Bananas Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts And Calories
Unsure about the health benefits of eating bananas? From energy without fats to preventing kidney stones — read on to know the many benefits of eating bananas and some nutrition facts about bananas.
By Amrita Gracias
Consumed by every age group, from infants to the aged, the humble banana is perhaps the most popular and commonly eaten fruit globally.
But, have you ever wondered about the origin of this fruit? Well, the banana is believed to have its origins in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. It was later carried by sailors to the islands of the West Indies and subsequently to North America. European travellers carried the fruit to Europe from West Africa in the early 15th century. Eventually, through colonisers, sailors and merchants, the banana spread to every part of the world and is now the most widely cultivated fruit.
In India, several varieties of banana are grown in regions with tropical climate. Some of the most popular varieties include the Dwarf Cavendish, Robusta, Rasthali, Hill Plantain (Malai Pazham), Nendran, Poovan, Karpooravalli, Yelakki and the Red Banana.
Although widely available and a part of the daily diet for most of us, we remain unmindful of the many health benefits of bananas. In fact, a majority of us are clueless about banana's nutrition facts. So, let's get to know about the science-based benefits and side effects of bananas and the fruit’s impressive nutritional value.
Nutrition facts about banana
The banana is a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. In their study, 'Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Banana' published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Kumar et al mention that consuming bananas can help decrease blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and neurodegenerative diseases, lower cholesterol, boost heart and kidney health, restore normal bowel activity, and protect from ulcers and heartburn.
Calories in one banana
Depending on its size, the calories in a banana can range anywhere between 70 and 135. So, it is safe to say that an average-sized banana (7–8 inches long) contains about 100–105 calories.
Banana calorie count based on size:
- Extra-small banana (less than 6 inches): 70 calories
- Small banana (6–7 inches): 90 calories
- Medium banana (7–8 inches): 105 calories
- Large banana (8–9 inches): 120 calories
- Extra-large banana (above 9 inches): 135 calories
While a green banana has as many calories as a yellow one, the red banana has a slightly lower number of calories. In fact, a medium red banana has only about 90 calories.
However, compared to other fruits, the banana provides a higher amount of calories and is an excellent source of energy.
Nutritional value of banana (ripe, 100g)
- Carbohydrates 22.84g
- Dietary fibre 2.6g
- Protein 1.09g
- Total fat 0.33g
- Vitamin C 6.1mg
- Vitamin B6 0.33mg
- Potassium 322mg
- Magnesium 27mg
- Iron 0.26mg
- Calcium 5mg
- Folate 10mcg
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Health benefits of eating banana
The high amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals present in a banana benefits our body in various ways. Let’s understand how:
- For the skin: The abundance of Vitamin C helps the skin maintain a youthful and natural glow. It boosts the production of collagen, causing the skin to become more firm. The various minerals present in the fruit have an anti-ageing effect as they repair and rejuvenate dull and damaged skin, thus preventing wrinkles. Also, the antioxidants present in a banana protect the skin and help delay the ageing process. Even banana peels are highly beneficial. Rubbing the inside of the peel on the skin can help reduce itchiness and inflammation caused by a small insect or mosquito bite, remove warts and even treat acne. Rubbing the peel on the teeth makes them whiter and shiny. In fact, banana peels are edible and as nutritious as the fruit. So, eating the peel along with the flesh gives an added dose of nutrients.
- For the hair: The folic acid in a banana acts as a natural conditioner for the hair, and gives it a shine while keeping it soft and moisturised. The natural oils in the fruit keep the hair healthy and strong.
- For the face: Mashed banana is a common ingredient in face masks as it is an excellent moisturiser. It can be used to treat dry or oily skin, pigmentation, dark spots and dead skin caused by sun damage. A mashed banana can also be used to treat cracked heels and puffy eyes. Combining it with other natural ingredients such as honey, yogurt or eggs makes for excellent hair and face masks.
- For weight loss: Consuming a banana can make you feel full for longer because it is high in fibre and takes time to get digested. This helps reduce calorie intake and lose weight. Therefore, bananas are a great alternative to other less nutritive snacks. However, it’s best to eat the fruit in moderation if you wish to lose a few pounds since the sugar present in the banana turns into fat; also, the banana supplies a higher number of calories than other fruits.
- Banana during pregnancy: It is important to eat nutritious food during pregnancy, especially fruits that are rich in the much-needed vitamins and minerals. The banana is the popular choice for mothers-to-be because it is high in carbohydrate and fibre, and provides instant energy. The fibre in banana aids in digestion and prevents constipation, which is a common problem during pregnancy. The various nutrients and antioxidants aid in the development of the foetal brain, nerves and immune system, and overall growth. The folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects. The iron present in banana boosts the production of haemoglobin, thus reducing the risk of anaemia – another common issue during pregnancy. And, Vitamin B6 provides relief from the feeling of nausea and keeps morning sickness at bay. The presence of calcium, although minimal, helps regulate muscle contraction, which is important during labour.
