Bananas have become one of the most popular fruits due to their health benefits and versatility when it comes to mealtime. Although bananas grow in tropical climates, they are enjoyed throughout the world. Bananas are rich in nutrients that are needed for a balanced diet, and they can be eaten in a variety of ways. They are often added to smoothies and cereals for breakfast. Bananas even make tasty desserts with treats like banana bread, banana muffins, and banana pudding.
Banana protein values are not particularly high, offering approximately 2% of the daily value in one medium-sized banana. Dipping bananas in peanut butter has become a popular way to make a healthy, protein-rich snack. But what exactly are the health benefits of all these bananas being consumed? Keep reading to get the breakdown on bananas, including health benefits and the differences between almost ripe, just ripe, and overly ripe bananas.
Banana Nutrition Facts
The health benefits of bananas are plentiful. Like other fruits, bananas are filled with essential vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body. They also contain electrolytes that help keep the body regulated, in addition to antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, which may reduce the risk of several diseases including cancer. Following are some of the major ingredients and health benefits of bananas.
The potassium in bananas is essential to keeping the body functioning properly. It helps regulate fluids and controls important heart and muscle activity. According to Medical News Today, potassium helps with the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular health as well as the maintenance of bones and muscles.
While sodium is often depicted as a negative aspect of diet, the truth is that sodium does have some important benefits. Yes, it’s true that too much sodium can cause health concerns like hypertension, or high blood pressure. But when taken in appropriate amounts, sodium can also benefit the body.
Sodium is an important electrolyte that is needed for muscle contraction and to regulate fluids in the body. In fact, according to Medical News Today, striking a healthy balance between sodium and potassium intake can help reduce hypertension. Both of these important ingredients are found in bananas.
Bananas are filled with antioxidants that help eliminate potentially dangerous cells from the body. These dangerous cells sometimes lead to the development of disease, including cancer. But antioxidants neutralize the dangerous cells before they have a chance to grow, multiple, and cause harm. According to a study published in Dermato Endocrinology, antioxidants also benefit the skin by helping to reduce the premature aging of cells.
A study published in the scientific journal Food Chemistry highlighted that some bananas, particularly bananas of the Musa species, are rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals offer a variety of health benefits when consumed, including stimulating the immune system, reducing inflammation, and regulating hormones. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, phytochemicals also offer anti-cancer benefits such as slowing the growth rate of cancer cells.
Fiber has several health benefits, and bananas are considered a high-fiber fruit. According to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, benefits of a high-fiber diet include a reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and some gastrointestinal diseases.
Key banana vitamins are vitamins C and B6. Vitamin C gives the immune system a boost and helps to fight off illness, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin B6 helps regulate brain activity and cognitive function and also may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Which Ripe Is Right?
When it comes to bananas and nutrition, not all bananas are created equal. Before you opt to eat a banana, consider its appearance. You can tell a banana’s level of ripeness by its color. Bananas can be green, yellow, or brown, indicating almost ripe, just ripe, or overly ripe. The nutritional value of bananas changes a little as the banana ripens. Uses for bananas also change as bananas ripen.
Almost Ripe vs. Just Ripe vs. Overly Ripe Bananas
Almost ripe: Almost ripe bananas have a greenish tint to their peel. According to a study published in The Journal of Food Science, bananas lose starch content and gain sugar content as they ripen. So almost ripe bananas have a greater starch content than just ripe or overly ripe bananas. This means that they are usually more difficult to digest than ripe bananas. But they also create a feeling of fullness and help burn fat more quickly than just ripe or overly ripe bananas do.
Just ripe: Just ripe bananas have a yellow peel free of green but not yet with brown spots. They have a lower starch content and higher sugar content than almost ripe bananas do, making them easier to digest. They are also sweeter as they are filled with more natural sugars. Whether they are large yellow bananas or small yellow bananas, just ripe bananas are a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth or add some sweetness to a fruit smoothie or veggie shake.
Overly ripe: You will recognize an overly ripe banana by the brownish tint or brown spots that start appearing on the peel. The banana will feel soft and the peel will come off easily. Overly ripe bananas are rich in antioxidants. They also have a higher sugar content than almost ripe or just ripe bananas. Since bananas increase in natural sugar content as they ripen, overly ripe bananas become a cautionary item for diabetics. Overly ripe bananas often have a soft, mushy texture to them, making them less appealing for eating directly. Rather than eating overly ripe bananas, try using them to bake banana bread instead.
Bananas are great for baking and add nutritional content to a tasty treat. The USDA website What’s Cooking? offers recipes to the public to encourage healthy, nutritional treats. One recipe is banana bread. The following USDA banana bread recipe can be tried and adjusted for personal taste and health and dietary restrictions. Options include adding our Veggie Shake powder to the recipe to get even more nutritional content.