A dietitian provides the real facts on banana nutrition. And yes, they’re good for you!
What is it about bananas that make so many people think they shouldn’t eat them?
a bunch of bananas(ISTOCKPHOTO)
As with all fruits, they are packed with nutrients that our bodies thrive on; but somehow, they have gotten a bad rap. People complain bananas are high in sugar and calories. One medium banana contains 15 grams of sugar and 110 calories. Well, I think it is time to set the record straight. Below are five important benefits about bananas I wish everyone would remember.
5 Reasons to Eat Bananas
Good source of potassium
Bananas are a great source of potassium. One medium-sized banana provides 10% of the daily value of potassium, a mineral that lessens the effects of sodium in your body. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you may lose through urine. Research shows that consuming potassium also helps to ease the tension in your blood vessels, which in result, helps lower blood pressure.
Potassium is also vital for kidney function, and eating bananas regularly may help play a role in keeping your kidneys healthy. However, if diagnosed with any type of kidney disease, one should speak with their physician about their potassium intake.
Packed with fiber
The intake of dietary fiber has been associated with a decrease in cholesterol levels; however, most individuals do not meet the RDA (25-30g per day). One medium-sized banana provides about 3 grams of fiber. Furthermore, the lower your cholesterol levels the lower your risk for heart disease.
Fiber is also known to aid in satiety which may help with weight management. This tropical fruit is also good for our digestive tract, as it decreases the risk for constipation and diarrhea. Lastly, since fiber is known to digest more slowly in our bodies, studies have supported that it may not cause huge spikes in our blood sugar.
Bananas are rich in antioxidants
Same as other fruits, bananas are rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C with 12% of the RDA. Research supports that foods rich in vitamin C help maintain immune health by fighting off free radicals that may cause cell damage.
Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties which may further help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers; plus, possibly, even anti-aging benefits.
Good source of magnesium
Magnesium is another mineral that’s important for heart health by helping to regulate our blood pressure, and bananas provide 8% of the recommended daily value. And not only heart health, but research has linked magnesium to maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Furthermore, there are studies to suggest individuals with a lower intake of magnesium are more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes because magnesium plays a role in insulin metabolism and glucose control.
Great source of energy
Bananas contain 29 grams of energy-boosting carbohydrates, of which all the 15 grams of sugar contained is naturally occurring and easy to digest. These carbohydrates may provide the perfect boost of energy pre-workout. But because bananas also contain potassium and magnesium, they also can be great post-workout to replenish these electrolytes lost through sweat.
And not only do they make a good addition to exercise, but they may also make the ideal pick-me-up in the afternoon for anyone who needs a little extra energy. Pair the banana with some protein, such as yogurt, nuts or cottage cheese, and you have a great well-balanced snack with staying power.
Banana Snack and Meal Ideas
Bananas are packed with nutrients that are beneficial to your health and are easy to enjoy. They can be added to hot or cold cereal, pancakes or muffin mixes, sliced with peanut butter spread on top or on top of almond butter toast with a drizzle of honey – or just simply on their own.
Perfect Snack Pairings
Creating the perfect snack
When it comes to creating the perfect pair, the first thing that probably comes to mind may be wine and cheese, or chips and dip. While you can enjoy these on occasion, I’ve got some healthier suggestions in mind.
Pairing a fruit, vegetable or whole grain – which all contain fiber – with a food that contains protein or healthy fat is a winning combination for a satisfying snack that is both nourishing and energizing. This combo will stabilize your blood sugar, slow down digestion and keep you full and far more satisfied than a single-food-group snack. You won’t feel “hangry” or irritable because you are hungry. They also taste better and beat a dry rice cake by a long shot.
In my book “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” I offer ideas to get you started. Here are some of my favorites – both savory and sweet:
Spread a quarter of an avocado on a slice of whole-grain toast, Ezekiel bread or whole-grain crackers. As I previously wrote, grains are not taboo and don’t need to be avoided, even if you are trying to lose a few pounds. Whole grains contain fiber, folate and magnesium.
Avocados contain heart-heathy fats along with vitamins and minerals including potassium, folate and vitamins C and K. The fat and the fiber are super satisfying, tasty and a winning combination.
Roasted chickpeas or edamame with sliced red and yellow peppers
Chickpeas and edamame contain plant protein and fiber, and pair well with peppers or your favorite crunchy veggie like carrots, celery, radishes or jicama. Red and yellow peppers are rich in nutrients including vitamin C and other antioxidants, folate, vitamin K, potassium and fiber.
When you roast chickpeas or edamame (shelled) in the oven, they transform into a crispy and savory snack. Here’s how:
- Drain the chickpeas and dry them well before roasting.
- Toss the chickpeas with olive oil and kosher salt. You can experiment with spices like cumin or chili powder.
- Spread them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven on 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring them every 10 minutes.
You can eat them as a snack or toss them into soup or salads for some crispiness. You can roast the peppers or enjoy them raw. If you have no time for roasting, no problem. Enjoy hummus and veggies instead.
Sliced apple or pear with nut butter
Apples and pears are easy to grab and high in nutrition. They’re rich in fiber, containing around 4 to 5 grams each, and are super satisfying.
I love sliced apples with about 1 tablespoon peanut butter; almond butter or cashew butter are also yummy. I often heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, so it softens and easily spreads onto the fruit.
I love a yogurt parfait made with Greek yogurt (2% milk fat), mixed berries, a drizzle of honey and crushed walnuts. This tasty snack is the perfect combination of protein from the yogurt, antioxidants and fiber from the berries, and healthy fat including omega-3 fatty acids from the walnuts.
It’s filling, high in nutrients, including calcium, vitamins D and E, and low in calories.
Oversized strawberries dipped in almond butter and cocoa chips
Craving a fun sweet treat? These next three DIY snacks will satisfy your sweet tooth. Or enjoy for dessert after a meal.
Banana peanut butter ‘nice cream’
Blend a frozen banana (sliced), 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter and ½ cup unsweetened almond milk in a food processor or a blender and enjoy.
Bananas are high in potassium and fiber, while the peanut butter contains healthy fat that will keep you satisfied.
This decadent dessert is high in vitamin C, fiber, heart-healthy fat and taste. Place the almond butter and cocoa chips in the microwave for around 30 seconds to soften. Spread the dips onto the strawberries and enjoy warm.
You can also place the chocolate-almond-butter-covered berries in a baggie and freeze to enjoy as a cold snack.
Apple pie in a mug
Chop an apple and mix with 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. Sprinkle with cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and a drizzle of lemon juice to your liking. Heat in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes depending on the consistency you enjoy.
7 snack pairings that are satisfying and good for you:
One final tip: Give your snack as much attention as you would your meal. Enjoy these seven snacks sitting down and savor the flavor.
- Avocado toast.
- Roasted chickpeas or edamame with sliced red and yellow peppers.
- Sliced apple or pear with nut butter.
- Yogurt parfait.
- Strawberries dipped in almond butter and cocoa chips.
- Banana peanut butter “nice cream.”
- Apple pie in a mug.