Even with its unwavering popularity, some still avoid bananas because they’re higher in carbs and sugar than many other fruits. But here’s the thing: it’s easy to forget that your body actually needs carbs to fuel your body, and unlike processed sweet treats, a banana’s naturally occurring sugars are accompanied by many vitamins and minerals. Plus, bananas are also rich in fiber, which slows your digestion of sugar, not to mention helps keep you feeling full.
9 science-backed health benefits of bananas
1. Bananas are packed with potassium
One medium banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, or about 12 percent of your daily value of the mineral, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Your body needs plenty of potassium to operate normally. This electrolyte helps your muscles contract, nerves function, move nutrients into cells (and waste out of them), regulate your heartbeat, and regulate sodium in your body. So when you don’t get enough potassium, your blood pressure and kidney stone risk can increase, you may feel weak and tired, or even experience muscle cramps. (Here are other foods high in potassium.)
2. Bananas help keep you hydrated
How the heck can a solid food aid in hydration? Potassium plays a part here by helping regulate the balance of fluids in your body, especially the electrolytes you lose (like sodium, magnesium, calcium, and yes-potassium!) after a sweaty workout. Moderate to intense activity can cause small cellular changes in potassium, and athletes are encouraged to eat potassium rich foods to counteract these imbalances, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
3. Bananas are good for your gut
One medium banana has 3 grams of filling fiber (about 10 percent of your daily intake). Bananas also contain prebiotics, a type of fermentable fiber that helps the good bacteria in your gut (also know as probiotics) thrive.
4. Bananas are the perfect pre-workout fuel
The best foods to eat before you work out are the ones that contain natural sugars (carbs) for energy, but aren’t too harsh on your stomach. Bananas check off both of those boxes, and are portable enough to throw in a gym bag. Plus, research suggests that bananas have unique compounds that can enhance athletic performance.
5. Bananas are good for your heart
Put another point in the potassium column, because this important mineral is vital for your heart. Research shows that eating lots of potassium is associated with significantly lower blood pressure levels and a decreased risk of stroke. That’s because potassium helps flush excess heart-stressing sodium from your body through your urine, reducing the potential damage it may have on your ticker.
6. Bananas can replace sugar in baked goods
One of the best reasons to eat bananas is the naturally sweet taste and soft texture that makes them an ideal ingredient in many baked goods. You can’t sub in bananas for sugar in every recipe, but you sure can look for recipes that have already done that work for you.
7. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6
While vitamin B6 doesn’t see the spotlight all that often, it’s an essential vitamin for a reason. Bananas contain nearly one third of your daily value of vitamin B6, which is important for brain development during pregnancy and enzyme reactions involved in metabolism.
8. Bananas might keep your appetite in check
No one food will take away the hanger after skipping a meal. However, eating a banana as part of a well-balanced diet may help curb your cravings. Bananas contain a type of fiber called resistant starch, which seems to help people eat fewer calories and manage their appetite, studies show.
9. Bananas keep your kidneys healthy
A banana a day may keep the doctor away. In a study of 61,000 Swedish women, researchers found that people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables-more than 75 servings per month, or roughly 3 servings total per day-had the lowest risk of developing renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.