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7 Nutrients Your Brain Needs To Stay Young

Perhaps you remember hearing your parents or some other authority figures telling you that fish is brain food. What they meant was that fish contains nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to enhance or improve brain function and help it to stay young.

For those of you who don’t care for fish or who don’t consume animal products, there are various supplements you can take to get your omega-3s. But omega-3s are not the only good brain nutrients; there are numerous others that can help your brain stay young and a wide variety of foods in which to find them. For example, the B vitamins (aka, B-complex) are a group of nutrients that work in sync to support and promote brain health.

In fact, the brain needs a constant supply of nutrients to support optimal function, from energy metabolism for its billions of neurons to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, propagation of nerve impulses, and other brain activities.

Here we look beyond the B vitamins to omega-3s and six other nutrients that your brain needs to stay young and functioning at an optimal level. These nutrients, along with a diet rich in these nutrients, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, stress management, and sufficient sleep all have a role in maintaining a healthy brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

According to researchers, omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated an ability to improve cognitive function. A 2017 Brazilian systematic review, for example, found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements in mild Alzheimer’s disease may be helpful when there is slight brain function impairment. A mouse study reported that animals given omega-3 supplements demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function (i.e., object recognition memory, localized and spatial memory) as they got older.

In addition to cold water fish, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and sea vegetables. Omega-3 supplements are available as fish oil, krill oil, and algae-based.

Cocoa flavanols

Dark chocolate is the source of brain-friendly phytonutrients called cocoa flavanols. In a three-month study, researchers discovered that individuals who consumed a high cocoa flavanol diet showed a boost in the area of the brain associated with memory loss and aging.

Cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying and roasting cacao beans. The flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure, fight cell damage, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the brain.

To reap the brain-boosting benefits of cocoa flavanols, choose dark chocolate (organic preferred) and enjoy a small amount (about one ounce) several times a week or even daily. A 2012 study of adults with mild cognitive impairment showed that those who consumed cocoa flavanols daily benefits from improved thinking skills as well as lower blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.

Magnesium

The mineral that is associated with more than 300 biochemical activities in the human body plays a key role in cognitive health. Low levels of magnesium have been proposed as having a stake in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but further research is needed. We know from mouse research that an increase in magnesium in the brain provides substantial protection of the synapses in models of Alzheimer’s disease and “hence it might have therapeutic potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Be sure to include lots of foods rich in magnesium in your diet, including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

 

Anthocyanins

You may recognize these antioxidants as being especially plentiful in blueberries, but others berries harbor them as well. Anthocyanins are associated with enhanced signalling of neurons in the brain’s memory regions. In one study, adults who consumed wild blueberry juice daily showed improvements in memory; namely, word list recall and paired associate learning, as well as reduced depressive symptoms and glucose levels, both of which can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

In a 2017 study, experts showed that daily blueberry consumption for six weeks by adults with cognitive decline was associated with an improvement in neural response. In addition to blueberries, you can include other foods that provide a good amount of anthocyanins, such as cranberries, black raspberries, blackberries, cherries, eggplant, black rice, red cabbage and muscadine grapes.

EGCG and theanine

The one food that nearly exclusively contains these two ingredients—epigallocatechin gallate and L-theanine–is green tea (Camilla sinensis). Although there are more than 700 compounds in green tea, EGCG and theanine are the ones responsible for improving brain health. Traces of EGCG are also found in apples, carob powder, hazelnuts, onions, pecans, and plums.

EGCG is a potent antioxidant that can pass through the blood-brain barrier and address the free radicals that can destroy brain cells. This polyphenol also has anti-inflammatory powers, which is critical since free radicals trigger brain inflammation, which in turn speeds up brain aging and contributes to memory loss, depression, and anxiety.

The impact of the amino acid L-theanine on cognition also has been shown in various studies. A review of 49 human intervention studies showed that L-theanine has “clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.” The only food sources of L-theanine are black and green teas.

Phosphatidylcholine

This mouthful of a compound is a source of the dietary nutrient choline, which is a member of the B-complex family. Recent research involving phosphatidylcholine explored its impact on brain structure in 72 healthy older adults. The researchers found that higher blood levels of phosphatidylcholine was linked to improved cognitive flexibility.

