10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas!

bananas exercise

Uncommon facts on this common fruit

Banana is also called as Musaceae and is one of the world’s most important fruit crop.  It is widely cultivated in tropical countries.  There are more than 500 different species of banana.  The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant.

banana heart Bananas have a false stem called pseudostem, which is made from the lower part of the leaves. The pseudostem can grow up to two to eight meters tall.  Each pseudostem grows from a corm.

A pseudostem produces a single bunch of bananas.  After fruiting, the pseudostem dies.  When bananas are ripe, they turn yellow or red in color and unripe bananas are green in color.  The banana fruits grow from a banana blossom in hanging clusters, which is also called a bunch or banana stem. The fruits grow in rows called tiers or hands. There can be as many as 20 fruits to a hand, and as many as 20 tiers in a bunch.

A bunch usually weighs between 30 and 50 kilograms.  A single fruit weighs around 125 grams on average.  Each banana has a protective outer layer called the peel or skin.  There is a fleshy part inside the skin, which readily splits into three segments and is the only known tri-segmented fruit in the world.  Bananas are rich in potassium and fiber.  They contain several essential nutrients and are beneficial for digestion, heart health, and weight loss.

Nutritional facts of bananas

Serving size:  1 medium banana (126 g)

  • Calories 110
  • Total Carbohydrate 30 g
  • Dietary fiber 3 g
  • Sugars 19 g
  • Potassium 450 mg
  • Protein 1 g
  • Vitamin A 2%
  • Vitamin C 15%
  • Iron 2%

 

Types of bananas

There are more than 500 types of bananas and have their own categories.  All the varieties might not be known by many people. A banana is by far the most common and popular fruit consumed around the world.  Let us discuss the most common forms of bananas.

Cavendish Bananas

Cavendish variety of bananas are the best type of bananas, which is very popular and are produced in high quantities.  The production of this variety reaches around 105 million tons each year. Cavendish bananas are used in many desserts.

Plantain Bananas

Plantain bananas are also known as cooking bananas.  These varieties of banana can be consumed locally and are found in many tropical countries.  They are also used as an alternative for potatoes and rice in different cuisines due to their low cost.

Baby bananas

Baby bananas are small sized bananas and are almost half the size of the normal Cavendish bananas.  Baby banana skin is a deep brown with darker streaks on it and is generally consumed as a snack.

Manzano Bananas

Manzano banana variety belongs to Central America and South America.  These types of banana are also known as Apple bananas.  Manzano banana has a very strong tart-apple smell and is also firmer in comparison to other types.  Manzano banana is sweet in taste and is found easily in the markets.

Red Bananas

Red bananas are very delicious compared to the bananas discussed above.  These varieties of banana have a very creamy texture and sweet taste.  A red ripe banana is a bit in the dark shade of magenta.

Burro Bananas

Burro bananas are also known as chunky bananas because they are fatter and more in size than the normal Cavendish bananas found regularly.  Burro bananas are mostly grown in Mexico but are also found in America as well.  This variety of banana has yellow skin and a greatly balanced sweet as well as sour taste.

Apple Bananas

Apple bananas are also known as candy apple banana.  The flesh of this banana is pink in color and does not brown quickly and is preferred for fruit salads overall.

Lady Finger Bananas

As the name goes, lady finger bananas are smaller, but longer types of bananas.  These varieties of banana are sweeter than the Cavendish bananas and are also widely used.

Ice Cream (Blue Java) Bananas

Ice cream bananas are chubby bananas and grow up to 7 inches long.  The skin is a blotchy, silvery-blue and the flesh is creamy white in color.  The flavor is similar to rich ice cream.

Health benefits of bananas

Rich in Nutrients

bananas  exerciseBananas are considered to be the world’s most popular fruit.  They vary in color, size, and shape.  The most common type used is the Cavendish, which is a dessert banana.  Bananas contain a good amount of fiber, as well as several antioxidants.  A medium-sized banana weighing around 118 grams may contain the following nutrients:

  • Potassium: 9% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Vitamin B6: 33% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Vitamin C: 11% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Magnesium: 8% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Copper: 10% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Manganese: 14% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Net carbs: 24 grams.
  • Fiber:1 gram.
  • Protein:3 grams.
  • Fat:4 grams.

Each banana has around 105 calories and mainly consists of water and carbs.  Bananas contain almost no fat and very little protein.  The starch content, which is the mainstay of raw banana, gets converted to sugar such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose when the banana ripens.

Bananas can regulate blood sugar levels

Bananas are rich in fiber called pectin, which gives the flesh a spongy structural form.  Raw bananas contain resistant starch and act like soluble fiber and escape digestion Both pectin and resistant starch are known to moderate blood sugar levels after meals and reduce appetite by slowing the emptying of the stomach.  Bananas rank low to medium on the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure from 0 to 100 of how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels and the GI value of raw bananas is about 30 and GI value of ripe bananas is 60.  Bananas generally do not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in healthy individuals, but people suffering from type 2 diabetes should avoid eating a large number of ripe bananas and monitor their blood sugar carefully.

