Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruit throughout the world. They are convenient to eat, come in a perfect portion size and are loaded with health benefits.
Over centuries, bananas have been used to help stimulate brainpower and relieve a variety of health issues, including upset stomach, stress, acidity, constipation and premenstrual symptoms.
Bananas contain health-promoting flavonoids and phenolics such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, all of which act as free radical-fighting antioxidants. They’re also high in vitamin C, which is known for its infection-fighting properties, and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which may help prevent anemia and coronary artery disease.
A medium banana contains 358 milligrams of potassium, a mineral that may help regulate your heart rate and blood pressure. Bananas are excellent source of dietary fiber as well, which may help maintain optimal gut health. Some of the other nutrients that bananas provide include:
- Magnesium – Helps support healthy function of your heart, kidneys and muscles. It also aids in the production of energy in your body, helps improve mitochondrial health, and promotes mental and physical relaxation. One medium banana provides 8% of your daily requirement of magnesium
- Manganese – Plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol. It also helps activate the antioxidant enzyme and support bone development. One serving of a medium banana provides 14% of the recommended daily intake of manganese.
- Folate – Necessary for the creation of DNA and other genetic materials, folate also helps lower the risk for cancer and birth defects. A medium banana can supply 23.6 mcg of folate, or 6% of the RDI
One medium banana also provides
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Copper: 10% of the RDI
- Net carbs: 24 grams
- Fiber: 3.1 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: 0.4 gram
Each banana has only about 105 calories and consists almost exclusively of water and carbs. Bananas hold very little protein and almost no fat.
The carbs in green, unripe bananas consist mostly of starch and resistant starch, but as the banana ripens, the starch turns into sugar (glucose, fructose and sucrose).
Heart health: Bananas contain potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber – all of which might help reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fight against oxidative stress: Bananas contain powerful antioxidants, including phenolics and carotenoids, which can protect you against free radicals.
Promotes digestive health: Bananas are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers – great for digestion!
Lower the risk for Type 2 diabetes: Consuming 250 grams of bananas a day can help lower blood glucose levels.
Boosts mood and memory: Bananas contain tryptophan, which plays a role in the synthesis of serotonin in the brain, a compound responsible for promoting mood, behavior and cognition.
Lower the risk for asthma: A study study showed that children who ate a banana at least once a day were less susceptible to asthma attacks.
Improve athletic performance: Because of their potassium content, bananas help maintain energy levels and lower the risk for muscle cramps.
How to Buy
Bananas come in different sizes, colors and shapes, depending on how ripe they are, so choosing the best ones can be tricky. Here are some tips you can follow to ensure that you pick out the right banana that suits your taste:
- Pay attention to the color – Bananas that are bright yellow with brown spots have the fullest flavor, while those that have a greenish color are not yet fully ripe and may not be as sweet and soft as fully ripened ones.
- Take note of when you’ll eat them – If you are going eat them right away, choose bright-yellow bananas with brown specks. For eating in a couple of days, pick bananas that still have green color at the ends, as they will ripen over time.
- Check their texture – Choose bananas that are full and plump, but still feel soft and firm.
- Look out for bruises and dull gray coloring – Although bananas that have light brown speckles are OK to eat, you should avoid those that have depressed, moist and dark spots on the peel since they usually indicate that the flesh is bruised.
Bananas that have a dull gray undertone may have been frozen or overheated right before they ripened properly and this could affect their overall taste.
How to Store
Remove any plastic wrapping. Store on the counter at room temperature, away from other fruit (unless you’re trying to ripen those fruit). Once ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator. The skin may darken, but the banana will be just right for several days
If you bought a bunch of bananas and want to eat them over the course of a week, you can store them in the freezer to keep them from becoming overripe and to maintain the color of their skin. Bananas can be frozen with or without the peel, but the peel can be difficult to remove when frozen. It’s best to peel them and store in an airtight container. If leaving the peel on, place loose in the freezer and, when ready to use, cut off both ends and slide a knife under the peel to loosen.
If you simply refrigerate them, their skin will turn brown. You should also keep them away from other fruits, as they will ripen quickly with other fruits around.
Browning or spotted bananas are perfectly fine to eat. Bruised parts of bananas may be easily cut away or used. Very brown or nearly black bananas and frozen bananas are great for baking quick breads, muffins, or cakes.
How to Cook
There are many ways to incorporate bananas into your diet – you can eat it as is, bake it into a dessert or even dehydrate it and add to a trail mix.