Although the exact ways phosphatidylcholine benefits the brain and cognitive function are not fully understood, experts suggest it may that the nutrient supports brain membranes, contributes to the production of neurotransmitters that promote and support cognition, or reduce inflammation in the brain. In any event, dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine include egg yolks, raw organic dairy, wheat germ, cruciferous vegetables, and meat.

Be sure to add a lot of these foods to your diet every day to keep your brain young.

 

[Editors Note: When choosing supplements for Omega’s and Magnesium our favorites are Barlean’s and Natural Vitality (respectively).
And when it comes to green or any tea, we love a cup of Bigelow Tea.]

References
Alban D. EGCG and L-theanine: Unique brain boosters in green tea. Be Brain Fit
Boespflug EL et al. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 Feb 21:1-9
Brickman AM et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience 2014; 17:1798-1803
Canhada S et al. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 May 3:1-10
Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Hypertension 2012; 60:794-801
Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5
Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2010 Apr 14; 58(7): 3996-4000
Li W et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Molecular Brain 2014 Sep 13; 7:65
Veronese N et al. Magnesium status in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease and Other Dementias 2016 May; 31(3): 208-13
Yue Y et al TMDB: A literature-curated database for small molecular compounds found from tea. BMC Plant Biology 2014; 14:243
Zamroziewicz MK et al. Inferior prefrontal cortex mediates the relationship between phosphatidylcholine and executive functions in healthy, older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2016 Sep 28; 8:226

By Andrea Donsky
 


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This Mineral May Be Key to Protecting Your Bones (It’s Not Calcium)

Calcium and vitamin D may get the spotlight when it comes to bone health, but there’s another mineral that plays a role in keeping your skeleton strong: It’s magnesium, and 67% of the body’s stores for this mineral are found in your bones. Now, research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests magnesium could help prevent fractures.

While previous research had revealed that magnesium supports bone growth, no study had tied the mineral to risk of bone fractures. Tapping into over 20 years of data on 2,245 men, investigators in Britain and Finland compared the men’s magnesium blood levels to their risk of fracture. They discovered that the higher a man’s magnesium, the lower his risk of fracture.

Magnesium works with bone building cells (aka osteoblasts), and works in conjunction with vitamin D and parathyroid hormone to keep calcium levels normal, and fracture risk low. Medical factors affecting magnesium absorption include inflammatory bowel disease (or other chronic diarrhea problems), kidney insufficiency or certain medications.

So, how much magnesium should you eat? The recommended daily intake for adults over 31 years of age is 320 mg for females and 420 mg for males. Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and cashews are rich in magnesium. Other food sources include oatmeal, milk, peanut butter, spinach, broccoli, peas and beets.

However, the Finnish study couldn’t link dietary intake of magnesium to higher blood levels of magnesium, which is strange. Although the study authors aren’t sure why food couldn’t boost levels, previous research suggests an improvement in bone density among menopausal women who took supplements of magnesium hydroxide.

The bottom line is that eating foods high in magnesium still makes sense, since those foods tend to be healthy. If you’re at elevated risk for osteoporosis or fracture talk to your physician or a registered dietitian about taking magnesium supplements.

BY JENNIFER BOWERS, PHD, RD
source: www.rd.com


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10 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most underrated minerals, but it’s involved in literally hundreds of your body’s functions. Pay attention to it, and your body will thank you.

So what’s the deal with magnesium?

Magnesium is involved in numerous bodily functions, from relaxing sore muscles to relieving anxiety, though it isn’t as widely discussed as other vitamins and minerals. Holistic nutrition coach Andrea Moss of Moss Wellness in New York City says magnesium deficiencies are such a big focus in her practice because nutritionists see the effects so frequently. “So many clients of ours are surprised to hear about it, since it usually isn’t discussed by their physicians,” she says. Don’t let that happen to you—check out our tips for what magnesium deficiency signs you might be ignoring.

You kind of hate vegetables

The most common cause of magnesium deficiencies is a diet deprived of magnesium-rich foods. “Many of us are magnesium deficient because we aren’t necessarily eating enough magnesium-rich foods,” says Moss. Moss recommends veggies, brown rice, nuts and seeds to adjust this.

