On the whole, the world consumes bananas at a faster rate than almost any other farmed food. They’re the fourth-most consumed agricultural product globally, with Americans alone eating an average of 11.4 pounds (approx. 5 kg) of the fruit per person each year. Over 100 billion bananas get eaten every year, and there seems to be no sign of this massive consumption slowing down.
Still, the fruit doesn’t quite get the reputation it deserves. It’s considered an easy and convenient fruit, for sure, and parents love it as tasty snacks for their kids that offer up less guilt than things like potato chips or candy. But it doesn’t get heralded for nearly a fraction of the health benefits it provides, with the sugar content dominating the discussion. It remains one of the most debated foods around, with health experts constantly weighing the pros and the cons of the tasty treat against one another in an attempt to figure out whether or not it’s actually a healthy option to offer up.
In recent years, though, the perception that too many bananas can cause ballooning weight has slowly been changing. Groups have started to conduct a popular experiment routinely, eating two bananas a day for a month, in order to show just how much people are overlooking the health benefits of the tasty and all-too-common fruit.
Take a look at these incredible benefits that you can get from that kind of dietary change; the positives may surprise you!
1. You Can Control Your Blood Pressure
If you’ve been dealing with high blood pressure, your doctor may have recommended that you work to enrich your diet with more high-potassium foods.
Potassium works to balance out the negative effects of sodium in your bloodstream, which can throw off the functionality of your kidneys and cause your blood pressure to spike. The key nutrient provides a better balance for your body, which enables your kidneys to process and eliminate excess fluids more effectively—which results in a lower blood pressure.
Bananas, surprisingly enough, are one of the easiest ways to obtain a potassium-rich diet. Each medium banana contains about 422 mg of potassium, which has been proven in studies to lower the risk of stroke in a healthy adult male.
Of course, it’s not just the potassium that can work wonders for your blood pressure. Bananas are notoriously low-fat foods, and they also contain a magic nutrient called sterol—which, while the name is similar-sounding to cholesterol, actually work to help your body fight the negative effects of cholesterol. Sterol blocks the absorption of dietary cholesterols, which can help your blood pressure in the long run as well.
2. You Can Regulate Your Digestive System
If you’ve ever felt constipated, chances are a helpful friend or older family member has helpfully suggested that you eat a banana or two; they’re well-known as an easy solution to getting your bowels moving more regularly.
It’s not just your poop that gets a positive boost from bananas, though. Two bananas a day can regulate your digestive system overall, improving everything from bowel movements to gassiness and even helping to regulate things like indigestion.
The cause? Bananas contain around three grams of fiber apiece—and one of the types of fiber present in bananas can actually potentially decrease your risk of colon cancer.
3. Moderates Blood Sugar Levels
Have you ever heard someone tell you that bananas are actually bad for you because they’re so full of sugar?
If you typically eat heavily ripe—or over-ripe—bananas, you may want to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels. And if you’re a type 2 diabetic, doctors also recommend that you avoid taking this kind of advice; your blood sugar levels are regulated differently from healthy individuals.
If you lack pre-existing glucose problems, though, bananas—particularly ones that are less ripe—can actually help you regulate your blood sugar level. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, pectin and resistant starch that bananas contain when they’re still shy of full ripening can both moderate your blood sugar levels after meals and help you regulate how often you eat during the day. The resistant starch escapes digestion in a way similar to soluble fiber, and the bananas themselves measure somewhere from low to medium on the glycemic index scale—a scale that measures how quickly a food can raise your blood sugar.
4. Your Mind Becomes Re-Energized
There is, of course, some truth to the idea that bananas contain plenty of sugar—but not all sugar types cause you to bounce off the walls.
According to studies, a number of the nutrients in bananas can do everything from help you fight depression to aid you in regulating ADHD. Add that to the slow sugar release factor bananas have into the bloodstream—part of what helps with your body’s blood sugar regulation—and you get some energy from the sugar without getting a massive surge and subsequent crash. You’re more likely to get sustained, controlled energy boosts from the two bananas throughout the day, which can help you avoid unhealthy energy boosters like energy drinks or massive sodas.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that promotes the growth of healthy new brain cells and the regulation of existing ones. It’s like an armor for your brain cells, keeping your mind sharp; studies have already shown an incredible correlation between the absence of Alzheimer’s and high levels of DHA in the bloodstream.
Given that this can help with everything from mental health to memory and brain growth to attentiveness, it’s hard to think that bananas are anything but a benefit, not to mention a convenient anytime snack.