Go Bananas For Bananas

Bananas
Bananas

Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world for good reason.  They are extremely healthy and delicious.  There are several varieties, which vary in color, size and shape.  The most common type is the yellow banana which is green when unripe.

You may already know that bananas are a great source of potassium.  A medium-sized banana has 422 mg of the mineral, which is about 12% of the recommended daily value according to the USDA.  Bananas are also a good source of vitamins C and B6.  A medium-sized banana has 15% and 30% of the recommended daily value of these two vitamins respectively.

Reasons To Eat Bananas

1. Bananas help keep blood pressure in check

Bananas are rich in potassium, and a potassium-rich diet helps lower blood pressure.  According to the American Heart Association, the more potassium you consume, the more sodium that can exit your body.  That is because potassium acts like a natural diuretic.  It triggers the kidneys to release excess sodium and fluids the body is holding on to, lowering blood pressure in the process.  Bananas are also a good source of magnesium which also helps lower blood pressure.  Lower blood pressure is great for your heart, because the muscle won’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.

2. Bananas are good for your gut bacteria

You’ve probably heard of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that aid digestion and are found in certain foods like yogurt.  Well there’s also such a thing as prebiotics, and bananas happen to be a great source of them.  Prebiotics are actually carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the human body, however they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy gut.  Prebiotics supply food for the probiotics, so they help the “good” probiotic bacteria grow.  You’ll also find prebiotics in raisins, asparagus, onions, and garlic.

3. Bananas can ease stomach troubles

Bananas can help with several tummy issues.  The 3.1 grams of fiber you’ll find in a medium banana is split into two different types: soluble and insoluble fiber.  Soluble fiber helps ease digestion, while insoluble fiber helps relieve constipation.  Bananas also neutralize the acidity in the stomach and coat the lining to reduce irritation, so they can help fight heartburn and stomach ulcers too.

4. Bananas help protect the cardiovascular system

Bananas represent an important part of overall heart health for a variety of reasons.  The potassium in bananas helps reduce blood pressure.  In addition to being a diuretic, bananas are vasodilators.  This means they relax the tension of the blood vessels helping the blood flow more smoothly through the body and oxygenate the various organs of the body to increase their function.  This can help reduce atherosclerosis and reduce cardiovascular disease risk.  The fiber in bananas also helps scrape excess cholesterol from the blood vessels which also reduces cardiovascular disease risk.

Ways to Enjoy Bananas

  • Just peel and eat: Take a banana with you to work or school for a healthy, portable snack.
  • On cereals: Add a sliced banana to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a more nutritious breakfast.
  • In smoothies: Peel and freeze bananas (or use fresh) for a great addition to any smoothie.
  • In baked goods: Ripe, mashed bananas can be used in baked goods to replace oil or butter.  Mashed bananas lend a moist, natural, sweet flavor to cakes, muffins, breads, and cookies.
  • With peanut butter:  A peanut butter and banana sandwich is an all-time favorite comfort food for children and adults alike.
  • Healthy fruit salad: Include banana slices along with orange slices, strawberries, and mango chunks in your next fruit salad.
  • Yogurt topping: Sweeten plain yogurt with slices of banana for a delicious dessert or snack.
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