You’re so stressed out

If you’re under a lot of stress, your body will react chemically and magnesium levels can be affected. “Stress also can make us more prone to magnesium deficiency, as can excessive sweating from workouts,” says Moss. Try to take it easy, both mentally and physically, and your body will thank you.

Junk food is one of your food groups

Replacing fruit with Fruit Roll-Ups can wreak havoc on your magnesium levels. “Normal, healthy people should get enough magnesium as long as they eat enough fruit, vegetables, and complex starches/whole grains,” says Monica Auslander, MS, RD, LD/N, founder of Essence Nutrition in Florida. “You can see how a poor diet quality could result in these deficiencies!” These are good clues you’re eating too many preservatives.

The littlest things can give you a headache

If your head is pounding and you can’t seem to shake it, you might want to get tested for a magnesium deficiency. People often have headaches when their magnesium levels are low, says Auslander.

You’re constipated

You might not think about magnesium levels when you’re constipated, but you should. Auslander says people often experience constipation precisely when their magnesium levels are too low.

You’re more shaky or twitchy lately

A little shake here or there might not seem like a big deal, but take it seriously. Nutritionist Alyse Levine MS, RD of Nutritionbite in California warns that chronically low levels of magnesium can lead to more serious problems like an irregular heartbeat or even seizures. It’s also a good idea to be aware of these other symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

Your energy levels are MIA

Magnesium helps energize your body, so if you don’t have enough of it, you’ll feel weak. “Magnesium is involved in at least 300 different chemical reactions in our body, and a lot have to do with energy production,” says Alison Boden, MPH, RD, functional medicine nutritionist in California. “A sign of low magnesium can be low energy.”

You’re not sleeping well

While magnesium can be used to treat a number of medical issues, and Boden uses it the most for sleep problems. “If patients have a hard time winding down, we use magnesium therapeutically to help with that,” says Boden. “It’s a muscle relaxant that can slow things down bit and help with sleep.”

You’re dealing with bone loss problems

A lot of magnesium is stored in bones, so Boden says a deficiency in it can cause bone loss when there isn’t enough magnesium over a long period of time.

You have low levels of vitamin D

When low magnesium levels lead to low vitamin D levels, a whole cascade of problems develop. “We need magnesium to absorb vitamin D. Too much calcium can actually lower absorption as well, so we need to find a balance between all these vitamins and minerals,” says Manuel Villacorta MS, registered dietitian and founder of Whole Body Reboot in California. “This stuff can happen to everyone.”

BY ALEXANDRA WHITTAKER
source: www.rd.com


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The Case for Cashews

Two handfuls of cashews each day may keep depression at bay. A growing body of research has found that in lieu of taking a prescription drug, some people can turn to foods that are high in tryptophans, like cashews. Depressive episodes are often triggered when the body drops in serotonin and tryptophans can boost it again, but people tend to turn to nutrition as a last resort. One more natural source of tryptophan is cashews. “Several handfuls of cashews provide 1,000-2,000 milligrams of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressants,” says Dr. Andrew Saul, a therapeutic nutritionist and editor-in-chief of Orthomolecular Medicine News Service. The body turns tryptophan into serotonin, a major contributor to feelings of sexual desire, good mood, and healthy sleep.

The high levels of magnesium and vitamin B6 found in cashews may also help to stabilize mood. Approximately five ounces of cashews a day will provide a middle-aged man with his daily-required magnesium intake, a nutrient that, when low, can trigger mild depression. Vitamin B6 lends a hand to converting tryptophan into serotonin and helps magnesium enter into the body’s cells. It’s likely a trio of nutrients that help with depression. “You don’t want to think that one individual nutrient is the magic bullet,” says Saul.

