Top 10 Banana Health Benefits

Little History Of The Banana The origins of the banana..

Top 10 Banana Health Benefits

Little History Of The Banana

The origins of the banana are as complex and convoluted as the nature of the banana’s taxonomic origins themselves.  Archeologists have focused on the Kuk valley of New Guinea around 8,000 BCE (Before Common Era) as the area where humans first domesticated the banana.  
 
Additionally, though this is the first known location of banana domestication. Other spontaneous domestication projects may have occurred throughout the Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Therefore, Kuk is the first known instance of banana domestication. But it is probably not the cradle from which all other domesticated species sprang.  
 
From New Guinea, the Kuk domesticated variety appears to have spread to the Philippines, and then radiated widely across the tropics.  
 
Researchers find it difficult to trace the diffusion of the banana after its arrival in the Philippine islands, and in many cases, it appears the banana was introduced into areas only to be reintroduced, and in a sense, rediscovered, hundreds or thousands of years later.  
 
Adding to the confusing tangle of banana proliferation is the parallel development of hybrid fruits.  
 
Human ingenuity manipulated the seedless, and thus asexual, forms of domesticated bananas into hybrids by careful techniques of culling and planting that fused and refined different domesticated varieties.  Thus, the origins of the banana have been difficult at best to pinpoint.  In general, however, it can be said that bananas originated in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific around 8,000 to 5,000 BCE.

1. Potassium

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Bananas are among the most convenient food sources of potassium. This mineral is essential for maintaining proper heart function and regulating normal blood pressure.

Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of potassium rich foods like bananas in lowering high blood pressure.

So much so that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows the banana industry to make official claims (much like they would a pharmaceutical drug) of their ability to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Further research by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests eating bananas regularly in your diet can cut your risk of having a stroke by up to 40%.

The potassium in bananas is also beneficial for your kidneys and bones. A good potassium intake suppresses calcium excretion in the urine that can lead to painful kidney stones.

This suppression of calcium loss also reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis and brittle bones. A banana or two a day can have some serious health benefits.

2. More Energy

What To Eat To Gain Weight And Build Muscle

Even with the proliferation of brightly colored ‘sports’ drinks, ‘energy’ bars and ‘electrolyte’ gels (these are loaded with unhealthy chemicals and coloring by the way) you often see athletes eating bananas just before and even during sports.

Watching tennis for instance, it’s not uncommon to see the players snacking on a bit of banana in between games. If a banana can keep a professional tennis player going, it’s got to rank pretty well in the high-quality energy source stakes.

Personally, I find the combination of natural sugars, balanced with the soluble fiber and potassium, to provide a good stable energy when eaten half an hour before gym or a run.
I’ve experimented with this – running or weights with, or without a banana – and seem to consistently do better when I have one before training.

Some people are worried about bananas spiking blood sugar. But tests show they actually have a glycemic index of around 52, with 24 g of available carbs (lower the less ripe they are).

That’s a glycemic load in the vicinity of 12 which isn’t considered that high. These figures will obviously vary depending on variety and ripeness.

Bananas make a great snack at work when your energy is lagging and while they might not be the most obvious weight loss food. 

They are only about 100 calories and can satisfy those sweet cravings.

So if you can replace candy bars and other junk foods with bananas, you might just have a really important step towards losing weight. As an added bonus your energy will be much more steady and consistent.

3. Helps Digestion

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Bananas are a great source of dietary fiber that most of us don’t get nearly enough of. Fiber helps the food you eat move smoothly through the digestive tract and improves elimination.

A couple of bananas may be a healthier choice than laxatives to treat occasional constipation.

Turning to another important element of digestion, bananas are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS for short thankfully). FOS is known as a prebiotic since it feeds the important friendly bacteria in the digestive tract that help us absorb nutrients more efficiently.

Bananas are also known to help relieve the symptoms of heartburn. So once again, try reaching for the natural cure with banana rather than antacids (though if this page gets shared around too much the makers of Metamucil and Mylanta and not going to be happy!).

4. Good for Ulcers

Eating bananas regularly may help protect against stomach ulcers. Compounds in bananas seem to create a thicker protective barrier in the stomach against hydrochloric acid.

Bananas also contain protease inhibitors that work to eliminate certain bacteria in the stomach implicated as a major cause of stomach ulcers.

5.  High in Vitamin B6

Bananas are particularly high in vitamin B6. This vitamin is important for creating hemoglobin for healthy blood.

B6 is also involved in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, synthesizing and breaking down amino acids and producing antibodies for a stronger immune response in your body.

Just one banana has a full fifth of your recommended daily intake of vitamin B6. And they taste much better than vitamin pills too!

6. Vitamins and Minerals

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Alongside the high levels of potassium and vitamin B6 already mentioned. Bananas also have good levels of vitamin C, magnesium and manganese.

They are also a source of most of the other B vitamins and smaller amounts of trace minerals like iodine, iron, selenium and zinc.

7.  Skin Conditions

Even the skins of this amazing fruit have their uses. Banana skins have been used externally to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.

