kidney cancer and macular degeneration, because of their high content of carotenoids
They are also high in other antioxidants that protect you against free radicals, and chronic disease.
Learn More: Foods High in Antioxidants
Bananas contain plenty of fructooligosaccharides, which feeds digestive-friendly probiotics and boost the body’s ability to absorb calcium and other nutrients.
Bananas Enhance Digestion
There are several ways that bananas can aid digestion, including all the following:
- Bananas act as a prebiotic, which stimulates the growth of the friendly bacteria in your bowel. They also produce digestive enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients.
- Bananas are rich in pectin, and they chelate toxins and heavy metals from your body.
- Since they are a natural antacid, bananas provide great relief from acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn.
- Bananas are soothing to the digestive tract, and assist in restoring lost electrolytes after diarrhea or any other digestive issues.
- Bananas happen to be the only raw fruit that can actually be consumed without distress, to help relieve ulcers. Bananas coat the lining of the stomach against corrosive acids.
- The high fiber content in bananas can help to normalize your bowel motility.
They are a great help for weight loss due to their sweet taste and satiating properties that help with cravings.
Pre & Post Workout
The mixture of slow-moving sugar together with electrolytes makes bananas ideal to consume before and during workouts
Bananas help with back pain due to their high content of potassium and magnesium, but don’t think that just by eating more bananas you can eliminate back pain
Negative Effects of Eating Bananas
The only negative aspect of eating too many bananas (yet reasonable amount) could be the triggering of headaches and sleepiness due to the amino acids in bananas that dilate blood vessels.
Overripe bananas are even more high in these amino acids, so it is wise to avoid them when possible.
Additional Ways Bananas Act as a Natural Cure
Eating a banana can help to prevent several health issues, including:
- When you eat bananas between meals, it will help to stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day. Stabilizing blood sugar levels is also a very good way to avoid binge eating, making bananas extremely helpful for this.
- The potassium and magnesium in bananas make it extremely efficient at helping to prevent nausea, or calm nauseous attacks.
- The intake of bananas helps to protect the eyes against macular degeneration, prevent kidney cancer, and help to build strong bones by increasing the absorption of calcium.
- Eating bananas makes you more intelligent, and enhances learning ability by making you more alert. You can eat a banana before an exam to benefit from the high levels of potassium.
- The natural mood enhancer known as tryptophan, which can be derived from bananas, helps to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- You can obtain a quick shine for your leather handbag or shoe by simply rubbing the inside of the banana peel on them, and polishing them with a dry cloth!
- For smokers that are quitting smoking, bananas can provide you with high levels of vitamin B, magnesium, and potassium to enable the enhancement of recovery from the negative effects of withdrawal.
- The inside of the banana peel can provide relief to itching, and irritation that is caused by a bug bite. Simply run the inside of the banana peel on the hives or bite.
- Due to the high levels of tryptophan which is converted into serotonin, bananas can help you overcome depression. Serotonin happens to be the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter!
Health Benefits of Banana Peels
The greatest risk from a banana peel happens to be slipping on it. The peels are not poisonous, as they are contrarily loaded with nutrients, and are edible.
Although the banana peel is often eaten in several parts of the world, they are not commonly eaten in the west.
The banana peel contains high amounts of vitamin B12 and B6, as well as potassium and magnesium.
According to an article in the Journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology in 2011, banana peels possess various bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and others.
Before eating banana peels, it is important to wash them thoroughly because pesticides may be sprayed in banana groves.
There are several ways of eating banana peels, as they are either served cooked, fried, or boiled; and they can also be eaten raw or blended with other fruits. They are as sweet as the flesh, and riper peels are sweeter than unripe ones.
How Many Bananas Should You Eat a Day?
When bananas are eaten in moderation, there are no major side effects associated with it. However, when they are eaten in excess, bananas may trigger sleepiness and headaches.
This can even be an additional benefit though (my personal favorite)!
Bananas are an excellent food to eat about an hour before you sleep, for a unique amount of reasons.
The tryptophan will help you with falling asleep, and the many other nutrients will help to prevent hunger or waking in the middle of the night.
For an athlete, there are few better foods on the planet to be ate consistently than the incredible, edible, banana!
Concluding Thoughts – Assessing Whether or Not Bananas Are Bad for You
One way in which you can immediately improve the benefits you obtain from eating bananas is by purchasing only organic bananas, because the conventional ones are sprayed with pesticides.
These pesticides are not only bad for you, but also for the environment and the poor workers that are exposed to the pesticides causing them all sorts of health conditions.
If you are the type of person who believes that the thick skin of banana will protect you, think again. The pesticides sprayed on bananas leach into the soil where the fruit is grown, and will end up inside the peel and eventually in your mouth.
Did you know that banana peels can be eaten too ( if organic)?
In many parts of the world, banana peels are eaten due to their high amounts of magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, fiber, protein, and various bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and carotenoids.
I know it may sound strange to eat the peel too, but I have actually tried it today in my smoothie and didn’t notice any difference at all!
Bananas are not very high in fat, and are not a great protein source.
If you want to make a healthy breakfast or post-workout snack ( or evening treat as I do), combine it with all-natural nut butter.