By  Marykate Marley
 
cashews

Nutrition

         Cashews, raw

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 553 k cal (2,310 kJ)
Carbohydrates 30.19 g
Starch 0.74 g
Sugars 5.91 g
lactose  0.00 g
Dietary fiber 3.3 g
Fat 43.85 g
Saturated 7.783 g
Monounsaturated 23.797 g
Polyunsaturated 7.845 g
Protein 18.22 g

Vitamins

Vitamin A 0 IU
Thiamine (B1) (37%) 0.423 mg
Riboflavin (B2) (5%) 0.058 mg
Niacin (B3) (7%) 1.062 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) (17%) 0.86 mg
Vitamin B6 (32%) 0.417 mg
Folate (B9) (6%) 25 μg
Vitamin B12 (0%) 0 μg
Vitamin C (1%) 0.5 mg
Vitamin D (0%) 0 μg
Vitamin E (6%) 0.90 mg
Vitamin K (32%) 34.1 μg

Minerals

Calcium (4%) 37 mg
Iron (51%) 6.68 mg
Magnesium (82%) 292 mg
Manganese (79%) 1.66 mg
Phosphorus (85%) 593 mg
Potassium (14%) 660 mg
Sodium (1%) 12 mg
Zinc (61%) 5.78 mg

Other constituents

Water 5.20 g

Units    μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams   IU = International units       
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.                 
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

In a 100-gram serving, raw cashews provide 553 Calories, 67% of the Daily Value (DV) in total fats, 36% DV of protein, 13% DV of dietary fiber and 11% DV of carbohydrates (table).[15] Cashews are rich sources (> 19% DV) of dietary minerals, including particularly copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium (79-110% DV), and of thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin K (32-37% DV) (table).[15] Iron, potassium, zinc, and selenium are present in significant content (14-61% DV) (table).[15] Cashews (100 grams, raw) contain 113 mg of beta-sitosterol.[15]
source: wikipedia.org


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Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone

Add Zing to Your Meals

Onions and garlic are your allies in the kitchen and in the bedroom. They help you make more and better sperm. Both raise levels of a hormone that triggers your body to make testosterone. And both have high levels of natural plant chemical called flavonoids, which safeguard your li’l swimmers against damage.

Pile on the Protein

Lean beef, chicken, fish, and eggs are some of your options. Tofu, nuts, and seeds have protein, too. Try to get about 5 to 6 ounces per day, although the ideal amount for you depends on your age, sex, and how active you are. When you don’t eat enough of these foods, your body makes more of a substance that binds with testosterone, leaving you with less T available to do its job.

Go Fish

Fatty kinds like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are rich with vitamin D. It’s a natural testosterone booster because it plays a crucial role in hormone production.

More Magnesium

This mineral blocks a protein from binding with testosterone. The result? More of the usable man-stuff floating around in your blood. Spinach is packed with magnesium. Almonds, cashews, and peanuts are good sources, too.

Order Oysters

There’s a reason why these mollusks are known for being great for fertility. They have almost five times your recommended daily dose of zinc. This mineral helps your body make testosterone. You can also get it in beef and beans. And it’s often added to breakfast cereal.

Bonus: Zinc boosts your immune system.

pomegranate-juice

 

Pick Pomegranate

Start your day with a glass of this ancient seedy fruit’s juice instead of OJ. It lowers levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which helps raise levels of sex hormones including testosterone. And it can lower your blood pressure and put you in a better mood!

Diet Down

A Mediterranean-style diet can help keep your weight in check and protect you from insulin resistance, which is related to lower T levels. And when your testosterone is low, your fat levels go up, which can lead to your body not using insulin well. You can break this cycle.

Trade saturated fats for healthier ones such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts. Choose lean meats and whole grains. Eat lots of veggies and fruits.

Back Off the Beer

It takes only 5 days of regular drinking for your testosterone level to drop. Alcohol may throw off many parts of your body’s hormone system. Heavy drinkers can have shrunken testes, thin chest and beard hair, and higher levels of the female hormone estrogen.

Use Glass, Not Plastic

Be careful about what you store your leftovers in. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics, cans, and other food packaging. It can mess with your hormone-making process. After 6 months, men who worked around BPA every day had lower testosterone levels than men who didn’t.

Build Your Strength

Focus your workouts on your muscles. Hit the weight room at the gym, or get a trainer to help you with a routine on the exercise machines. Cardio has its benefits, but it doesn’t boost your testosterone like strength training can.

Be careful to not overdo it. Too much exercise can take your T level in the other direction.

