Health Benefits Of Bananas & Things You Didn’t Know

Banana In A Bowl

The Banana is much more than a snack that perfectly fits in your hand. It’s more than the fruit that’s unripe on your table for what seems like forever, perfectly ripe for several seconds, then overripe and attracting flies before you know it.

It’s also very good for your health. Bananas have medicinal virtues you’ve never dreamt of, unless you dream of heart health and digestion aids. Either way, you came to the right place. 

Bananas: Misunderstood?

 I can say with complete confidence that you’ve never seen a banana tree in your life. Not even a picture.

Now before you angrily comment that you’ve driven by a banana plantation once, or that you spend all your time googling banana related images, hear me out. Bananas don’t grow from trees at all, but from an herb. This herb just so happens to have the ability to grow about nine meters tall (Which is around thirty feet for us backwards Americans).

I can hear you say already: “No fair, that’s a pedantic technicality. I’m very annoyed that you felt the urge to point out that bananas grow from a tree-sized herb rather than a tree. Just let me eat my fruit in peace.”

Stop right there strawman. A banana is not only a fruit. It is also a berry. Yes, a berry is a type of fruit, but you don’t have to be wrong to be corrected. Bananas are produced from a single flower which contains an ovary, which makes them a berry.

For even more technical reasons, some scientists call bananas “false berries,” because other parts of the plant join with the ovary in producing the banana, rather than an ovary producing it alone. If you wanted to grow another banana plant, you would plant pieces of rhizomes or cuttings of the shoots.

The Radioactive Berry

Bananas are radioactive. No, this doesn’t mean they’ll give you powers if you eat them. I have eaten hundreds of bananas in my lifetime and I have yet to obtain any potassium-based abilities.

Nor does this mean the Russians are developing a banana based nuclear weapon. (Though they should, it might be more beneficial than a regular nuclear bomb.)

Bananas contain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, potassium-40 being the most important. Scientists jokingly use bananas as a unit of measurement for radiation. They call the radiation from one banana a “Banana equivalent dose” or BED. A banana equivalent dose is 0.1 micro-sieverts, or one tenth the amount or radiation you might get from an x-ray.

No one has ever developed radiation sickness from bananas. If you really want to, eat 10,000,000 bananas at once. If you can’t manage that, 274 bananas a day for an entire year will suffice. You would be the world-record holder for the most bananas eaten during a single lifetime. 

Nutrition Breakdown

Potassium

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know about the potassium content of bananas. Unfortunately, most Americans are not getting enough potassium in their diet, which means us banana-eaters are part of an exclusive heart-healthy crew.

All the cool kids go on and on about how much potassium contributes to their heart function and their blood pressure. Anyone who’s anyone knows that a potassium rich diet can contribute to a 27 % decrease in your risk of heart disease and hypertension. With all the cool kid cred you get from your increased potassium intake, you can quit smoking!

Magnesium

And did I mention that bananas really can help you quit smoking?

The magnesium and potassium content of bananas help the body feel less craving for nicotine. Magnesium helps assimilate calcium into bone, which means it assists in bone formation.

This means that eating bananas  is associated with more bone density, and a lower risk of osteoporosis.

So, a fun thing to try after eating a banana is asking your friends for a good kick in the shins. When they are grabbing the toes they broke on your steel-like shin, tell them to eat more bananas.

Vitamin B6

Banana SmoothieVitamin B6 is only one of the eight B vitamins, but boy is it important. The Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) found in bananas keeps the nervous system and brain functioning properly.

It also takes part in the vital process that produces hemoglobin, the protein in blood that carries oxygen through your body. B6 contributes to brain development for growing kids, as well as aging folks who need to keep up their brain health.

Studies suggest that Vitamins B6, B12, and folate could help halt cognitive decline and memory loss related to age.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the workhorse of nutrients; it protects our health, including eye health, cancer, stroke, and the heart. It is well known for boosting the immune system. And high vitamin C levels are an ideal marker for overall health.

Bananas have a high amount of vitamin C, but not as much as an orange. Sorry, didn’t mean to compare bananas and oranges.

The Health Benefits of Bananas

Big Banana Mood

Whenever I go too long between bananas, I get kind of bummed out. It’s not only because I love bananas. Bananas contain tryptophan, a protein that the body converts into serotonin.

Serotonin is known to be an excellent natural relaxant. Therefore consumption of bananas helps boost your mood, preserve your memory, and thus considerably diminish depression.

Stress tends to raise your blood pressure. If it gets too high, consider grabbing a banana, because they tend to lower blood pressure. Bananas provide a sustained, slow release of glucose, which allows your body more energy to combat stress.

Athletics

Fit Guy Eating A BananaBananas have a high mineral content and contain easily digestible carbs. These are both fantastic traits for those athletes who want to get ahead of the competition.

Soreness and muscle cramps affect up to ninety five percent of the population, but they affect the athletes among that ninety five percent even more.

The causes of most cramps are a mystery, but a common theory is that dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are to blame. Bananas help with both of these issues.

Dieting

Bananas are fantastic for diets. They’re super filling and very nutritious despite containing only 100 calories, more or less.

First, they’re extremely convenient, considering that they can be made into smoothies, placed in yogurt, or added to cereal, like they do in the commercials. It comes with it’s own resistant wrapper, the thick peel, so they’re easy to take to the gym.

They contain high amounts of fiber, which aids digestion. They also contain pectin, which curbs your appetite after you eat it.

The amounts of soluble fiber and pectin grow as the banana becomes riper, so be sure to wait until you see the tiny brown spots, then chow down. Click To Tweet

If you’re on a diet, or you just want to experiment with baking, try replacing the butter in your recipes with mashed banana!

Replacing butter with banana isn’t a 1:1 thing; you should start with half as much mashed banana as butter.

Don’t be afraid to add and remove banana as you see fit. Experimentation is always good. Also, since banana is so sweet, you can lower the amount of sugar you put in.

Antioxidants

The health benefits of bananas doesn’t stop there. Bananas contain several strong antioxidants, including a naturally occurring dopamine content.

The dopamine from a banana never crosses the blood-brain barrier, so it’s  unlikely that you’ll find someone mainline a banana smoothie intravenous to get that rush. But it does act as a strong antioxidant, which reduces damage from free radicals and lowers some disease risk.

The Hangover

We’ve all been there (well at least a lot of us). You drank too much last night at the nutritionist conference’s mixer/soiree. Your head is pounding and your limbs are sore from dancing your potassium-rich heart out.

Here’s a remedy to get back on your feet. Make porridge with a banana and honey. Bananas will calm the stomach, mainly with its natural fiber content. The honey will increase your blood sugar.

The regulating effects of digestible glucose in the banana will help you overcome the negative effects of the hangover, and ready for the next soiree.

Bananas Now, Bananas Forever

The banana plant produces only a single bunch in its life. Then it dies. It cannot reproduce, but it continues the same life in a different form.

For this reason, Buddha made the banana tree a symbol of the futility of earthly possessions. Classic Chinese artwork shows the Buddha meditating on this under the foot of a banana tree.

Too bad Buddha was wrong. Bananas grow from an herb.

The Buddha meditated on the wisdom of the banana. We write about how well the banana can improve your heart health, aid your digestion, and get you back on your feet after a long day at the gym or a long night at the bar. If you think about it, it’s kind of the same thing.

If you enjoyed this article, give it a share and let others find all about the banana too.  If you can think of anything we missed, let us know in the comments below!

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