Banana Health Benefits

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Banana is one of the most widely consumed fruit in the world. Considering the nutritional facts, it is the one of the world’s leading food crop with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, carbohydrates and so on. Banana is highly valued for its medicinal and healing properties. Various factors make banana a perfect food such as its sweet taste, texture, portion size, convenience, easy availability, and cost. Most healthy foods are expensive, but bananas are very cost-effective.

Health Benefits of Banana

Banana is a low-cost fruit, which provides a number of health benefits. Some of its health benefits include – an amazing fruit that protects the gut and improves digestive health, provides energy instantly for a power-packed exercise performance, protects the heart and lowers high cholesterol level, contains a wide range of antioxidants and polyphenols that boost immune system and so on. Let’s find out more health benefits of banana in detail:

Nutritional Benefits

Banana is a super-fruit and is packed with an array of nutrients. Banana has shown to be a rich source of –

  1. Vitamin A
  2. Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
  3. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  4. Niacin (Vitamin B3)
  5. Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
  6. Vitamin C

In unripe banana, vitamin K was found to be abundant. Besides this, many researches claim that banana is also completely filled with a variety of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Thus, eating banana daily is a very easy way to incorporate so many nutrients in your daily diet. (1)

Carbohydrate Content

Bananas are highly appreciated for its high carbohydrate content. The main source of energy for our body and brain to work efficiently is carbohydrate. Banana is starchy fruit that contains rapidly digestible starch. Rapidly digestible starch is digested and broken down to glucose within 20 minutes. Thus, it provides quick energy to the body. This makes banana an amazingly instant energy providing fruit.

Scientific studies have also shown that banana is also a source of indigestible carbohydrates. Whenever you consume a food containing carbohydrate, it is broken down to glucose in the gastrointestinal tract. But in case of indigestible carbohydrates, starch escapes digestion in the small intestine and directly enters the large intestine where it works on improving the overall health of digestive system.

As the fruit matures or ripens, the carbohydrate content increases. Furthermore, on ripening the starch content decreases and the amount of soluble sugar increases, that is, starch gets converted to soluble sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. Other sugars such as maltose and rhamnose are also present in very small quantities. (2)

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are bioactive compounds that provide a number of health benefits. Both banana peel and banana pulp are abundant sources of polyphenols. Pulp of raw banana contains the following polyphenols:

  1. CATECHIN
  2. EPICATECHIN
  3. EPIGALLOCATECHIN
  4. GALLIC ACID
  5. PRODELPHINIDIN DIMER
  6. QUERCETIN
  7. NARINGENIN
  8. CHOLOROGENIC ACID

Over the past decade, polyphenols have been receiving a lot of importance and it is found that foods rich in polyphenols are very beneficial for overall human health. Furthermore, it is also observed that polyphenols prevent a number of diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.

A study compared the total phenolic content of various bananas and found that green banana had the greatest phenolic content followed by yellow banana followed by other varieties of banana such as RASTALI and KARPOORAVALLI banana (famous in South India). (3, 4)

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress and oxidative damage to lipids, proteins and DNA is implicated in the etiology of various chronic diseases. Several researches have explored the antioxidant properties of banana. Banana has also shown to have high free radical scavenging capacity. Thus, it scavenges the harmful radicals and protects the body against oxidative damage. Antioxidants present in banana include:

  1. Ascorbic acid
  2. Tocopherol
  3. Beta-carotene
  4. Phenolic groups
  5. Dopamine

Therefore, with presence of so many antioxidants in banana, it is considered as a natural store of antioxidants. (5, 6)

Carotenoids

The list of nutrients and health promoting compounds present in banana does not just end here. Banana is an amazing source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids. These carotenoids play a very vital role in alleviating vitamin A deficiency. Studies have also found other beneficial roles of foods rich in carotenoids such as protection against cardiovascular disease, cancer, cataracts, and diabetes mellitus. Thus, banana may help to correct vitamin A status and prevent vitamin A deficiency. (7)

Therapeutic Benefits of Banana

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Banana is one such fruit, which is of great importance for individuals with hypertension or high blood pressure. Scientific research has identified that banana has a very high angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitory activity. Angiotensin converting enzyme is an enzyme that raises the blood pressure by causing the blood vessels to constrict. In other words, banana reduces the activity of this enzyme and prevents an increase in the blood pressure.

