Bananas are one of our best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Since the average banana contains a whopping 467 mg of potassium and only 1 mg of sodium, a banana a day may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.
The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas in lowering blood pressure has been demonstrated by a number of studies. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine also confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as bananas, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease (CHD) and 11% less cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD.
Protection from Ulcers Bananas have long been recognized for their antacid effects that protect against stomach ulcers and ulcer damage. In one study, a simple mixture of banana and milk significantly suppressed acid secretion. In an animal study, researchers found that fresh bananas protected the animals' stomachs from wounds. Bananas work their protective magic in two ways: First, substances in bananas help activate the cells that compose the stomach lining, so they produce a thicker protective mucus barrier against stomach acids. Second, other compounds in bananas called protease inhibitors help eliminate bacteria in the stomach that have been pinpointed as a primary cause of stomach ulcers.
Bananas are a smart move if you suffer from elimination problems. A bout of diarrhea can quickly deplete your body of important electrolytes. Bananas can replenish your stores of potassium, one of the most important electrolytes, which helps regulate heart function as well as fluid balance. In addition, bananas contain pectin, a soluble fiber (called a hydrocolloid) that can help normalize movement through the digestive tract and ease constipation. Bananas also contain resistant starch, but this amount varies depending on their degree of ripeness. In their lesser ripe stages, bananas score as low as 30 on the glycemic index (below 50 would be considered low). In their riper stages, this number usually rises to a moderate level in the 60's. All of the above features help place banana in a more favorable digestive light than might otherwise be expected for a sugary fruit.
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
The benefits of regular and moderated fruit intake need to be contrasted, however, with the increased risks that stem from very high consumption of fruit juices. In several studies examining diet and renal (kidney) cancer, very high consumption of fruit juices is associated with increased cancer risk. Since most fruit juice consumption involves highly processed fruits and stands in sharp contrast to consumption of whole, natural foods, this finding is not surprising. The reasons for avoiding high intake of fruit juice are not limited to increased risk of kidney disease, but also to problems involved with excessive sugar intake and excessive calorie intake from non-whole foods. Moderate amounts of fruit juice - especially juice containing as much of the whole fruit as possible, for example, pulp or skin - are still recommended, since these limited amounts in a balanced diet appear to be protective against kidney cancer.
Bananas are also an excellent source of vitamins, including:
· A - aids in healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, and more
· B6 - aids the body's immune system, promotes brain health, heart health, and more
· C - aids in healing, growth of tissue, ligaments, and more
· D - helps the body to absorb calcium