The freshly peeled inside of the banana skin is gently rubbed over the affected area and the residue left on. This might be better done on a day indoors or before bed to avoid the banana smell when out and about.

Note too that in the case of psoriasis there apparently may be some further reddening initially, but this should improve after a few days of use. Patch test on a small area first if you have any concerns. It also usually take several weeks to get the full effects from this treatment.

Banana peel treatments are even used to heal warts. You rub a small piece of banana peel over the wart and then tightly tape it there overnight for at least a week, possibly several. 

Changing it to a new one each night.

People in online forums have reported good results with these simple treatments, though results with natural cures can be varied. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who’s tried any of them for themselves.

8. A Cancer Fighter?

Recent Japanese animal research linked bananas that are fully ripe (with the dark spots) to production of a compound called tumor necrosis factor (TNF–a). 

This compound is a cytokine which is believed to have the potential to increase white blood cell count. Thus enhancing your immunity and combating cancerous cell changes.

Personally, I don’t put too much stock in animal studies. Regardless, increasing overall fruit consumption in your diet has been consistently linked to a lower risk of developing various cancers.

9. Improving your Mood and Reducing Stress

Bananas are a good source of the amino acid tryptophan which your body converts to serotonin.

Amongst many other things, proper serotonin levels help improve your mood, reduce stress and enhance your general outlook and happiness levels. It also helps regulate good sleep patterns.

Tryptophan is considered an essential amino acid because the only way your body gets it is through your diet. Bananas, while certainly not the highest source out there, are one of the easiest ways to get a little more tryptophan. Another reason why bananas make such a great snack for those stressed out at work.

10. A Hangover Cure

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Bananas are a great hangover food for mornings when you’ve overdone it a bit the night before. A couple of bananas in a blender with ice, some berries and coconut milk or organic cow’s or goat’s milk makes a really good recovery drink.

Just about all the other health benefits already discussed come into play here. Of course the better solution is not to drink so much the night before. But just in case, it’s good to have some bananas around for the next morning.

As I tend to get mine in bulk and don’t always finish them before they get too ripe, I like to chop up any excess ones on their last legs and put them in a container in the freezer. These are great to drop straight from the freezer into the blender instead of ice cubes for brilliant creamy smoothies.

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So there you have 10 good reasons to pick up a bunch of bananas the next time you’re out shopping. While pesticides aren’t considered a significant problem with bananas. Fair trade fruits are worth looking for if you can find them.

How do you like to eat your bananas? Alone or mixed with other foods like on top of a healthy muesli or blended up in a smoothie?

I be interested to hear any ideas or suggestions you might have for more beneficial ways to enjoy bananas.

Banana Recipes

How To Make 2-Ingredient Banana Pancakes
Makes 8 small pancakes; recipe is easily doubled

What You Need

Ingredients
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • Butter or oil, for the pan

Optional extras (choose a few!):
1/8 teaspoon baking powder, for fluffier pancakes

1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or a mix
1 cup fresh fruit, like blueberries, raspberries, or chopped apples
Maple syrup, jam, powdered sugar, or any other toppings, to serve

Equipment

Small mixing bowls
Dinner fork
Cast iron or nonstick griddle or skillet
Very thin, wide spatula, like a pancake spatula or fish spatula

Instructions
  1. Mash the banana: Peel the banana and break it up into several big chunks in a bowl. Use a dinner fork to thoroughly mash the banana. Continue mashing until the banana has a pudding-like consistency and no large lumps remain; a few small lumps are okay. You should have 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mashed bananas.
  2. Add any extra ingredients: These pancakes are pretty great on their own, but a few extras never hurt. Add 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder for fluffier, lighter pancakes, and whisk in salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, or honey to flavor the pancakes. Save any chunky, heavy ingredients — like nuts or chocolate chips — for when the pancakes are on the griddle.
  3. Heat a griddle over medium heat: Melt a little butter or warm a little vegetable oil in the pan to prevent sticking, if you like.
  4. Drop the batter on hot griddle: Drop roughly 2 tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle. It should sizzle immediately — if not, turn up the heat slightly.
Cook For Another Minute
  1. Cook for about 1 minute: Cook the pancakes until the bottoms look browned and golden when you lift a corner. The edges should also be starting to look set, but the middle will still be loose like barely set Jell-O.
  2. Flip the pancakes: I’ve found it best to do this very gently and fairly slowly — the opposite of regular pancakes. 
  3. Cook for another minute or so: Cook the pancake for another minute or so, until the other side is also golden-brown. You can flip the pancakes a few times if you need to in order to get them evenly browned. (Flipping is much easier once the second side is set!)
  4. Serve warm: These pancakes are best when eaten fresh off the griddle and still warm. Serve with maple syrup, honey, jam, or any extra toppings you’d like.

Daniel Messer, RNutr, CPT

We eat clean, are always motivated and helpout beginners in need. We sell guides on Cutting, Bulking and Muscle Building. Checkout our website!

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