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Bananas are one of the most popular fruits worldwide. They contain essential nutrients that can have a protective impact on health.

Eating bananas can help lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of cancer.

This article will take a look at the potential health benefits of bananas, such as improving heart health and promoting regularity. It also examines the possible health risks that doctors have associated with bananas.

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Bananas are high in potassium and contain good levels of protein and dietary fiber.

The following sections explain some of the possible health benefits of bananas.

The nutrition information comes from the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) FoodData Central database.

Daily requirements are from the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These are for adults, but they are approximate, as the values vary according to a person's age and sex.

Blood pressure

The American Heart Association (AHA) encourage people to lower their intake of salt, or sodium, and increase their consumption of foods that contain potassium. Potassium can help manage blood pressure and reduce strain on the cardiovascular system.

A medium banana provides almost 9% of a person's daily potassium needs, according to the nutritional information from the above sources.

Asthma

A 2007 study suggested that eating bananas might help prevent wheezing in children with asthma. One reason for this could be the antioxidant and potassium content of bananas. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Cancer

Laboratory investigations have suggested that lectin, a protein that occurs in bananas, may help prevent leukemia cells from growing.

Lectin acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body remove molecules known as free radicals. If too many free radicals build up, cell damage can occur, potentially leading to cancer.

In 2004, researchers noted that children who consumed bananas, orange juice, or both appeared to have a lower risk of developing leukemia.

The study authors suggested that this could be due to the vitamin C content, as this, too, has antioxidant properties.

Heart health

Bananas contain fiber, potassium, folate, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C. All of these support heart health.

A 2017 review found that people who follow a high fiber diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those on a low fiber diet. Those who consumed more fiber also had lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol.

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommend eating bananas and other fruit as they contain fiber. They note that eating fiber can help lower blood sugar levels.

The author of a 2018 review concluded that eating a high fiber diet could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and may lower blood sugar in those who already have the disease.

Digestive health

Bananas contain water and fiber, both of which promote regularity and encourage digestive health. One medium banana provides approximately 10% of a person's fiber needs for a day.

Bananas are also part of an approach known as the BRAT diet, which some doctors recommend for treating diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Diarrhea can lead to a loss of water and electrolytes, such as potassium. Bananas can replace these nutrients.

High fiber foods can trigger bloating, gas, and stomach cramps in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a 2012 study. However, bananas may improve symptoms, the authors concluded.

The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America recommend banana as a snack food in their diet plan.

Preserving memory and boosting mood

Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that may help preserve memory, boost a person's ability to learn and remember things, and regulate mood.

Bananas are rich in the mineral potassium. Potassium helps maintain fluid levels in the body and regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of cells.

Potassium also helps muscles to contract and nerve cells to respond. It keeps the heart beating regularly and can reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure.

Potassium may reduce the risk of kidney stones forming as people age. In turn, healthy kidneys make sure that the right amount of potassium stays in the body.

One medium sized banana contains 422 milligrams (mg) of potassium.

It is best to try to get potassium from dietary sources, such as bananas. Otherwise, potassium supplements are available to purchase online.

Find out more about potassium.

The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in a medium sized banana. It also shows how much an adult needs of each nutrient, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Requirements vary according to the individual's sex and age.

NutrientAmount in one medium bananaDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)1051,800–3,000
Carbohydrate in grams (g)27, including 14.4 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)3.125.2–33.6
Protein (g)1.346–56
Magnesium (mg)31.9320–420
Phosphorus (mg)26700
Potassium (mg)4224,700
Selenium in micrograms (mcg)1.955
Choline (mg)11.6425–550
Vitamin C (mg)10.375–90
Folate (mcg DFE)23.6400
Beta carotene (mcg)30.7No data
Alpha carotene (mcg)29.5No data

Alpha and beta carotene, selenium, choline, and vitamin C all have antioxidant properties.

Fresh bananas are available year-round. Unlike some fruits, bananas continue to ripen after picking.

Bananas will ripen steadily at room temperature. To ripen faster, people can try keeping them in a paper bag.

Refrigerated bananas will ripen more slowly. The outer peel of the banana will darken in the fridge, but the banana itself will stay intact longer.

Tips for serving and eating

Here are some tips for using bananas:

  • Add a sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a more nutritious breakfast.
  • Mash ripe bananas and use to replace butter or oil in baked goods.
  • Add mashed bananas to muffins, cookies, and cakes for a naturally sweet flavor.
  • Add bananas to a smoothie.
  • Take a banana to work or school for a healthful, portable snack.

Other banana products

Other banana products include banana chips and banana powder. These products are available for purchase online.

People should check the label of processed products before buying them, as they may contain added sugar, salt, or fat.

Plantain is a savory cousin of the banana that is popular in Central America. People need to cook plantain before eating it. Plantain chips are also available to buy.

Some people should take care not to eat too many bananas.

Beta-blockers: Doctors often prescribe these drugs to reduce the risk of complications that they associate with cardiovascular disease. Beta-blockers can raise potassium levels in the blood.

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal. People who use beta-blockers should eat high potassium foods, such as bananas, in moderation.

What else should you know about beta-blockers? Find out here.

Allergy: Bananas may trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Anyone who experiences itching, hives, swelling, wheezing, or difficulty breathing should seek medical help at once. A severe reaction can lead to anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening.

Migraine: Bananas may trigger migraines in some people.

Summary

Bananas are a popular fruit that contain essential nutrients that help keep a person healthy.

It is worth noting that while the nutrients in bananas can boost health and prevent diseases, eating bananas may not have the same impact on everyone.

However, a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will provide a range of essential nutrients that can help keep a person well.

Q:

Are bananas really good for people with diabetes? Don’t they contain a lot of sugar?

A:

People with diabetes can eat bananas as part of a balanced diet. They contain naturally occurring sugars, so each person should consider the portion size. One-half of a medium banana equals one carb choice or about 12–15 g of carbohydrate.

Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.