Bananas are fresh, versatile, and relatively inexpensive fruits. They’re packed with essential nutrients and may benefit weight loss, digestion, and heart health.
Bananas are native to Southeast Asia but now grow in many warm climates around the world and they’re an excellent choice if you’re interested in adding more healthy fruits to your diet.
Bananas contain fiber and many beneficial nutrients, including:
- vitamin B6
- vitamin C
- various antioxidants and phytonutrients
Here are 11 science-based health benefits of bananas.
1. Rich in nutrients
Bananas contain a fair amount of carbs, water, fiber, and antioxidants but little protein and no fat.
2. May improve blood sugar levels
Bananas are rich in soluble fiber. During digestion, soluble fiber dissolves in liquid to form a gel. This may also contribute to a banana’s sponge-like textureTrusted Source.
Unripe (green) bananas also contain resistant starch, a type of fiber that your body does not digest.
Together, these two types of fiber may help moderate your blood sugar levels after meals and regulate your appetite by slowing the emptying of your stomach.
This means that despite their higher carb content, bananas may not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels in people who don’t have diabetes.
However, for those who have diabetes, eating a large portion in one sitting may cause blood sugar levels to rise too high, so it’s best to stick to one banana at a time.
3. May support digestive health
Dietary fiber has been linked to many health benefitsTrusted Source, including improved digestion.
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 (probiotics).
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 suggest that pectin may help protect against colon cancerTrusted Source, although further research in humans is needed to learn more about this possible benefit.
4. May aid weight loss
No study has directly investigated the effects of bananas on weight loss. However, bananas have several attributes that could make them a weight-loss-friendly food.
Bananas have relatively few calories just over 100 calories in an average banana but are nutritious and filling.
They’re also packed with dietary fiber and resistant starch, which may help you feel full longerTrusted Source and therefore reduce the frequency and size of your meals.
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 and especially for blood pressure management. However, few people get enough potassium in their diet.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, with a medium banana providing 10% of the DV.
A potassium-rich diet could help lower your blood pressureTrusted Source, reducing your risk of hypertension. A 2017 study in mice also suggests that potassium may lower the risk of heart disease by 27%Trusted Source.
Additionally, bananas contain 8% of the DV for magnesium, another important mineral for heart health.
Magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and high levels of fats in the blood. Therefore, it’s essential to get enough of this mineral from either 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 macular degeneration.
Antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage to your cells caused by free radicals. If you do not consume enough 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 content of bananas make them a more filling snackTrusted Source than some other options, such as processed or sugary boxed snacks.
Protein is filling, but bananas are low in this macronutrient. For a hunger-reducing snack, you can try eating a sliced banana with a protein-rich food such as Greek yogurt or blending a banana into a protein shake.
8. May improve insulin sensitivity when unripe
Insulin resistance is a significant risk factor in several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Studies suggest that regularly eating resistant starch may improve insulin sensitivityTrusted Source, making your body more responsive to the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin.
But more research is needed to investigate how the resistant starch in bananas might affect insulin sensitivity.
9. May improve kidney health
Potassium is vital for healthy kidney function and blood pressure regulation.
As a great dietary source of potassium, bananas could be especially beneficial for keeping your kidneys healthy.
A 2019 study that included more than 5,000 people with early stage chronic kidney disease linked potassium with lower blood pressure and a slower progression of kidney disease.
However, some people who have late stage kidney disease or are undergoing dialysis need to restrict their potassium intake. If you fall into one of these categories, speak with a healthcare professional 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 along with potassium and magnesium, which act as electrolytesTrusted Source.
You lose electrolytes through your sweat during vigorous exercise. Resupplying your body with potassium and magnesium after sweating may reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness.
Specific research on the effects of bananas on exercise performance, cramping, and exercise recovery is lacking. But bananas can provide excellent nutrition before, during, and after exercise.
11. Easy to add to your diet
Bananas are not only healthy and tasty but also convenient.
They make a great addition to yogurt, cereal, or smoothies, and they work well as a topping for whole-grain toast with peanut butter. You can even use them in place of sugar in your baking and cooking.
Bananas are also easy to transport and are usually well tolerated and easily digested. All you need to do is peel them and you’re good to go.