(NaturalHealth365) The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) now reports that a stunning two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. In addition to causing a host of serious health problems, obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease – which is currently the leading cause of death in the United States. Obviously, more effective methods of weight control are needed.
Time and time again, studies have shown that diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables can combat obesity while lowering the risk of chronic disease. Despite years of being unjustly labeled as a “fattening” food, bananas are now receiving credit from researchers for their ability to promote weight loss, support heart health and cut cancer risk. Let’s take a look at some additional – and surprising – health benefits of bananas.
Misguided advice: Millions have been advised to avoid this fruit for no justifiable reason
Traditionally, dieters and weight-conscious individuals have been advised to avoid bananas. This is unfortunate, as bananas are not fattening when eaten in moderation. On the contrary, this nutritious fruit offers up essential vitamins, minerals, and easily digestible carbohydrates at a modest caloric cost. In fact, a medium-sized banana contains only 105 calories – not much more than the caloric content of an apple. And, while bananas are high in natural sugars, these are accompanied by over 3 grams of fiber, which causes the sugars to be absorbed more slowly. Because of this, bananas rank in the “moderate” range of the glycemic index – a measurement of how specific foods can cause blood sugar to rise.
In addition to containing pectin, a dietary fiber, bananas feature resistant starch – which helps to reduce appetite and control food cravings by providing a feeling of satiety or fullness.
Due to their high levels of resistant starch, bananas are considered a prebiotic food – meaning they supply nourishment for beneficial bacteria in the gut. Research has shown that a healthy balance in the gut microbiome helps to prevent obesity.
Who would have thought? Bananas can brighten your day and help you sleep well
A medium-sized banana contains up to a third of the RDI for vitamin B6 or pyridoxine. This essential vitamin helps synthesize dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, the “feel-good” brain chemicals needed for a calm mood and restorative sleep.
Bananas turn up the mood-lifting effects further with their content of the amino acid tryptophan, which is believed to brighten outlook, protect memory and improve cognitive function. In addition, their prebiotic capabilities improve gut health, which in turn supports mood.
Finally, the fiber in bananas allows them to regulate blood glucose levels, helping to prevent “blood sugar spikes” and avoid the mood swings that can accompany them.
But wait, that’s not all! Bananas can help protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer
Research has shown that bananas are highly antioxidative and anti-inflammatory fruits that can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Particularly important is their high dopamine content. Scientists say that dopamine is not only a neurotransmitter but also a potent antioxidant that rivals glutathione – the body’s most important natural detoxifying compound – in disease-fighting properties.
According to experts at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard Medical School, bananas are an important part of a heart-healthy diet – mostly because of their generous potassium content. A medium-sized banana provides roughly 422 mg of potassium –about 10 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake. This essential mineral is indispensable for protecting against stroke, controlling blood pressure, and regulating heartbeat. In fact, studies show that people who adhere to potassium-rich diets cut their heart disease risk by over 25 percent.
And, improved heart health is not the only benefit of bananas. In a 2018 review, the investigators concluded that a diet rich in fiber, particularly from bananas, could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends this yellow fruit as a healthy snack – but notes that diabetics should eat them in moderation.
Other benefits of bananas include alleviating digestive conditions. Green bananas, which contain more resistant starch than riper bananas, are endorsed by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America for healing the gut and easing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Finally, a Swedish study involving over 61,000 women and published in the International Journal of Cancer showed bananas could help slash the risk of kidney cancer almost in half. The team found that women who consumed five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day had a 41 percent lower risk of developing kidney cancer. And bananas – added the researchers – had the most anti-cancer benefits of all fruits studied. Another kidney benefit: bananas’ high amounts of potassium may help ward off kidney stones.
Here is why bananas are the ultimate delicious, portable snack
Packed with micronutrients and easily-digested carbohydrates (and low in fat), bananas are near-perfect little packages of nutrition, sealed inside a convenient, biodegradable package. This makes them an ideal snack for before, during, and after workouts, especially given that they can reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness.
Another plus: You won’t find bananas on the “Dirty Dozen” list of pesticide-contaminated fruits released yearly by the Environmental Working Group. Banana’s thick peels help to protect against toxic chemicals.
Bananas are easy to incorporate into your daily diet – and you don’t have to stick to merely slicing them into cereal. These sweet, satisfying fruits can be the basis of a nutritious smoothie, refreshing addition to a Waldorf salad, and a healthy thickener and sweetener for muffins and cookies. You can also revamp the classic banana split by using yogurt, shredded coconut, and fresh fruit. Of course, you can always feature them in old-fashioned banana bread.
In traffic, the color yellow signals “caution.” When it comes to snacks, however, the bright yellow hue of bananas means “go right ahead – and enjoy.” Just be sure to choose organic varieties – always.
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