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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
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, September 22). Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
Michels, A. J. (2011, September). Vitamin C and skin health. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/skin-health/nutrient-index/vitamin-C
Nieman, D. C., Gillitt, N. D., Henson, D. A., Sha, W., Shanely, R. A., Knab, A. M., Cialdella-Kam, L., & Jin, F. (2012, May 17). Bananas as an energy source during exercise: A metabolomics approach. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e37479. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0037479&representation=PDF
Nutrition facts: Bananas, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2
Potassium and high blood pressure. (2014, August 4). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp#.Vr5TJvIrLIU
Sampath Kumar, K.P., Bhowmik, D., Duraivel, S., & Umadevi. M. (2012). Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 1(3), 51-63. Retrieved from http://www.phytojournal.com/vol1Issue3/Issue_sept_2012/9.1.pdf
Vitamin B6 fact sheet for consumers. (2011, September 15). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-Consumer/
Vitamins B6. (2011, September 15). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/

Written by Annette McDermott      Medically Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on 25 February 2016

 

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The 7 Surprising Ways Being Kind Makes You Healthier and Happier

By: Diane M.     November 16, 2015      Follow Diane at @DianeMacEachern

Being nice or kind is often touted as a way to do something good for someone else. But in addition to helping others, being kind turns out to be just as good for the person extending the kindness as for the person receiving it, if not more so. Here are 7 surprising ways being kind is so good for you, it makes you healthier!

1) Being kind increases your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Dr. Stephen Post of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love says being kind generates a side effect he calls “the giver’s glow.” One of the top five factors contributing to lower depression rates is “giving to neighbors and communities,” according to a study conducted in Great Britain, reports the Denver Post. Don’t believe it? Try it yourself. See if you don’t feel good if you help someone across the street, make a meal for a neighbor in need or donate to a cause you know needs the help.

2) Being kind reduces stress. There is a strong link between random acts of kindness and stress reduction, says Lauren E. Miller, a breast cancer survivor and author of “Release the Stress around Breast Cancer…”, who also says that gratitude for acts of kindness figures into the equation.“When you are grateful and practicing random acts of kindness in your life, you end up feeling safe and connected to that which is good and true in this world and the result is inner calm, clarity of thinking and a heart full of love.”

3) Being kind builds emotional resilience. Numerous studies have shown that receiving, giving or even witnessing acts of kindness increases immunity and the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain, reports Psychology Today. Being kind may even nourish one’s sense of purpose and meaning, which can help you get through tough times relatively unscathed.

4) Being kind can help overcome addiction and alcoholism. Being kind to others by volunteering has long been promoted as an important way for an addict to recover. “By volunteering, you not only give back, you also help yourself to start to feel self-worth again,” says the website of the Promises Treatment Center. “You will matter to people who need you, and that can be a powerful agent for making more positive changes in your life.”

At the same time, extending kindness to addicts helps them recover. “Too often, drug addicts and alcoholics are treated as though they are horrible people with low moral standing,” writes Dr. Michael Weiner. But dwelling on transgressions…”only makes an addict feel worse about themselves than they did before.” On the other hand, the warmth and kindness shown by therapists, family members and friends goes a long way in helping people recover. “I know from personal experience that a little kindness and straightforwardness eases a patient’s journey through rehab,” says Weiner, a former addict who has also treated hundreds of patients for addiction.

kindness

 

5) Being kind reduces depression, ulcers and heart disease. When researchers at Harvard University showed one group a film about Mother Teresa’s work and another group a neutral film, they documented an increase in the production of protective antibodies in those who watched the film about giving. “Performing kind acts provides social contact and reduces feelings of depression, hostility and isolation, which can lead to overeating and ulcers,” as well as heart disease.

6) Being kind may help you live longer. Volunteering frequently to help others is associated with delayed mortality among older adults, according to a Stanford University study. In fact, people who volunteered a lot had 63 percent lower mortality than non-volunteers, mostly due to their greater physical activity, health habits and social support networks. Plus, a study of elders in assisted living shows that helping activities improved residents’ mental health by creating positive attitudes toward aging, a sense of connectedness and improvements in feelings of control and life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression and mortality.

7) Being kind builds good karma. I happen to be someone who believes, “What goes around, comes around.” Be mean and cruel to someone and that’s what will come back at you in spades. But be nice, thoughtful, generous and helpful? That’s what will return to you time after time, too. As I tell my kids, “Be kind. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’ll get back a whole lot more than you give.”

And don’t forget: being kind to animals is just as good for you as being kind to other people.

“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace” says the Dalai Lama. So…go for it!