Benefits of eating banana on an empty stomach
Contrary to popular belief, nutrition experts advise against eating banana on an empty stomach, especially in the morning as an alternative to breakfast. Although the fruit is packed with various nutrients, the banana is acidic in nature. So, it undergoes fermentation within the stomach and turns into acid and liquor. This can clog the digestive tract and cause problems with digestion and bowel movements. Besides, the banana contains high doses of natural sugar, which could give a sugar rush immediately but make an individual feel drained in a few hours. But, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid banana in the morning altogether. Teaming it up with healthy fat will neutralise the acid and prevent your body's sugar level from spiking and subsequently crashing. So, instead of having only banana, combine it with yogurt or porridge along with some nuts.
Benefits of eating banana every day
Did you note the high amount of carbs in banana under the nutritional facts given above? Well, the body needs carbs to fuel itself, which is another reason why a banana is a perfect choice for your daily dose of fruit. Unlike processed foods, the banana contains natural sugars. And, the high amount of fibre aids in digestion and proper bowel movement, and lowers the risk of diabetes.
A medium-sized banana contains about 420mg of potassium. Our body requires this mineral for the proper functioning of cells, nerves and tissues. Potassium is also essential for good heart health, to control blood pressure and maintain good kidney function.
The banana is also a good source of Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine. This water-soluble vitamin is important for the production of red blood cells and to maintain a healthy nervous system. But, our body does not produce Vitamin B6; so, eating a banana helps fulfil the requirement of this vitamin. Also, our body absorbs Vitamin B6 more easily from banana, compared to other foods.
The banana is also rich in Vitamin C, another essential nutrient the body requires in plenty. Vitamin C protects the body against cell and tissue damage, and supports the production of collagen (this protein is responsible for several functions, including holding the skin, body and bones together). Vitamin C also keeps the brain healthy by promoting the production of serotonin – a hormone that helps maintain a good sleep cycle and mood, and overall wellness.
Manganese is another important mineral present in a banana. This mineral is required to maintain a healthy liver. It also keeps the brain healthy by protecting it from damage-causing free radicals, thereby improving cognitive function.
The banana is also a good source of magnesium, which is essential for various biochemical reactions in the body. It also regulates blood glucose and blood pressure while helping the body produce energy. Magnesium helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function as well.
Kumar et al also found that eating banana helps the body retain various minerals like calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus, which helped build healthy and regenerated tissues.
Red banana benefits
In recent years, awareness has increased about the benefits of red banana and its high nutritional value. In fact, the red banana is sweeter than its yellow counterparts and can be eaten or used just like them. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants and amino acids. Here are a few facts about the red banana:
- The deep red colour of the fruit is due to the presence of beta-carotene, a pigment that gives certain fruits and vegetables their rich colour. Once consumed, the body converts the pigment to Vitamin A, which is essential for good eye health and eyesight, a powerful immune system and healthy skin.
- The red banana is a great source of fibre – each fruit contains at least 4g of fibre. This promotes digestion and good bowel movements. The red banana is recommended for those with chronic bowel or constipation problems and even for those suffering from piles.
- Consuming the red banana is known to prevent the occurrence of kidney stones owing to the high amount of potassium present in the fruit. It is also known to boost haemoglobin levels and the production of red blood cells.
- This fruit contains a higher amount of antioxidants compared to the yellow varieties. The main antioxidants present in red bananas are carotenoids, anthocyanins and dopamine. According to a study by Krinsky and Johnson, carotenoids decrease the risk of cancer, eye diseases, and various other ailments.
- Another interesting fact about red bananas is that its nutrients help diminish the desire to smoke. It is said that the potassium and magnesium present in the fruit help the body adjust to nicotine withdrawal.
- The red banana can also help treat pyrosis (heartburn) as it has an antacid effect. It reduces the excess acids in the stomach that cause heartburn, gas and indigestion.
Raw banana health benefits
The raw banana makes for a great snack and is as nutrient-rich as the ripe ones.
- In a raw banana, the carbs are present in the form of starch. So, the raw fruit has a lower glycaemic index and is good for diabetics.
- The starch in raw banana is resistant starch. Apart from providing long-lasting energy, it is also known to lower blood sugar level. It does not get digested and reaches the large intestine where it becomes food for the healthy bacteria. This helps reduce digestive problems and constipation. And, since resistant starch does not get digested, it keeps an individual feeling full for a longer time. All these contribute to weight loss and good gut health, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- The raw banana is also a good source of pectin, which decreases blood sugar levels and improves digestion.
- The high dietary fibre present in raw banana provides bulk and contributes to satiety.
Green banana health benefits
Falcomer et al found in their study that using green banana flour (GBF) proved beneficial in gastrointestinal symptoms/diseases, controlling weight, glycemic/insulin metabolism, and kidney and liver complications associated with diabetes. In those with diabetes type 2, GBF consumption led to increased insulin sensitivity and weight loss. In overweight women, GBF consumption improved weight and body composition, and lipid and inflammatory parameters.
