By Pam Teel
…that there are specific benefits to eating a Banana. Bananas are one of the world’s most appealing fruits. Global banana ex- ports reached about 18 million tons in 2015 with about half of them going to the United States and the European market.
The banana plant is classified as an arborescent (tree-like) perennial herb, and the banana itself is considered a berry. A bunch of bananas is called a hand; a single banana is a finger.
There are almost 1,000 varieties of bananas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Nearly all the bananas sold in stores are cloned from just one variety, the Cavendish banana plant, originally native to Southeast Asia. Botanically, there is no difference between plantains and bananas. But in general use, “banana” refers to the sweeter form of the fruit, which is often eaten uncooked, while “plantain” refers to a starchier fruit that is often cooked before eating.
A wide variety of health benefits are associated with Bananas. They are high in potassium and pectin, a form of fiber. They can also be a good way to get magnesium and vitamins C and B6. They are known to reduce swelling, protect against developing Type 2 diabetes, aid in weight loss, strengthen the nervous system, and help with production of white blood cells, all due to the high level of vitamin B6 that bananas contains. Bananas are high in antioxidants, which can provide protection from free radicals, which we come into contact with every day, from the sunlight to the lotion you put on your skin.
A 2017 study suggested that unripe green bananas offer some health benefits too. They may help with controlling gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and ulcers, and may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Some studies have suggested that the lectins in green bananas could provide treatment for HIV patients.
At the other end of a banana’s life, research has shown that the levels of nutrients rise in bananas as they ripen. Bananas with dark spots were eight times more effective in enhancing the power of white blood cells than green-skin bananas, according to a 2009 study published in Food Science and Technology Research. White blood cells fight infections from bacteria, fungi, viruses and other pathogens.
Bananas are good for your heart. They are packed with potassium, a mineral electrolyte that keeps electricity flowing throughout your body, which is required to keep your heart beating. Bananas’ high potassium and low sodium content may also help protect your cardiovascular system against high blood pressure.
A 2017 animal study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama found that the potassium in bananas is also linked to arterial effectiveness; the more potassium you have, the less likely your arteries are to harden. In the study, mice with lower-potassium diet had harder arteries than mice consuming a normal amount of potassium. Arterial stiffness in humans is linked to heart disease.
Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotrans- mitter. Plus, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles. Additionally, the tryptophan in bananas is well known for its sleep-induc- ing properties.
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings.
Bananas are particularly high in resistant starch, a form of dietary fiber. A 2017 review published in Nutrition Bulletin found that the resistant starch in bananas may support gut health and control blood sugar. Resistant starch increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which are necessary to gut health. When exercising and for replenishing energy and electrolytes, bananas can be more effective than sports drinks. The banana’s serotonin and dopamine improved the athletes’ antioxidant capacity and helped with oxidative stress, improving performance overall.
Bananas contain a small but significant amount of vitamin A, which is essential for protecting your eyes, maintaining normal vision and improving vision at night, according to the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A contains compounds that preserve the membranes around your eyes and are an element in the proteins that bring light to your corneas. Like other fruits, bananas can help prevent macular degeneration, an incurable condition, which blurs central vision.
Bananas may not be overflowing with calcium, but they are still helpful in keeping bones strong. Bananas contain an abundance of fructooligosaccharides. These are nondigestive carbohydrates that encourage digestive-friendly probiotics and enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Some evidence suggests that moderate consumption of bananas may be protective against kidney cancer. A 2005 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 75 servings of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of kidney cancer by 40 percent, and that bananas were especially effective. Women eating four to six bananas a week halved their risk of developing kidney cancer. Bananas may be helpful in preventing kidney cancer because of their high levels of antioxidant phenolic compounds.
If you eat bananas in moderation, there are no significant side effects but eating them in excess may trigger headaches and sleepiness. The headaches are caused by the amino acids in bananas that dilate blood vessels. Overripe bananas contain more of these amino acids than other bananas. Bananas can also contribute to sleepiness when eaten in excess due to the high amount of tryptophan found in them. Magnesium also relaxes the muscles — another sometimes-benefit, some- times-risk.
Bananas are a sugary fruit, so eating too many and not maintaining proper dental hygiene practices can lead to tooth decay. They also do not contain enough fat or protein to be a healthy meal on their own, or an effective post-workout snack.
Did you know that Banana peels are not poisonous? In fact, they’re edible, and packed with nutrients. “Banana peel is eaten in many parts of the world. It con- tains high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium. It also contains some fiber and protein. Banana peels also have “various bioactive compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and others.
It is important to carefully wash a banana peel before eating it due to the pesticides that may be sprayed in banana groves. Banana peels are usually served cooked, boiled or fried, though they can be eaten raw or put in a blender with other fruits. They are not as sweet as banana flesh. Riper peels will be sweeter than unripe ones.