Medically reviewed By Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD;
Nutrition – By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) and SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD
Bananas are incredibly healthy, convenient, delicious, and one of the most inexpensive fresh fruits you can buy. This makes them an excellent choice for anyone interested in eating healthy.
While they’re native to Southeast Asia, they grow ubiquitously in many warm climates, making them available worldwide. The Cavendish variety, the most common type found in grocery stores, starts out firm and green but turns yellow, soft, and sweet as it ripens.
Bananas contain many essential nutrients and may benefit weight loss, digestion, and heart health.
Below are 11 science-based health benefits of bananas.
1. Rich in nutrients
Bananas contain a fair amount of fiber and several antioxidants. One regular-sized banana (126 grams) also boasts:
Fat: 0 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Carbs: 29 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Vitamin C: 12% of the Daily Value (DV)
Riboflavin: 7% of the DV
Folate: 6% of the DV
Niacin: 5% of the DV
Copper: 11% of the DV
Potassium: 10% of the DV
Magnesium: 8% of the DV
One banana provides about 112 calories and consists almost exclusively of water and carbs. They hold little protein and no fat.
The carbs in green, unripe bananas are mostly in the form of starch and resistant starch — a type of indigestible fiber we’ll get to shortly. As the fruit ripens, its flavor becomes sweeter while its fiber content drops.
2. May improve blood sugar levels
Bananas are rich in soluble fiber. During digestion, soluble fiber dissolves in liquid to form a gel. It’s also what gives bananas their sponge-like texture.
Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch, which isn’t digested by your body.
Together, these two types of fiber may moderate your blood sugar levels after meals. Plus, they may help regulate your appetite by slowing the emptying of your stomach.
This means that despite their higher carb content, bananas won’t cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in healthy individuals. However, while people with diabetes can enjoy bananas, it’s not recommended to enjoy a large portion in one sitting.
3. May support digestive health
Dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefits, including improved digestion. One medium-sized banana provides about 3 grams of fiber.
Resistant starch, the type of fiber found in unripe bananas, is a prebiotic. Prebiotics escape digestion and end up in your large intestine, where they become food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
What’s more, pectin — a fiber found in both ripe and unripe bananas — may help prevent constipation and soften stools.
Some test-tube studies even propose that pectin may help protect against colon cancer, although research in humans is still needed to confirm this benefit.
4. May aid weight loss
No study has directly tested bananas’ effects on weight loss. However, this popular fruit does have several attributes that could make it a weight-loss-friendly food.
First, bananas have relatively few calories. The average banana has just over 100 calories, yet it’s nutritious and filling.
Eating more fiber from vegetables and fruits has repeatedly been linked to lower body weight and weight loss.
Furthermore, unripe bananas are packed with resistant starch, so they tend to be filling and reduce your appetite. If you’d like to include unripe bananas in your diet, try using them as you’d use plantains.
5. May support heart health
Potassium is a mineral that’s vital for heart health, especially blood pressure management. Despite its importance, few people get enough potassium in their diet.
Conveniently, bananas are a great source of potassium, with a medium-sized banana (126 grams) providing 10% of the DV.
A potassium-rich diet can help lower your blood pressure. Plus, according to older research and animal studies, people who eat plenty of potassium have up to a 27% lower risk of heart disease.
What’smore, bananas contain 8% of the DV for magnesium, another mineral that’s important for heart health.
Magnesium deficiency may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and high levels of fats in the blood. As such, it’s essential that you get enough of the mineral from your diet or supplements.
6. Full of antioxidants
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary antioxidants, and bananas are no exception.
They contain several types of potent antioxidants, including flavonoids and amines.
These antioxidants are linked to many health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and degenerative illnesses.
They help prevent oxidative damage to your cells caused by free radicals. Without antioxidants, free radicals can build up over time and cause harm if their levels become high enough in your body.
7. May help you feel fuller
The soluble fiber in bananas may help keep you full by adding bulk to your digestive system and slowing digestion.
Additionally, bananas are relatively low in calories for their size.
Combined, the low calorie and high fiber contents of bananas make them a more filling snack than other foods like processed or sugary boxed snacks.
Protein is also filling, but bananas are low in this macronutrient. So, for a hunger-fighting snack, try eating a sliced banana with protein-rich foods like Greek yogurt, or blend a banana into a protein shake.
8. May improve insulin sensitivity when unripe
Insulin resistance is a significant risk factor for several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Several studies reveal that regularly eating resistant starch — for example, by enjoying unripe bananas — may improve insulin sensitivity. This could make your body more responsive to this blood-sugar-regulating hormone.
However, more research investigating how the resistant starch in bananas might affect insulin sensitivity is needed.
9. May improve kidney health
Potassium is vital for healthy kidney function and blood pressure regulation.
As great dietary sources of potassium, bananas could be especially beneficial when it comes to keeping your kidneys healthy.
One study including over 5,000 people with early stage chronic kidney disease linked potassium to lower blood pressure and a slower progression of kidney disease.
On the other hand, some people with late stage kidney disease or who are on dialysis need to restrict their potassium intake. If you fall into one of these categories, speak with your healthcare team before increasing your potassium intake.
10. May support exercise recovery
Bananas are sometimes referred to as the perfect food for athletes. This is largely due to their content of easily digested carbs, as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium, both of which act as electrolytes.
You lose electrolytes through your sweat during vigorous exercise. Resupplying your body with potassium and magnesium after sweating, for example by eating a banana, may reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness.
However, specific research on the effects of bananas on exercise performance, cramping, and exercise recovery is lacking.
Nevertheless, bananas provide excellent nutrition before, during, and after exercise.
11. Easy to add to your diet
Bananas are not only incredibly healthy but also one of the most convenient snack foods around.
They make a great addition to yogurt, cereal, and smoothies, and they work a treat as a topping on whole grain toast with peanut butter. You can even use them in place of sugar in your baking and cooking.
Bananas are likewise incredibly easy to eat and transport. They’re usually well tolerated and easily digested. All you need to do is peel them, and you’re good to go.
The bottom line
Bananas are a popular fruit with many potential health benefits.
They may boost your digestion and heart health thanks to their fiber and antioxidant contents. Plus, they may support weight loss because they’re relatively low in calories, nutrient dense, and filling.
Both ripe, yellow bananas and unripe, green bananas can satisfy your sweet tooth and help keep you healthy.