Background

Bananas are probably the most consumed fruits in the world. They are among the most appealing fruits, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies bananas as American’s favorite fruit. It is estimated that an average American consumes about 11.4 lbs of bananas annually. Bananas are loved because of their high nutrient content, and convenience as a snack help maintain a person’s health. They contain different essential nutrients and fibers with health benefits, including aiding digestion, heart health, weight loss, and antioxidants, among others.

Bananas are among the first fruits to be cultivated by man. Archeological studies show that bananas were planted in New Guinea as early as 8000 B.C. A banana plant is classified as a perennial herb, but the bananas themselves are classified as berries. There are more than 1000 varieties of bananas. But most of the bananas in the world circulation have been cloned from the Cavendish variety. Ecuador and the Philippines are the world’s largest banana producers, although the plant grows well in tropical and subtropical areas. There are wild bananas in South Asia, but they usually are not eaten due to the high number of hard seeds they contain.

Bananas can be consumed when ripe or cooked while still unripe. Bananas are generally green when unripe and yellow when ripe. Unripe bananas have several health benefits. These include protecting the body from gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and diarrhea, reducing cholesterol levels in the body, maintaining blood pressure, and studies showing that unripe bananas can help boost HIV patients’ immunity. Bananas become nutritious as they age, and nutrient levels increase as the fruit ripens. A 2009 study by the Food Science and Technology Research reported that the ripe bananas with dark spots had eight times more boosting power on white blood cells than unripe bananas. Boosting white blood cells helps the body in fighting pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

A banana peel does not pose any health risk apart from the possibility of slipping on it. Banana peels are not poisonous but are full of nutrients. They are eaten in many parts of the world due to their high levels of B6, B12, magnesium, potassium, and fibers. The peels also contain different bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and carotenoids. Since pesticides may have been used on the banana groves, it is essential to wash the peels before eating. Banana peels can be boiled, fried, or eaten raw and sometimes blended with other fruits. The peels from the ripe bananas are sweeter than those from unripe bananas.

Health Benefits of Bananas

Heart Health

Bananas are very effective in helping the heart keep on with their work of pumping blood. A banana has potassium needed by the heart to maintain osmotic pressure. Despite being important, most people do not include potassium in the diet. Bananas form a good source of dietary potassium, helping reduce blood pressure. People who eat diets containing potassium have a 27 percent reduced risk of heart diseases. By ensuring osmotic pressure is maintained, the functions of the heart can continue unabated. High potassium and sodium in bananas also help the cardiovascular system maintain a person’s blood pressure. According to a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama, potassium is responsible for arterial stiffness. The study found that the more potassium one had, the less likely they were to develop hardened arteries. This shows that eating bananas regularly provides essential nutrients such as potassium and sodium, which goes a long way in maintaining heart health.

Blood Sugar Levels

Pectin, a type of fiber, is found in abundance in bananas. Resistant starch is also found in large amounts in unripe bananas. Resistant starch easily escapes digestion, and together with pectin, they can regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the emptying of the stomach and reducing appetite.

The glycemic index (G.I.) is used to gauge the increase in blood sugar following a carbohydrate meal. Bananas rank low on the glycemic index since they do not cause a spike in blood sugars. Bananas may improve a person’s blood sugar values. The average G.I. value for bananas is 51, meaning that bananas should not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels in healthy people.

The body maintains the amount of sugar in the blood using insulin. Overripe bananas have a higher G.I. and are likely to spike a person’s blood sugars. People with low insulin sensitivity should limit their consumption of overripe bananas to maintain their health.

Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is a significant problem faced by people with serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Studies show that increasing your daily intake of resistant starch increases your insulin sensitivity by about 50 percent. Unripe bananas are a source of resistant starch and play a big part in improving one’s insulin sensitivity.

People with diabetes are keen on what they eat, keeping an eye on the amount and type of carbohydrates they eat. Bananas contain sugars that can easily raise blood sugar levels in diabetics and other people with low insulin sensitivity, and those who do not produce any insulin if not checked.

Kidney Health

Potassium is essential for controlling blood pressure and maintaining the health of the kidneys. Studies have shown that women who eat bananas are less likely to develop kidney problems than their counterparts who do not eat bananas.

Depression

Bananas have many health benefits, including helping maintain a person’s mood and avoiding depression. Bananas contain high levels of tryptophan that is easily converted to serotonin by the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for elevating a person’s mood.

Tryptophan is also known to help those struggling with sleep since it has some sleep-inducing properties.

Digestion and Weight Loss

Being rich in fibers, the fruit comes with a lot of health benefits. A banana has two types of fibers pectin and resistant starch that aid in digestion. Pectin fiber is thought to be protective against colon cancer, and the resistant starch fiber found in unripe bananas escapes digestion to become food for GIT bacteria.

Bananas have high fiber content, and experts say that a single fruit can provide up to 10% of a person’s daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 found in bananas is effective in curbing Type 2 diabetes and very effective in weight loss. Bananas may improve the weight loss process by reducing cravings since the fiber easily makes one full.

