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9 health benefits of bananas

This yellow fruit can help improve your gut health, regulate your blood pressure, and provide an energy boost

Key takeaways

  • Bananas contain a powerful combination of essential nutrients, making them a great choice for people who want to maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, improve skin health, and more.

  • As bananas ripen, the amount of sugar they contain increases, and the amount of pectin they contain decreases, which means there is less fiber in ripe bananas.

  • One medium banana contains approximately 3 grams of dietary fiber, 27% of the daily value for vitamin B6, 15% of the daily value for manganese, 12% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 10% of the daily value for potassium.

While bananas might not be the trendiest fruit (unless you count Andy Warhol’s version), they’re rightfully regarded as one of the original superfoods. They contain carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamin C—which helps protect against free radicals—vitamin B6, provitamin A, potassium, and magnesium.

This powerful combination of essential nutrients makes the bright yellow fruit a great choice for people who are looking to maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, improve skin health, and more. In fact, “a medium banana is like nature’s perfectly pre-portioned snack, providing about 100 calories each,” according to Jackie Newgent, RDN, a registered dietitian based in New York City and author of The Plant-Based Diabetes Cookbook.

9 health benefits of bananas

Bananas are known for their potassium levels, but the nutrients they contain—and the health benefits they can have—go well beyond the well-known. Bananas have the potential to help improve skin, gut, and heart health, control blood sugar, and even aid a workout. Read on to unpack these benefits and more.

1. Improve skin health

If you want glowing skin, the vitamin C found in bananas can help. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that prevents skin cell damage and slows aging. Additionally, “vitamin C supports collagen production, which plays a key role in maintaining skin elasticity and promoting rejuvenation,” says Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles, California, and author of Eat Your Vitamins.

Bananas are also rich in a nutrient called provitamin A, also known as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are converted to retinol, which contributes to skin health by stimulating cell turnover, says Tracey Brigman, Ed.D., MS, RDN, a clinical associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Georgia.

Finally, bananas naturally contain silicon, a mineral that may help improve your skin’s surface and restore collagen. However, more research is needed to determine how well the mineral can be absorbed from bananas, notes Newgent.

2. Promote gut health

Gut health is a buzzy topic—and rightfully so: Your gut biome impacts the rest of your body’s health, from mood to immune system. So, how do bananas help promote a healthy gut?

First, they don’t get enough credit for their dietary fiber content. “Bananas contain a type of fiber called pectin. Pectin can help eliminate waste more effectively by softening stools and helping prevent constipation and bloating,” says Brigman. “Additionally, pectin contains resistant starch (a prebiotic), which gives good bacteria something to eat.” When your digestive tract has an abundance of healthy gut bacteria, it can lower inflammation and improve glycemic control.

The ripeness of your banana affects the level of prebiotics it contains. If gut health is a priority, choose under-ripe bananas and eat them before they have a chance to become fully yellow. “If you’re eating green bananas, you’re going to be having a daily source of prebiotics, which is great for your gut health,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, a dietitian and gut health nutritionist based in Long Beach, California.

3. Support weight loss

There is no direct link between eating bananas and shedding pounds, but they are a high-fiber, nutrient-dense food that fits well into a healthy eating plan for weight loss and maintenance. “While no one food alone is a magic solution to weight loss, bananas are a relatively low-calorie snack and also contain fiber, which may support feelings of fullness and prevent overeating,” explains Davis.

Additionally, bananas can help you hit the recommended goal of five daily servings of produce. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can be a key part of supporting a healthy metabolism and could support weight loss,” adds Sauceda. “Bananas are … nutritious and widely available, making them a nice fruit to include in your diet.”

4. Support bone health

Bananas are known for their high potassium content. This mineral has many health benefits, one of which is to neutralize acids in your body and protect your bones. Higher potassium intake from fruits and veggies is linked to better bone density, which could slow the onset of osteoporosis. Because women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than men, bananas can be an important part of a healthy eating plan for women, says Brigman.

5. Maintain healthy blood pressure

Research suggests that a high-potassium diet can help lower high blood pressure—especially for women with a higher-than-normal sodium intake.Because they’re rich in potassium, eating bananas can be helpful in managing blood pressure and regulating body fluid levels,” says Newgent. In other words, if you’re dealing with hypertension, bananas can be a good addition to other lifestyle changes and medication.

6. Support heart health

Potassium supports heart health by helping regulate blood pressure. Additionally, the fiber that bananas contain binds to cholesterol and helps move it out of your body—preventing it from building up and adhering to your artery walls. This can help to reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.

7. Aid a workout

Ripe bananas have a high sugar content and are easy to digest, making them the perfect pre-workout snack for a quick energy boost or as part of your post-workout recovery. Additionally, the potassium they contain is a form of natural electrolyte. These mineral salts help replenish hydration and muscle function when you sweat during exercise.

8. Help with reproductive health

“One medium-sized banana contains 6% of the daily value of folate, an important nutrient for fetal development in pregnant women,” says Davis. Additionally, bananas contain magnesium, which may aid in pain relief for women experiencing menstrual cramps.

9. Control your blood sugar

Bananas are a high-carbohydrate food, which usually spells trouble for your blood sugar. However, since they are also packed with soluble fiber and resistant starch, they can actually help with glucose regulation—especially if you eat them when they are less ripe and you don’t have diabetes. Greener bananas contain more resistant starch and less sugar.

When are bananas best to eat?

You’ve likely left a bunch of bananas on the counter too long and ended up making banana bread with the browned fruit. But what happens inside the peel to cause this transformation, and what does the change in color mean for the fruit’s nutritional content? “As bananas ripen, the amount of sugar they contain increases, and the amount of pectin they contain decreases. This means there is less fiber in ripe bananas and less resistant starch,” says Brigman.

This also means that bananas have different health benefits at different stages of ripeness. Green, unripe bananas are rich in prebiotics and resistant starch and are best for maintaining:

  • Gut health
  • Blood sugar

Yellow, ripe bananas have the highest potassium, vitamin B6, and antioxidants and are best for:

  • Skin health
  • Bone health
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart health
  • Workouts

Brown or very ripe bananas have more simple sugars, making them taste sweeter, says Sauceda. This makes them a good natural sweetener—and particularly good for baking with less added sugar.

Banana nutrition

Bananas are nutrient-dense and have many benefits for your health. According to Davis, one medium banana contains approximately:

  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 12% of the daily value of vitamin C
  • 10% of the daily value of potassium
  • 27% of the daily value of vitamin B6
  • 15% of the daily value of manganese
  • 11% of the daily value of copper
  • 8% of the daily value of magnesium
  • 112 calories

They are a great addition to your diet at any time of day or stage of ripeness, offering different health benefits as they turn from green to yellow to brown. However, certain people should limit their intake of this fruit—such as those with chronic kidney disease or diabetes. “Bananas are high in potassium, which makes them a poor daily choice for those with chronic kidney disease,” says Brigman. Additionally, “consumption of daily ripe bananas may result in a high sugar intake due to the carbohydrates they contain.” Diabetics may, therefore, want to stick with less ripe bananas.

As with any food, moderation and variety is key. Your body needs many different macronutrients and vitamins that you can only get from eating various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

The bottom line: What are the benefits of eating bananas?

Bananas are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and magnesium. These nutrients have potential health benefits, such as improving gut health, regulating blood pressure, and providing a pre- or post-workout energy boost. They also help you meet your daily fruit and overall nutrient needs.