Bananas appear in our list of 99 Smoothie Mix-Ins for Weight Loss (And Everything Else!) under the heading, “Eye Health.” That’s because bananas have been found to improve vision and work against eye diseases that can effect sight.
Good news if you’re one of the vast majority of people who count bananas as their favorite fruit! That’s right: bananas are the whole WORLD’S favorite fruit. Way to make a healthy choice, everyone!
Usually when you think of a “favorite food,” you think of something junky, or a big plate of beige comfort food. Not exactly loaded with nutritional value! But bananas are different (even though they’re usually beige, too). They’re a favorite and they’re super healthy.
What can bananas do for you besides protect and improve your eyesight? Let me tell you: A LOT! Bananas are a super healthy fruit.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional benefits bananas can offer us.
Bananas are one of the most potassium-rich foods you can get your hands on, containing about 422mg of potassium per banana. That’s 12% of the potassium you need in a single day.
And why do you need potassium? It’s one of the seven macrominerals that your body requires to keep healthy. You may have heard potassium mentioned as an “electrolyte,” not as a mineral; that’s because potassium is both. Electrolytes keep the fluids in your body balanced, helping prevent dehydration and regulating how much water your body retains and excretes through the kidneys.
Potassium also balances itself against the sodium in your body, preventing salt from having negative effects on your blood pressure and your hydration.
If you’ve ever heard that you should eat a banana before exercise to avoid cramps, this is because of the high levels of potassium in the fruit. As an electrolyte, potassium helps regulate the electrical impulses that control your muscles, so getting plenty of it can prevent the spasms that cause cramps!
Bananas aren’t exactly loaded with fiber, containing about 3.5g of fiber per banana, 12% of the amount you should be getting every day (just like potassium!). But bananas are excellent for your digestion, and not just because they have a fair amount of the fiber your system needs to stay regular.
These yummy fruits are one of four foods recommended by doctors to soothe upset stomachs: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Because they’re a source of soluble rather than insoluble fiber, the fiber in bananas becomes a gel in your digestive system and slows the rate at which your stomach absorbs other foods. This helps prevent stomach upset and even keeps your blood sugar more stable.
The soluble fiber in bananas also binds to cholesterol particles within your digestive system, sweeping them out of the body and helping your system to absorb less of this harmful fat. Last but not least, fiber–both soluble and insoluble–keeps your stomach feeling full and can therefore make it easier to lose weight on a reduced diet.
Like many fruits, bananas are a good source of vitamin C, containing about 17% of the vitamin C you need in a day. You’ve probably heard that you should take vitamin C when you have a cold. Well, it certainly isn’t a cure for illness, but it is true that vitamin C can shorten the severity and duration of the common cold!
Vitamin C is also good for your heart and circulatory system. It helps lower your cholesterol just like soluble fiber, and it improves the flow of blood throughout your body. This brings nutrients like oxygen to your cells more quickly, helping them to speed repair of any damage, whether from a heart attack or from a simple paper cut.
Finally, you’ll be happy to hear that vitamin C can counteract the negative effects of stress and anxiety on your body. You need vitamin C to produce the hormones that keep your moods level and your outlook bright. If you’re getting enough vitamin C, your body is less likely to produce too much adrenaline, a reaction to stress that makes you feel worried and upset.
The average banana contains 20% of the B6 you need every day. This is great news if you love the world’s favorite fruit, because B6 is vital to the health of your nerves and brain. It helps your body manufacture the chemicals that allow your brain to send signals to the rest of your body, regulating pretty much everything that goes on in your system automatically, from your heart rate to your digestion.
Additionally, having a small deficiency of vitamin B6 is a pretty common problem, especially among people who don’t get an adequately varied diet or people who don’t eat meat. B6 is found in its highest concentrations in meat and seafood, but other top sources include sweet potatoes, spinach, and, you guessed it, bananas!
Like many of the nutritional components of bananas, vitamin B6 also supports your digestion, particularly the way your body processes carbohydrates. B6 is necessary for the proper utilization of carbs, and when we’re trying to lose weight, we definitely want to use carbs, not store them!
Like fiber, getting enough B6 can help our bodies keep energy levels stable and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
The Next Banana?
If you love bananas as they exist today, you’d better eat up now, because a disease threatens to wipe out this particular type of banana forever!
But don’t worry too much: this type of change is not unprecedented. Our current banana, the Cavendish, was only bred to replace the previous top banana, a breed grown in Latin American called Gros Michel. The old banana was wiped out by a virus in the 1900s, and no one alive today has probably ever tasted it! It is thought that periodic wipe-outs might just be part of how bananas grow.
And of course the Cavendish isn’t the only banana, it’s just the most popular and the only one suited for mass export across the world. Many different types of bananas are grown and enjoyed locally in climates where the tropical trees flourish. But no one knows which of these local delicacies will be the world’s next favorite fruit!
Let’s Wrap It Up
Clearly bananas are an amazing smoothie mix-in. Between their great sweet taste which appeals to nearly everyone and the nutritional benefits that pump up any meal, they’re always a hit.
Check out our awesome FREE smoothie eBook for smoothie recipe ideas! Many of these do include the world’s favorite fruit, along with lots of the other 99 deliciously healthy mix-ins you’ve read about.