Get Enough ZZZs

Your body turns up the testosterone when you fall asleep. The levels peak when you start dreaming and stay there until you wake up. But daytime testosterone levels can drop up to 15% when you get only 5 hours of sleep. Aim for 7 or 8 hours every night, even if it means a shift in your schedule or a limit to your late-night plans.

source: www.webmd.com


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Nutritional Strategies to Ease Anxiety

According the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. That’s 40 million adults—18% of the population—who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, with about half of those with depression also experiencing anxiety.

Specific therapies and medications can help relieve the burden of anxiety, yet only about a third of people suffering from this condition seek treatment. In my practice, part of what I discuss when explaining treatment options is the important role of diet in helping to manage anxiety.

In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety. For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.

A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. When you eat is also important. Don’t skip meals. Doing so may result in drops in blood sugar that cause you to feel jittery, which may worsen underlying anxiety.

The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.

Foods that can help quell anxiety

You might be surprised to learn that specific foods have been shown to reduce anxiety.

  • In mice, diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety-related behaviors. Foods naturally rich in magnesium may therefore help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.
  • Other foods, including fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acid. A study completed on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety. (This study used supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids). Prior to the study, omega-3 fatty acids had been linked to improving depression only.
  • A recent study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms.
  • Asparagus, known widely to be a healthy vegetable. Based on research, the Chinese government approved the use of an asparagus extract as a natural functional food and beverage ingredient due to its anti-anxiety properties.
  • Foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds

These “feel good” foods spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They are a safe and easy first step in managing anxiety.

Walnuts

Are antioxidants anti-anxiety?

Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state. It stands to reason, therefore, that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. A 2010 study reviewed the antioxidant content of 3,100 foods, spices, herbs, beverages, and supplements. Foods designated as high in antioxidants by the USDA include:

  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric (containing the active ingredient curcumin) and ginger.

Achieving better mental health through diet

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. But even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth asking whether you might also have some success by adjusting your diet. While nutritional psychiatry is not a substitute for other treatments, the relationship between food, mood, and anxiety is garnering more and more attention. There is a growing body of evidence, and more research is needed to fully understand the role of nutritional psychiatry, or as I prefer to call it, Psycho-Nutrition.

Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor       APRIL 13, 2016, 9:30 AM


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9 Ways Eating Bananas Can Benefit Your Health

If you’re like many people, no trip to the grocery store is complete until you add a bunch of bananas to your cart.

Bananas are inexpensive, tasty, and versatile, but the best reason to eat them is their health benefits. Read on to learn how this curvy, yellow wonder can help you stay well.

1. Tames Your Tummy
If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or food poisoning, you’ve probably been told to eat the BRAT diet during recovery. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Bananas are included in the acronym for good reason. They are bland enough to pass through the digestive tract easily, their potassium helps replenish lost electrolytes, and their fiber adds bulk to your stool to help calm diarrhea.

Some pregnant women report that bananas help ease morning sickness. It makes sense since bananas are high in vitamin B-6. One medium banana provides about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), studies led by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend vitamin B-6 supplements during pregnancy to treat nausea and vomiting. Eating a few raw bananas each day may be a fresh alternative.

2. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
The potassium in bananas may help lower blood pressure. Two medium bananas provide a quarter of your daily allowance.

According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps lower blood pressure by reducing sodium’s effects on the body. They recommend that bananas and other foods containing potassium be part of an overall dietary plan to lower blood pressure. The plan should also include watching your salt, fat, and saturated fat intake.

3. Helps Lower Stroke Risk
The potassium in bananas doesn’t just impact blood pressure. If you’re a postmenopausal woman, it may reduce your stroke risk too.

According to the American Heart Association’s Rapid Journal Report, a study published in Stroke showed that postmenopausal women who eat high-potassium foods are less likely to have strokes and die from them than women who eat fewer potassium-rich foods. The study also suggests a benefit to increasing potassium in the diet before you develop high blood pressure.

4. Provides an Energy Boost
If you need an energy boost during exercise or otherwise, try eating a banana. A study published in PLoS ONE suggested that bananas are as beneficial as sports electrolyte drinks during exercise.

In fact, bananas may be superior. They deliver potassium, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamin B-6 in an all-natural package. Sports drinks contain nutrients, but also processed sugar and artificial ingredients.

