Health Benefits of Bananas


By Benprince Ezeh

BANANAS are one of the world’s most appealing fruits. Global banana exports reached about 18 million tons in 2015, according to the United Nations, UN. About half of them went to the United States and the European market. In the United States, each person eats 11.4 lbs. of bananas per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making it Americans’ favourite fresh fruit.

A wide variety of health benefits are associated with the curvy yellow fruit. Bananas are high in potassium and pectin, a form of fibre, said Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist. They can also be a good way to get magnesium and vitamins C and B6.

Bananas may have been the world’s first cultivated fruit. Archaeologists have found evidence of banana cultivation in New Guinea as far back as 8000 B.C. The banana plant is classified as an arborescent (tree-like) perennial herb and the banana itself is considered a berry. A bunch of bananas is called a hand; a single banana is a finger.

There are almost 1,000 varieties of bananas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO. Nearly all the bananas sold in stores are cloned from just one variety, the Cavendish banana plant, originally native to Southeast Asia. The Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel after that variety was wiped out by fungus in the 1950s. The Gros Michel reportedly was bigger, had a longer shelf life and tasted better. The Cavendish is resistant to the fungus that killed off the Gros Michel, but they are susceptible to another fungus and may face the same fate within the next 20 years, botanists said.

Botanically, there is no difference between plantains and bananas. But in general use, “banana” refers to the sweeter form of the fruit, which is often eaten uncooked, while “plantain” refers to a starchier fruit that is often cooked before eating. Ecuador is the leading producer of bananas worldwide, followed by the Philippines. Bananas are produced in other tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as well as the Canary Islands and Australia.

A 2017 meta-analysis published by Prilozi Section of Medical Sciences suggested that unripe green bananas offer some health benefits. They may help with controlling gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and ulcers and may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Some studies have suggested that the lectins in green bananas could provide treatment for HIV patients.

At the other end of a banana’s life, research has shown that the levels of nutrients rise in bananas as they ripen. Bananas with dark spots are eight times more effective in enhancing the power of white blood cells than green-skin bananas, according to a 2009 study published in Food Science and Technology Research. White blood cells fight infections from bacteria, fungi, viruses and other pathogens.

Felicita Ogbu
Felicita Ogbu

, a doctor said that bananas are man’s favourite fruit due to its benefits. “Some may think that its only carrots and onions that help in clearing eyes, but many are unaware of the impact of banana in one’s eyes. The fruits contain a small but significant amount of vitamin A, which is essential for protecting your eyes, maintaining normal vision and improving vision at night.

“Vitamin A contains compounds that preserve the membranes around your eyes and are an element in the proteins that bring light to your corneas. Like other fruits, bananas can help prevent macular degeneration, an incurable condition, which blurs central vision,” she said.

Emmanuel Enang
Emmanuel Enang

Emmanuel Enang, another doctor said that Bananas are high in fibre, which can help keep you regular. “One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fibre requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against Type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss. Bananas are a great weight-loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings.

“It’s high in resistant starch, a form of dietary fibre in which researchers have recently become interested. In 2017, a review published in Nutrition Bulletin said that the resistant starch in bananas may support gut health and control blood sugar. Resistant starch increases the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which is necessary to gut health,” Enang said.

Jennifer Ani, a nutritionist said that banana is essential to one’s life. “It’s useful for weight loss as one banana has approximately only 90 calories. They contain a lot of fiber

Jennifer Ani
Jennifer Ani

as well and are easy to digest.

“They do not contain any fats. Therefore, an overweight person does not have to eat too much if their diet contains bananas because they are very filling. The roughage will also not make the person feel hungry by inhibiting the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.

“Bananas, like many other fruits, are packed with antioxidants and carotenoids, as well as a healthy mix of minerals that can seriously boost the health of your eyes. Macular degeneration, cataracts, night blindness and glaucoma have all been shown to decrease with normal intake of bananas and other similar fruits,” she said.

Ani also explained that the inside of a banana skin can be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite, which many people find that rubbing the bite with the skin helps to reduce irritation.

Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist said that a wide variety of health benefits are associated with the curvy yellow fruit. “Bananas are high in potassium and pectin, a form of fibre, and can also be a good way to get magnesium and vitamins C and B6,” she said.

According to her, bananas are known to reduce swelling, protect against developing Type 2 diabetes. “It aids in weight loss, strengthens the nervous system, and helps with the production of white blood cells, all due to the high level of vitamin B6 that bananas contain. They are high in antioxidants, which can provide protection from free radicals, which we come into contact with every day, from the sunlight to the lotion you put on your skin. Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression “due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles. Additionally, the tryptophan in bananas is well known for its sleep-inducing properties.” Flores added.

In as much as it has many benefits, eating too much may result to some side effects, Flores said. “Bananas are a sugary fruit, so eating too many and not maintaining proper dental hygiene practices can lead to tooth decay. They also do not contain enough fat or protein to be a healthy meal on their own, or an effective post-workout snack. Eating bananas becomes significantly risky only if you eat too many. The USDA recommends that adults eat about two cups of fruit a day, or about two bananas. If you eat dozens of bananas every day, there may be a risk of excessively high vitamin and mineral levels.

“The University of Maryland Medical Centre reported that potassium overconsumption can lead to hyperkalemia, which is characterized by muscle weakness, temporary paralysis and an irregular heartbeat. It can have serious consequences, but you would have to eat about 43 bananas in a short time for any symptoms of hyperkalemia to occur,” she stressed.

According to the National Institute of Health, NIH, consuming more than 500 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily can possibly lead to nerve damage in the arms and legs. You would have to eat thousands of bananas to reach that level of vitamin B6.

– May 22, 2020 @ 17:45 GMT /

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