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Cold stress, that is, body’s response to cold temperatures may raise the blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that banana may reduce the blood pressure, which is associated with cold stress. Banana acts as a vasodilator that helps the walls of the blood vessels to relax and widens the blood vessels. This ensures smooth blood flow throughout the body. In addition to this, banana has also shown to reduce a rise in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure at rest. (8)

Energy Source for Endurance Exercises

Research has found that bananas are the best source of energy for endurance athletes because of their high carbohydrate and potassium content. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy and before exercise or workout, it is important to eat a carbohydrate rich food to supply the body with continuous energy. In addition to this, potassium is required for proper muscle functioning and keeps muscle cramps, muscle weakness and muscle fatigue at bay. Furthermore, heavy exertion induces inflammation and oxidative stress. It has been found that the antioxidant capacity of banana is equal to that of kiwi fruit or orange juice. As banana provides all the important factors that are required for an impactful and power-packed exercise performance, it becomes the most important and cost-effective fruit for athletes.

A research published in 2012 compared the effect of consuming a banana versus consuming a carbohydrate drink on post-exercise inflammation, oxidative stress and immune function. It was observed that both the groups had similar beneficial results and carbohydrate drink can be easily replaced with cost effective banana. (9)

Gastric Ulcers

It has been observed that unripe plantain banana may play a protective role against ASPIRIN induced ulcerations. Banana also stimulates the growth of gastric mucosa, that is, it increases the thickness of inner lining of the stomach and thus promotes quick healing. This antiulcerogenic principle was found only in unripe banana. Furthermore, it was also observed that consuming banana strengthened the resistance of stomach lining against ulcerations and erosions. Another study showed that the presence of flavonoid ‘LEUCOCYANIDIN’ played a beneficial role against ulcerations and promoted quick healing. (10, 11)

Anemia

Anemia is a disorder, which is very common in females. Very low hemoglobin levels can have life-threatening effects, thus, it is important to correct these levels as soon as one can. A very interesting research was carried out to observe the effect of banana on hemoglobin levels. The results showed an increase in the hemoglobin levels, packed cell volume (PCV), red blood cell count (RBC), and platelet after banana was consumed. Thus, it can be used in the treatment of anemia and can raise the hemoglobin levels. (12)

High Cholesterol Levels

Several studies have observed cholesterol-lowering potential of banana. A very interesting research found that freeze-dried banana pulp had a greater cholesterol lowering capacity as compared to pulp of banana dried in hot-air current. Hot-air drying leads to browning of banana that may further lead to loss of nutrients present in banana that lower the high cholesterol levels. Furthermore, it was observed that the cholesterol lowering effect of banana was attributed to the presence of both soluble and insoluble fiber in it.

The presence of flavonoids in unripe banana also possesses cholesterol-lowering effect. This showed reduction in concentrations of cholesterol, free fatty acid, triglycerides and phospholipids in blood, kidney, liver and brain. The excretion of bile acids also increased. Thus, individuals with high cholesterol levels should make banana a part of their daily diet. (13, 14)

Cardiovascular Diseases or Heart Diseases

Lipid peroxidation and oxidation of LDL – low-density lipoprotein cholesterol plays an important role in the onset of atherogenesis (formation and accumulation of fatty lipid mass in the arterial walls, further leading to heart diseases). It was found that consuming banana reduced the level of LDL cholesterol and its susceptibility to oxidation also reduced. The presence of polyphenol ‘Quercetin’ in banana also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has further shown to improve endothelial function, that is, it reduced damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. Thus, individuals with heart disease should make banana a part of their daily diet, as eating banana everyday can be heart-protective. (15, 16)

Cancer

Oxidative stress and increased load of free radicals play a vital role in the onset of cancer. In order to cut down the risk of cancer, it is important to consume foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge the free radicals and keeps oxidative stress at bay. Research has observed anti-cancer properties of banana and this is attributed to its high antioxidant potential. Banana is a great source of antioxidants that counteract the harmful free radicals. It has further shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells. Thus, banana prevents the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.