The next time you feel sluggish and need a pick-me-up, reach for a banana instead of a sports drink, soda, or other sugary beverage.

5. Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that helps every organ and system in your body function normally. According to ODS, magnesium is important to protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, energy production, glucose control, and blood pressure control.

Magnesium deficiency may lead to:

  • loss of appetite
  • migraines
  • osteoporosis
  • nausea and vomiting
  • numbness and tingling
  • heart rhythm issues
  • seizures

Alcoholism, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and poor diet can increase you risk of deficiency.

Two medium bananas have 16 percent of the recommended daily value. Adding bananas to your daily diet, especially if you have a health condition that depletes magnesium, may help you from becoming deficient.

6. Good Source of Manganese
Manganese isn’t a mineral you hear about often, but it’s critical to good health.

Manganese helps metabolize carbohydrates, cholesterol, and amino acids. It also plays an important role in bone development and wound healing.

Some studies suggest women with osteoporosis have lower levels of manganese than women without the condition. Manganese may also help prevent migraines, reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, and decrease the risk of death after a heart attack.

Two medium bananas have over 30 percent of your daily dietary allowance of manganese.

bananas

7. Good Source of Fiber
Most people don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily allowance of fiber, which is 38 grams daily for men 50 and under, and 25 grams for women. Fiber helps maintain bowel health and keep your bowels moving. It also helps to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.

Fiber may help you lose weight by keeping you fuller longer. High-fiber foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and oats are lower in unhealthy fats and calories than most so-called diet foods.

Two medium bananas contain 6 grams of fiber, which is about 23 percent of your daily fiber allowance. While you still have some distance to go to meet your goal, adding bananas to your diet helps get you there.

8. Helps Relieve Heartburn and Prevent Ulcers
According to research published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, bananas are natural antacids and work by neutralizing acid.

They also contain a flavonoid antioxidant called leucocyanidin which helps increase the mucous membrane layer in the stomach. This may help prevent stomach ulcers from forming or worsening.

9. Healthy Skin
Don’t throw away those overripe bananas! Use them to make a nourishing face mask.

While evidence is anecdotal, the theory behind the natural beauty treatment is sound. Bananas contain vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for collagen production and that helps limit UV damage. Bananas are also reported to help treat acne, absorb oil, and moisturize dry skin.

To make a banana mask, mash a ripe banana until a paste forms. Apply to clean skin and leave on at least 15 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. For added moisture, add a teaspoon of honey or plain Greek yogurt. The mask is messy, so keep a towel handy.

Ways to Enjoy Bananas
If you want to enjoy the health benefits of bananas, but you don’t like eating them plain, you’re in luck. Bananas are delicious in milkshakes, smoothies, and parfaits. They are tasty solo or sliced onto whole grain pancakes, oatmeal, and your favorite cold cereals.

Try these healthy banana recipes.

Banana-Oatmeal Smoothie
This healthful treat is great for breakfast, lunch, or snack time. It combines bananas with oatmeal, almond milk, and Greek yogurt. View the recipe.

Maple-Sweetened Banana Muffins
If you’re looking for a healthier banana muffin, look no further. This recipe features mashed bananas, coconut oil, maple syrup, oats, and whole-wheat flour. View the recipe.

Grilled Banana
If you’ve never tried a grilled banana, you don’t know what you’re missing. Grilling fruit brings out its natural sweetness. This recipe tops the banana with a dash of cinnamon. View the recipe.

Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream
Simply blend two frozen bananas and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Sweet, creamy, and healthy!

The Takeaway
When it comes to healthy fruit, you can’t do much better than bananas.

They’re low in calories, have no fat, and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Since bananas are inexpensive, portable, versatile, and easily fit into any healthy eating plan, there’s no excuse not to eat them.

To reap their health benefits, simply eat them in place of a couple unhealthy foods or snacks each day.

Article resources
Basic report bananas, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2159?manu=&fgcd=
Digestive Health Team. (2014, December 24). Mom’s advice is still the best for treating diarrhea. Retrieved from http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/12/moms-advice-is-still-the-best-for-treating-diarrhea/
Higdon, J. (2010, March). Manganese. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/manganese
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Written by Annette McDermott      Medically Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on 25 February 2016