11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are extremely healthy and delicious.
They contain several essential nutrients, and have benefits for digestion, heart health and weight loss.
Aside from being very nutritious, they are also a highly convenient snack food.
Here are 11 health benefits of bananas that are supported by scientific research.
1. Bananas Contain Many Important Nutrients
Bananas are among the most popular fruits on earth.
Native to Southeast Asia, they are now grown in many warmer parts of the world.
There are many types of bananas available, which vary in color, size and shape. The most common type is the yellow banana, which is green when unripe.
This is what ripe bananas typically look like:
Bananas contain a fair amount of fiber, as well as several antioxidants. One medium-sized banana (118 grams) also contains (1, 2, 3):
Potassium: 9% of the RDI. Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI. Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI. Magnesium: 8% of the RDI. Copper: 10% of the RDI. Manganese: 14% of the RDI. Net carbs: 24 grams. Fiber: 3.1 grams. Protein: 1.3 grams. Fat: 0.4 grams.
Each banana contains only about 105 calories, and consists almost exclusively of water and carbs. Bananas contain very little protein and almost no fat.
The carbs in unripe (green) bananas consist mostly of starch and resistant starch, but as the banana ripens, the starch turns into sugar (glucose, fructoseand sucrose).
Bottom Line: Bananas are rich in fiber, antioxidants and several nutrients. A medium-sized banana contains about 105 calories.
2. Bananas Contain Nutrients That Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Bananas are rich in a fiber called pectin, which gives the flesh its structural form (4).
Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which acts like soluble fiber and escapes digestion.
Both pectin and resistant starch may moderate blood sugar levels after meals, and reduce appetite by slowing stomach emptying (5, 6, 7).
Furthermore, bananas also rank low to medium on the glycemic index, which is a measure (from 0–100) of how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels.
The glycemic value of unripe bananas is about 30, while ripe bananas rank at about 60. The average value of all bananas is 51 (8, 9).
This means that bananas should not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in healthy individuals.
However, this may not apply to diabetics, which should probably avoid eating lots of well-ripened bananas and monitor their blood sugars carefully when they do.
Bottom Line: Bananas contain nutrients that can help moderate blood sugar levels after meals. They may also reduce appetite by slowing stomach emptying.
3. Bananas May Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefits, including improved digestion.
A medium-sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber, making bananas a fairly good fiber source (10).
Bananas contain mainly two types of fiber:
Pectin: Decreases as the banana ripens. Resistant starch: Found in unripe bananas.
Resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in our large intestine, where it becomes food for the beneficial gut bacteria (11, 12, 13).
Additionally, some cell studies propose that pectin may help protect against colon cancer (14, 15).
Bottom Line: Bananas are fairly rich in fiber and resistant starch, which may feed the friendly gut bacteria and help protect against colon cancer.
4. Bananas May Help With Weight Loss
No study has directly tested the effects of bananas on weight loss. However, bananas do have several features that should make them a weight loss friendly food.
For starters, bananas contain relatively few calories. An average banana contains just over 100 calories, yet it is also very nutritious and filling.
They are also rich in fiber. Eating more fiber from fruit and vegetables has repeatedly been linked with lower body weight and weight loss (16, 17, 18).