In America, bananas are easy to find. Grocery stores and cafés sell these tasty fruits. You can even pick them up at gas stations! And while bananas seem ordinary, they have extraordinary powers. You’d be surprised at how well these fruits can act like medicine.
Bananas are a great source of energy, making them a popular pre-workout snack. They’ve been proven to help athletes power through long and intense exercise. In fact, they work just as well as carbohydrate drinks. The main difference? A greater intake of vitamins and minerals. Plus, bananas are easier on the wallet and taste buds.
Compared to orange juice, a medium banana has a similar level of antioxidants.1 This is great news for overall wellness, as oxidative stress is the culprit behind countless chronic diseases. Examples include cancer, heart disease, and sleep disorders.2
Bananas will help specific issues, too. Here’s why these tasty fruits are so appealing.
Health Problems That Bananas Can Fix
1. Reduces Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease. This condition is the leading cause of death for both American men and women. However, eating more bananas may help lower your risk. The power is within potassium. It lessens the impact of sodium, a mineral that stresses out your blood vessels. Potassium, on the other hand, relaxes tension and pressure. This also encourages sodium excretion through the urine.
At 420 milligrams per medium fruit, bananas are a rich source. Make them a regular part of diet while cutting back on salt.3 Together, these smart habits will help decrease the need for blood pressure drugs.
2. Treats Depression
In the United States, depression is one of the most common mental disorders. About 3 to 5 percent of adults are affected at any time. Often, depression is paired with anxiety but diet can manage symptoms.4
Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, a nutrient linked to mood. Signs of serious deficiency include depression, irritability, and nervousness.5 They also increase levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases motivation.67
Obviously, bananas won’t single-handedly cure depression. Therapy, exercise, and social support are also needed, but eating fruits and veggies will certainly play a role.8 With proper management, the need for anti-depressants will decrease.
3. Prevents Insomnia
Sleep is a must for good health. Yet, most people don’t get enough! Roughly 30 percent of adults get less than 6 hours of shut-eye a night, even though the recommendation is 7 to 8 hours.9 For many people, insomnia stands in the way. Bananas may benefit this common sleep disorder. The vitamin B6 helps make melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Your internal body clock will thank you.10 Sleep aids are on the market, but bananas are more natural. Enjoy one whenever your circadian rhythm needs some adjustment.
4. Fights Constipation
Constipation is never fun. Symptoms include bloating, stomach pain, and straining to pass stool. You’ll also have fewer bowel movements than usual, making things super uncomfortable. Low fiber intake is a common culprit, but bananas can change that.11
Before taking stool softeners or laxatives, eat a banana. One medium banana has 3.1 grams of fiber.12 It’ll help you reach the daily recommendation of 20 to 30 grams. But since most Americans only get 15 grams a day, it’s vital to increase your intake slowly. Eating too much too soon may cause even more stomach troubles.13
5. Tackles PMS
Ladies, this one is for you. The woes of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be treated with bananas. This group of symptoms shows up 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation. Common issues include headache, exhaustion, digestive problems, muscle pain, and mood swings.
Magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E can provide relief. Bananas have all three! Plus, don’t forget that depression, bloating, and constipation are also on this list. These symptoms also show up in PMS.
Pain relievers like naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are often recommended.14 But if you want a simpler remedy, peel open a banana.
Bananas are affordable, delicious, and travel-friendly. They can even be eaten when overripe, so you won’t have to waste food. When frozen, bananas make a tasty addition to dessert and smoothies.
|↑1, ↑7||Nieman, David C., Nicholas D. Gillitt, Dru A. Henson, Wei Sha, R. Andrew Shanely, Amy M. Knab, Lynn Cialdella-Kam, and Fuxia Jin. “Bananas as an energy source during exercise: a metabolomics approach.” PLoS One 7, no. 5 (2012): e37479.|
|↑2||Oxidative Stress/Inflammation and Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Disorders. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑3||How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association.|
|↑4||Depression. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑5||Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑6||Dopamine and desire. American Psychological Association.|
|↑8||Sanchez-Villegas, Almudena, Patricia Henriquez, Maira Bes-Rastrollo, and J. Doreste. “Mediterranean diet and depression.” Public health nutrition 9, no. 8A (2006): 1104-1109.|
|↑9||Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑11||Symptoms & Causes of Constipation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑12||Basic Report: 09040, Bananas, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑13||Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑14||Premenstrual syndrome. WomensHealth.gov, Office on Women’s Health.|