Bananas might be the perfect fruit. They've got a built-in protective covering with a convenient tab for removal. Their color instantly tells you when they're ripe. They've got a delicious taste that nearly everyone enjoys. And—perhaps most important—they're packed with beneficial nutrients.
No wonder bananas are Americans' favorite fruit. The average American consumes over 10 pounds of bananas annually.
Whether you're already a banana lover or someone who needs more reasons to up his or her fruit intake, here are six big benefits of regularly eating bananas.
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1. Bananas Help you Breathe Easier
Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from asthma, and it's the leading chronic disease among children. But preventing asthma could be as simple as eating a banana a day. A study at the Imperial College of London found that children who ate at least one banana a day experienced 34 percent less wheezing than those who ate less than one banana a month. If you're looking to prevent asthma-related symptoms and breathe better, reach for a banana.
2. Bananas Help Control Blood Sugar
High blood pressure is a silent killer. Its effects include aneurysms, narrowing of the arteries, heart disease, brain disease, stroke and kidney failure. One way to lower your blood pressure is to consume more potassium—a nutrient abundantly found in bananas. One average-sized banana contains about 12 percent of your daily value of potassium.
A 2005 study conducted at St. George's Medical School found that potassium citrate—the type of potassium found in bananas—is effective for lowering blood pressure. In the span of only a couple of weeks, participants with high blood pressure who consumed potassium citrate daily lowered their blood pressure significantly.
The Harvard School of Public Health recommends eating foods high in potassium citrate to help you control your blood pressure.
3. Bananas Assist with Appetite Control
Bananas are a great source of fiber. An average-sized banana serves up 12 percent of your daily value.
A diet high in fiber has numerous benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, it helps to normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, maintain bowel health and aid in achieving a healthy weight. The Harvard School of Public Health states that fiber appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
One of the most interesting effects of fiber is that it slows down digestion, which helps you feel fuller longer after you eat. This can be a great benefit for people who want to cut calories and lose weight—or for anyone looking for an afternoon snack to hold them over until dinner.
4. Bananas Can Help Ward Off Cancer
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, dietary fiber "convincingly" lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, and vitamin C—of which a banana supplies about 17 percent of your daily value—"probably" lowers the risk of esophageal cancer. Fruits in general "probably" lower the risk of lung, stomach, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus cancer, according to the institute.
5. A Bananas is Essentially a Sports Drink in Fruit Form
If you're looking for the perfect pre- or mid-workout snack, bananas fill the bill. A study conducted at Appalachian State University found that eating bananas during a long workout helped fuel performance as well as sports drinks.
"This type of research shows that you can have healthier carbohydrate sources before and after exercise that will support athletic performance just as well as a sports drink," said Dr. David C. Nieman, one of the study's lead authors.
The simple carbs available in bananas can be converted quickly into energy, and the fact that they're high in potassium (an electrolyte) can help prevent dehydration. Bananas also have several nutrients (such as antioxidants, fiber and vitamin B-6) that aren't typically found in sports drinks.
6. Bananas Build Stronger Bones
Their high potassium content makes bananas a great food for anyone looking to build stronger, healthier bones. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, increasing the consumption of potassium-rich foods can help prevent osteoporosis; and a 2008 study found that a diet high in potassium-rich, bicarbonate-rich foods significantly reduces bone turnover (another term for bone loss). Bananas also contain 16 percent of your daily value of manganese, a nutrient that might help prevent arthritis and osteoporosis.
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