Resistant starch, a dietary fiber found in abundance in bananas, is very useful in supporting gut health and controlling blood sugar. The greener the banana, the higher the amount of resistant starch and fiber in it. Yellow bananas contain little amounts of resistant starch but more amounts of soluble fiber and sugar.

Bananas are not only nutritious and healthy but go a long way in helping in weight loss. Eating fibers from fruits like bananas is linked to weight loss. The resistant starch makes one full and reduces appetite immensely, contributing to weight loss.

Exercise

For those involved in exercises, it would be necessary always to have the fruit around since they are more effective than sports drinks mostly found in the market. The yellow fruit is considered perfect food for athletes due to its high mineral content and easily digestible carbs. It typically contains all the necessary replenishing energy and electrolytes needed during strenuous exercises. Bananas help get rid of exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness. According to a 2012 study published on PLOS One, the serotonin and dopamine in the fruit were instrumental in improving an athlete’s antioxidant capacity. By helping relieve some oxidative stress, the body’s performance automatically improves, making the person healthy.

Antioxidants

Vegetables and fruits form the primary sources of dietary antioxidants. Bananas contain several antioxidants, such as dopamine and catechins, that have many health benefits such as reducing incidences of cardiac diseases and degenerative illnesses. Dopamine from a banana does not cross the blood-brain barrier; hence can affect the feel-good feeling but only acts as an antioxidant. The antioxidant in bananas helps reduce damage caused by free radicals and reduces the risk posed by some diseases. The antioxidant capacity of the fruit is related to its catechin content.

Vision

Most people run to carrots for help on matters to help with their eyesight forgetting that bananas help improve a person’s vision. There are small but significant amounts of Vitamin A in a banana fruit that plays a significant role in protecting the eyes. Vitamin A is also vital for improving night vision and maintaining healthy vision. Macular degeneration, an irreversible condition that leads to blurred central vision, can also be prevented by eating bananas.

Bones

Bananas contain high amounts of fructooligosaccharides, a type of sugar that increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium. The body needs calcium to form strong bones, and the presence of these nutrients helps in the course.

Cancer

There is evidence suggesting that a moderate intake of bananas may be protective against kidney cancer. A study carried out in 2005 in Sweden found out that eating bananas was especially effective in reducing cancer cases in women by over 50 percent. Bananas have high levels of antioxidant phenols that are instrumental in the prevention of cancer.

Pregnancy

Banana plays a significant role in reducing cases of gestational diabetes. It is common to experience a lack of sleep during pregnancy, but the magnesium and tryptophan found in bananas can reverse this and ensure one has a good night’s sleep.

Side effects

Sleep and headaches

Bananas don’t pose any side effects when eaten in moderation. Eating many bananas within a short time may trigger side effects, which include sleepiness and headaches. The headaches may be caused by the amino acids contained in the bananas that cause vasodilation. These amino acids are mostly contained in overripe bananas. When eaten in excess, one is likely to experience a high amount of tryptophan’s side effects, which causes sleepiness. Another side effect of bananas is the relaxing effect caused by the magnesium they contain. The relaxing effect can be viewed as one of the health benefits and the side effects of the nutritious fruit.

Tooth decay

The fruit has a lot of sugar, and one is likely to eat many fruits. If a person fails to maintain good dental hygiene, they are likely to develop dental problems such as tooth decay due to high sugar levels. Bananas only pose a health risk if eaten in plenty, and experts recommend about two bananas a day.

Hyperkalemia

By eating more than two bananas a day, one risks having excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals in their bloodstream. A report by the University of Maryland Medical Centre showed that overconsumption of bananas led to hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia can pose a risk to heart health, predisposing one to irregular heartbeat, temporary paralysis, and muscle weakness. A banana does not contain enough fats and proteins to be considered a healthy meal on its own or offer enough post work out nutrients. Still, it provides the necessary blood sugars to replenish lost energy.

Conclusion

Other than being nutritious, bananas have numerous health benefits that should never be ignored. The health benefits of bananas are diverse, ranging from digestive, heart health, and kidney health to its use as antioxidants. Since they are low on calories, high on fiber, and nutrient-dense, they work tremendously on weight loss. The nutrients in the fruit are enough to cause health benefits and so limited that one has to eat very bananas to experience the side effects. The advantages of eating the bananas far outweigh the side effects posed except for those with type 2 diabetes and low insulin sensitivity.

Bananas are healthy and can be conveniently used as snacks or easily added to any diet. Bananas may improve a person’s diet if taken with yogurt, cereal, and smoothies. They can also be used as an alternative to sugar when baking. They are also easy to transport and eat, one only needs to peel them, and they are ready for eating. One should also try to include bananas in either of their meals since they are excellent antioxidants. Galocatechin is one of the antioxidants found in bananas. There are no side effects of eating banana peels other than the possible ingestion of pesticides used in the banana plantations.

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