Low in fat and calories and high in nutrients, ripe bananas, which are less bitter than unripe bananas, are more than just a tasty snack. While eating one banana won't necessarily improve your health, adding a banana to your daily diet may benefit your cardiovascular system, digestive tract and more.
One major benefit of a fully ripe banana is that it provides you with plenty of necessary nutrients. Bananas have a reputation as a good source of potassium, but a medium banana also provides 16 percent of the recommended daily allowance of manganese and 17 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Bananas are also high in magnesium and vitamin B-6, and they contain smaller amounts of calcium, folate, riboflavin, iron and zinc. A fully ripe banana has slightly more soluble fiber and natural sugars than a banana that still has a green tint, but the rest of the nutrient profile remains the same.
Digestive Tract Health
Bananas benefit your digestive tract health in a few ways. A medium banana provides 3 grams of fiber, which helps ease the movement of food through the digestive system. Bananas also help solidify the stool and provide valuable electrolytes that are often lost when diarrhea strikes. A 1997 study published in the journal "Nutrition in Clinical Practice" found that banana flakes reduced diarrhea in critically ill tube-fed patients, a population prone to this problem and for whom traditional antidiarrheal medicines don't often work. Bananas are also a source of fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic compound that boosts the growth of beneficial bacteria that live in your digestive tract.
The high potassium content of bananas can benefit your cardiovascular health when they are included as part of an overall diet high in potassium and low in sodium. A 2011 analysis of 11 different studies published in the "Journal of the American College of Cardiology" found that the more potassium people ate, the lower their risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. The soluble fiber content in bananas may also help protect you from future heart problems.
Your bones may also benefit from the potassium in a ripe banana. Potassium helps regulate pH and calcium levels in your blood and prevents calcium from leaching out of bones. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a diet high in potassium may help prevent osteoporosis. The fructooligosaccharide in ripe bananas may also help boost calcium absorption, which could in turn improve bone strength.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Bananas, Raw
- Nutrition in Clinical Practice: Banana Flakes Control Diarrhea in Enterally Fed Patients
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Potassium Intake, Stroke, and Cardiovascular Disease
- Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Journal of Renal Nutrition: Probiotics and Prebiotics
Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.