Improves digestive health

Dietary fiber is known for many health benefits, including improved digestion.  A medium-sized banana contains around 3 grams of fiber, which makes them a good source of fiber.  The two main types of fiber in bananas are pectin and resistant starch.  Resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in the large intestine and becomes food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut.  Studies have proven that pectin may help protect against colon cancer.

Aids Weight Loss

People these days try a different type of weight loss methods and few are successful and few are unsuccessful.  There is no direct relation of bananas helping in weight loss, but the properties of bananas should make them a weight-loss-friendly-food.   Bananas have relatively very few calories, which on average are around 100 calories, but are very nutritious and filling.  Consuming more fiber from vegetables and fruits are associated with lower body weight and weight loss.

Supports Heart Health

Maintaining a healthy heart is by far the most important thing to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Potassium is a mineral, which is very essential for blood pressure control and maintains a healthy heart.  Bananas are a rich dietary source of potassium and one medium-sized banana weighing around 118 grams contains 9% potassium of the recommended daily intake.  A potassium-rich diet helps lower blood pressure and decreases the risk of heart diseases.  Bananas also contain a good amount of magnesium, which is also beneficial for heart health.

Bananas Contain Powerful Antioxidants

banana weight lossAntioxidants are substances, which can prevent or slow the damage to cells caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures.  It is well known that fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary antioxidants and bananas are one among them.  Bananas contain several types of potent antioxidants namely dopamine and catechins.  These antioxidants are known for many health benefits including eradicating the free radicals from the body and reduce the risk of heart disease and degenerative illnesses.  Due to these properties of bananas, it is very important to add bananas to the diet for a healthy heart.

Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is a medical condition when cells in the muscles, body fat, and liver start resisting or ignoring the signal, which is sent by the hormone insulin.  Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes.   Studies have shown that consuming 15 to 30 grams of resistant starch per day may improve insulin sensitivity by 33% to 50%.  Raw bananas are a rich source of resistant starch and consuming them may help improve insulin sensitivity.

Improve Kidney Health

Kidney disease occurs when a disease or condition impairs the functioning of the kidney normally and causing kidney damage to worsen over several months or years.  Some of the main reasons for kidney disease include diabetes and high blood pressure.  Banana seems to be very helpful in regulating both these diseases and prevent kidney disease.  The dietary fiber in bananas helps regulate insulin levels and manage diabetes.  A mineral called potassium, which is abundant in bananas helps to lower the blood pressure.

Depression and Mood

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness and a general loss of interest in things.  Bananas are known to be helpful in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan.  Tryptophan is converted to serotonin by the body, which is a mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter.  Other components of banana such as vitamin B6 can help sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles.  Due to these properties of banana, it is advised to be added to our daily diet.

Benefits the body during exercise

Bananas are usually very common in an athlete’s diet largely due to their mineral content and easily digested carbs.  Studies have shown that consuming bananas help reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness, which can affect many athletes.  Due to the nutritional contents of banana, they help in balancing the electrolytes and promote hydration, which is very essential during exercise and after exercise.

Side effects of bananas

Bananas are considered very healthy and nutritional in all forms and have various health benefits, but also do have very few side effects.  Some people may have an allergy to bananas and may experience symptoms in the mouth and throat such as itching, hives, swelling and wheezing.  There are some instances when bananas can trigger migraines in some people.  People who are prone to migraines are advised to consume very little or no bananas.  Bananas are also a rich source of fiber and an excess amount of banana consumption may cause bloating and stomach cramps.

Interactions of banana with drugs

Bananas are known to interact with certain medications used for heart disease and hypertension, which are classified as beta-blockers.  Beta-blockers work by blocking the actions of the hormone aldosterone and tend to increase the production of potassium.  People who have been prescribed these medications such as beta-blockers are advised to consume bananas in lower quantities since potassium is abundant in bananas and may increase the levels of potassium even higher and cause a medical condition called as hyperkalemia.

Banana: Peeling layers of nutrition

bananas pregnancyBananas are by far the most popular fruit that happens to provide numerous health benefits.  They are known to boost digestion and heart health due to their fiber and antioxidant content.  They help in weight loss, as they are relatively low in calorie and are nutrient-dense.  Bananas are a rich source of dietary fiber and potent antioxidants.  Bananas are helpful to reduce blood pressure and regulate insulin levels, which in turn protects the kidney.  Due to all these factors, it is very essential to add a banana to our daily diet.  There is a small amount of risk factor associated with banana consumption but is only related to consuming large quantities.

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