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Besides this, banana is a great source of energy and other vital nutrients, which may be required by cancer patients as their body is in a state of negative energy balance. Such a healthy nutrient composition makes banana a perfect fruit for individuals with cancer. (17)

Diarrhea

Banana has been appreciated for its anti-diarrheal effects in children as well as adults. A research found that children with diarrhea when treated with pectin or green banana had reduced episodes of diarrhea and watery stools as compared to children who were not treated with banana. In these children banana had significantly reduced amount of stool as well as number of vomiting and diarrhea duration. Green banana has also shown to escape digestion in small intestine. Thus, it improves the overall digestive health. Children with severe diarrhea can be successfully treated at home with banana. (18, 19)

Weaning Food

It is very well known that ripe banana is a great source of energy, a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and easily digestible carbohydrate and sugars. Such a composition makes banana a perfect food for babies. Besides this, banana also helps in the treatment of diarrhea, which is a very common problem in children. A mashed banana is the perfect way to restore your baby’s energy levels. (20)

Insomnia

Insomnia or improper sleep at night is a very common disorder, which is giving rise to other diseases and disorders. Banana contains an amino acid called tryptophan. This tryptophan is used in the production serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin and melatonin are two neurotransmitters that regulate your sleep cycle. Thus, tryptophan containing foods induce sleepiness. Therefore, individuals with insomnia or other sleep disorders can consume a banana before going to bed. (21)

Kidney Stones

Banana has shown to play an effective role in the treatment of kidney stones. The presence of potassium, nitrate and magnesium in banana plant extract has shown to reduce the size of kidney stones. Furthermore, magnesium also inhibits the formation of kidney stones and thus, plays a protective role. (22)

Green Raw Banana
Green Raw Banana

Medicinal Uses

Angina pectoris

  1. Take a medium banana and mash its pulp with 20 grams honey.
  2. Eat this honey banana once every day on empty stomach for at least 15 days.

Banana with honey reduces chest pain and prevents angina pectoris.

Frequent urination

Banana with Amla powder or juice helps reducing frequent urination and prevents nocturia (frequent urination in night).

  1. Take a medium ripe banana and mash its pulp with 1 tsp. of Amla and 1 tsp. of brown sugar.
  2. Eat this mixture once a day for 10 to 15 days on regular basis.

Warnings & Precautions

Migraine: Banana and alcohol when consumed together may aggravate a migraine attack. Therefore, such a combination should be strictly avoided by individuals with migraine. (23)

Type 2 diabetes mellitus: Consuming one small ripe banana per day will not cause any harm to individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Unripe banana contains resistant starch and more of dietary fiber, but ripe banana contains more of simple sugars and eating banana in excess may cause the plasma glucose levels to spike.

Sleepiness: Banana is a high carbohydrate fruit and it contains tryptophan. Such a combination helps the body to relax and induces sleepiness. Thus, having banana during work hours may influence the brain activity and lead to sleepiness. (24)

Hyperkalemia: Hyperkalemia is a clinical condition in which the blood potassium levels increases beyond the normal range. Research showed that consuming huge amount of bananas per day may increase the blood potassium levels and may lead to hyperkalemia. In addition to this, individuals who already have high potassium levels should strictly restrict banana intake until their potassium levels fall under normal range. (25)

Interaction with Drugs

Warfarin: Warfarin is a drug that reduces clot formation in blood. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps in formation of blood clots. When warfarin and vitamin K rich food is consumed together, the efficacy and effectiveness of warfarin decreases. Banana is a good source of vitamin K that increases vitamin K-producing flora and vitamin K absorption. This may interfere with the action of warfarin and may reduce its effect. Therefore, warfarin and banana (in any form) should not be consumed together. (26)