Side effects of banana
Because of its high nutritional value, the banana is often the go-to fruit. But, when consumed in excess, bananas can have negative effects on health. The high levels of vitamins and minerals can give rise to certain health conditions; especially, excess potassium and Vitamin B6 can cause muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat and even nerve damage in the limbs. Eating too many bananas can also result in weight gain and increase in blood sugar levels.
Bananas contain tyrosine, an amino acid which our body converts to tyramine (which helps reduce blood pressure). However, high levels of tyramine are known to cause severe headaches. Also, the high starch levels in the fruit can cause tooth decay. All the extra fibre can lead to digestive problems such as tummy cramps, bloating and gas. And, the excess tryptophan, an amino acid which promotes healthy sleep cycle, can make you feel drowsy as it also increases the production of serotonin.
Are there any side effects of eating bananas at night?
Generally, eating food late at night is not advised. But if you must, choose a fruit instead of a sweet treat. And, a banana should be the preferred choice as it promotes the production of serotonin, which helps you sleep well. Besides, magnesium is known to prevent insomnia and Vitamin B6 helps the body feel relaxed.
Experts say that having a banana before going to bed provides essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to the body. It also keeps the stomach full; so, you wouldn't get up in the morning feeling hungry and craving to eat a big meal or something unhealthy.
However, do remember that bananas take time to digest. So, it is not advisable to have too much of the fruit before going to bed as it can affect the body’s metabolism.
Interesting banana facts
- Did you know that bananas are considered to be first cultivated fruit? Historians have found evidence of the fruit dating back to the ancient civilisations of the world.
- Historically, bananas have caused trade wars, influenced politics and even determined marriage alliances!
- There are over a thousand varieties of bananas! But they have all originated from the Cavendish variety which is native to Southeast Asia.
- The banana is cultivated in over 120 countries, but India is the largest producer of the fruit at about 30 million tonnes a year
- The fruit belongs to the berry family, and the banana plant is not a tree but a herb.
- Bananas were originally of the cooking variety – red and green. The yellow ones that we eat are a mutant strain of the cooking kind and were accidentally discovered in Jamaica.
- Bananas are the only fruit that contain both tryptophan and Vitamin B6, both of which contribute to the production of serotonin.
- A bunch of bananas is called a hand, and a single banana in a bunch is referred to as a finger!
- You can polish your leather shoes and bags with a banana peel! It gives an instant shine.
When can you introduce banana to babies?
Once a baby has completed six months, he is ready for semi-solid foods to support his growth and development. Bananas are a great choice when the baby is ready for this significant transition. Packed with both nutrition and taste, your little one is sure to enjoy having a banana. However, remember to mash it into a soft purée to make it easy for the baby to swallow. As he grows older, you can offer banana cut into small chunks or bite-sized pieces.
For a six-month-old child, one small-sized banana per day is enough. Feed only a ripe banana as a raw banana would be difficult to digest. Also take care to avoid feeding an overripe banana as this can cause digestive problems.
Bananas are rich in Vitamin B6 and therefore contribute to building a healthy immune system, preventing regular bouts of cold and cough. However, the fruit contributes to mucus formation and could aggravate a heavy cold with congestion.
Another common concern is what variety of banana to feed a baby. Well, it’s best that you give one that is native to your region.
How to spot banana allergy
A banana allergy refers to our body's reaction to the proteins present in the fruit. Banana allergy can range from something harmless to a potentially life-threatening one. However, banana allergy is extremely rare. Most likely, the allergy could be an over-reaction of the immune system to something that is harmless. Or, it could be a reaction to proteins that are similar to those found in other substances like latex.
Symptoms of banana allergy can manifest as mild skin rash or soreness in the mouth, tongue or lips. Sometimes, in infants, the allergy could show up as gas, tummy pain, loose stools, indigestion or even diaper rash. Banana allergy can even cause a runny or stuffy nose, cough, wheezing and heavy breathing. If you notice that your baby has any of these soon after eating a banana, then she may be allergic to the fruit. So, make sure to watch out for these signs, especially while introducing banana for the first time. If you suspect that your baby is having an allergic reaction, consult the paediatrician at the earliest. Most often, those with mild allergy are likely to outgrow them.
In rare cases, the reaction can include a critical condition called anaphylaxis. The symptoms usually include hives, itchiness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, and dizziness or even fainting. Since anaphylaxis is critical, emergency medical care is required.
So, there you have it – the banana is one of the healthiest fruits, packed with a range of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Go ahead and enjoy this super fruit and its various benefits! To enjoy the perfect banana, make sure you choose one that is firm and unblemished.
About the author:
Written by Amrita Gracias on 16 October 2019
Amrita Gracias holds a degree in English Literature from Stella Maris College, Chennai and a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism (specialising in Print Media) from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. She takes to writing and editing when she isn’t answering to the duties of motherhood!
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