Have you ever snacked on a banana at work and gotten the smug look from your co-workers that says, “Don’t you know how many calories there are in a banana?” It seems that lots of women, all very intelligent and well educated, would forgo eating bananas because they’ve heard that bananas are extremely fattening.
Let’s put that particular truism to bed and give ourselves permission to eat one of the most wonderful foods on the planet. Here are the incredible health benefits of bananas, one of nature’s truly finest fruits.
Are bananas fattening?
The idea that bananas are fattening comes from the fact that they have a higher calorie count and carbohydrate density than other fruits. Actually, all this means is that one large one should be treated as two portions of fruit rather than one. Half a banana contains around 15g of carbohydrate, equal to a medium-sized apple, a cup of berries, or a small glass of fruit juice, and it doesn’t contain any fat.
Of course, everything should be consumed in moderation. If you snack on ten bananas a day, then you are going to put on weight. However, having one a day certainly won’t harm you and will have enormous benefits for your health. Because of their high carbohydrate content bananas provide slow-release energy and are a great snack before a workout or to stave off hunger pangs until your next meal.
What are the health benefits of bananas?
The main benefit of a banana is that it’s packed full of potassium. This is essential for muscle contractions, meaning that it is needed to maintain a regular heartbeat, to promote digestion, and for everyday movement. Potassium also suppresses calcium excretion, reducing the risk of kidney stones and bone conditions such as osteoporosis. Potassium deficiency has been linked with high blood pressure, so a banana a day can help to keep your blood pressure down.
Another benefit is that it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that builds proteins in the body. Tryptophan is particularly important in helping to produce serotonin in the brain which regulates mood and acts as a mild sedative. This means that a banana can assist in your getting a good night’s sleep.
The third great benefit of banana is that it contains Vitamin B6. This is vital in making hemoglobin and in producing antibodies for immune response. It also helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose, stabilizing blood sugar levels and decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a growing problem in Western society. As well as Vitamin B6, bananas are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, phosphorous, and niacin.
The final key health benefit is that it is a wonderful source of dietary fiber. As well as aiding digestion and elimination, high fiber diets have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Including bananas in your diet
Bananas are a very practical snack. As well as being healthy they are easy to eat, they come in their own natural wrapper, and they don’t require cooking or cleaning. Here are a few additional ways to include bananas in your diet:
- Slice a banana and mix with natural yogurt, raisins and a little honey for a delicious breakfast or dessert
- Blend one with milk or orange juice for a tasty smoothie
- Bake a banana on a medium heat for 20 minutes and serve with ice cream
- Mash one on a toasted muffin or bagel
- Snack on dried banana chips for a crunchy energy boost
- Mix slices with your regular breakfast cereal