Potassium Binder: Potassium binders are medications that prevent the absorption of potassium in the gastrointestinal system. This medication is given to individuals whose potassium levels are high and beyond the normal range. It is very well known that banana is an excellent source of potassium. Therefore, banana and potassium binders should never be given together. The potassium content of banana is again a controversial issue because potassium content depends on the soil. For example – in India, banana is considered as a low potassium fruit. (27)

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Anti-hypertensive or blood pressure lowering drug: It is very well known that banana helps in lowering the blood pressure. When banana and blood pressure lowering drug are taken together without maintaining an adequate time gap, blood pressure may fall below the normal levels. Thus, one should be careful and it is very important to maintain an adequate time gap before consuming the two.

Different Ways to Eat Banana

There are a number of ways to enjoy this delightful fruit here you go –

  • Enjoy a banana on its own
  • Make your own chilled banana milkshake- a perfect combination of calcium from milk and a variety of nutrients from banana
  • If you don’t like milkshake, enjoy your chilled glass of banana smoothie
  • Make your own fruit salad- combine banana with other fruits
  • Enjoy banana with peanut butter
  • Kids can enjoy banana with some chocolate sauce
  • Enjoy some banana pudding or a banana custard
  • Add some chopped banana or banana slices to your oatmeal
  • Banana even tastes good with a bowl of muesli and milk
  • Banana parfaits for breakfast is another amazing way to start your day
  • Make your own healthy banana granola bars- just combine banana pulp with your favorite nuts and oilseeds- this can be a great snack
  • Make your own high protein banana eggnog
  • Banana is even a great substitute for sugar
  • Replace butter and shortening used for baking with banana puree
  • You can also replace eggs with banana pulp while baking cakes

How to Store Banana

The quality of banana gets affected if bananas are stored in the wrong way. Here are some tips to store banana and keep them fresh for a longer period:

  1. You should never store banana in plastic bags. Plastic bags hold a lot of moisture that may spoil the bananas.
  2. If you have purchased unripe bananas store them at room temperature till they ripen. Storing unripe bananas at low temperature, that is, in the refrigerator may affect the process of ripening.
  3. Do not keep the bananas in a deep freezer. Storing bananas at very low temperature may lead to chilling injury. Always store bananas at room temperature in a paper bag.
  4. Fully ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator.
  5. Sliced or chopped banana turns brown when they are exposed to air (oxygen). However, you can prevent such a browning reaction by covering the banana slices with pineapple juice or lemon juice. (28)

Fruit Description & Cultivation

Banana is an interesting tropical plant that has been consumed since centuries by humans. About 100 different types of banana have been recorded. The most common species of banana used are Musa Acuminata and Musa Balbisiana. Besides being eaten fresh, bananas are also made into alcoholic beverages or processed into starch. It is available in different size, shape and color.

Banana is the fifth most important crop in world export trade after coffee, cereals, sugar and cocoa. It is usually cultivated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The major areas of cultivation include India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria, Costa Rica, highlands of East Africa and Australia.

History & Origin of Banana

The origin of banana is complex; however, it is found that banana was first cultivated in New Guinea. The growth and cultivation of banana was then spread to Philippines and other tropics. Therefore, it can be said that bananas originated somewhere in Southeast Asia and South Pacific. From New Guinea and Philippines, banana then arrived in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. On the other hand, plantains originated in eastern Africa and Madagascar. Literature shows that banana was rediscovered for the second time around the Indian Ocean and for the third time in both Asia and Europe.

In ancient times, banana leaf and banana fiber were more valuable as compared to banana fruit as a foodstuff. Banana leaves were used as a source of shelter and thus, they gained a lot of popularity. Later banana fibers were used for the production of fabrics and textiles. The importance of banana as a staple crop was established when slaves and workers started consuming banana extensively because of its low cost and a great source of energy.



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