What is healthy? One banana or two bananas, ripe or green...

They are full of potassium, which is good for heart health and blood pressure, but some nutritionists consider bananas to be "chocolate bars in yellow packaging."

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Illustration, Photo: Shutterstock
Illustration, Photo: Shutterstock
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Is the popular fruit really so beneficial for our health or is it a "chocolate bar in a yellow package"? What are the pros and cons of bananas and should they be one of the five must-have foods to eat every day.

Health experts have long praised the humble banana, and it's no surprise. They are available, they are counted in one of the five foods that, according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, should be eaten every day in order to reduce the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.

One banana has only about 90 calories, and they're packed with potassium, an essential mineral that scientists believe could be key in fighting high blood pressure.

But is the popular fruit really that healthy and why do top tennis players reach for a banana most often during a match? Andy Murray - who could often be seen eating them by the side of the field - claims that he doesn't like them, because they are not juicy, and he only eats them "because of what they have in them".

It is also interesting that the health benefits of bananas depend on how ripe they are, he writes RTS.

"It's fascinating to see how this fruit goes through different stages of ripening and how that affects the health benefits we get - or don't get," says Penny Weston, nutritionist.

"Barely ripe bananas are high in fiber and low in sugar. And while they taste almost bitter, the high fiber content is good for feeding gut bacteria and helping with the digestive process. And keeping your gut healthy is good for the rest of your body.”

banana, bananas
photo: Shutterstock

It's also worth remembering that "although a very ripe banana will be the easiest to digest, this is because it has the least starch and an overripe banana has the most sugar and the lowest fiber and vitamin content".

So, what are the pros and cons of having this fruit on the menu every day?

Benefits

They are full of potassium, which is good for heart health and blood pressure

"Bananas are a good source of potassium, and one banana contains 451 mg (about 10 percent of daily needs)," says Weston.

They are also low in sodium which, along with their high potassium content, helps control high blood pressure.

Bananas are a surprisingly good source of vitamin C

We generally reach for citrus fruits when we want to meet our vitamin C needs, but a medium-sized banana provides a respectable 10 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.

"Vitamin C is really important for the body for many reasons," says the nutritionist. "It helps with immunity and maintains normal skin, bones and cartilage. It also helps protect our cells and keep them healthy, helps heal wounds and supports our body when it absorbs iron."

Bananas help digestion

We all know how important fiber is, and one medium banana provides about 10 to 12 percent of your daily needs. "Bananas have long been found to relieve constipation, stomach ulcers and heartburn," says Weston.

They give you energy

Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose – giving you a source of energy without fat or cholesterol. The mixture of carbohydrates and potassium is useful for better performance during exercise and promotes muscle growth.

"This makes them ideal for athletes and children, they are great for breakfast as a midday snack or before and after sports," says Weston. "They are low-calorie, but due to the aforementioned high fiber content, they give a feeling of satiety. They are also rich in magnesium and various antioxidants, such as flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease."

They can reduce the risk of cancer

One study led by experts from the University of Newcastle and Leeds and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research shows that unripe bananas could have a significant effect on reducing the occurrence of upper bowel cancer.

"There is some research that indicates that the starch found in an unripe banana can reduce the risk of some cancers by 60 percent," says Penny Weston.

Against

Too much potassium

"If you eat too many bananas, you can have an excessive intake of potassium," notes Weston. "Too much potassium in the body is called hyperkalemia."

Patients with mild kidney disease are advised to avoid bananas even in small amounts because potassium worsens kidney function. So, if you have been diagnosed with reduced kidney function, you need to watch your potassium intake.

Nephrologist Dr. Tom Outs notes, "Patients with advanced kidney disease and dialysis patients need to be very careful with potassium." He says that bananas and dried fruits are rich in potassium, so "it would be safer to eat apples, pears and small citrus fruits like tangerines."

They can cause gas and bloating

"Some people may experience bloating or gas after eating a banana because of sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that can act as a laxative," explains Weston. "People who are not used to a high-fiber diet may also experience discomfort after eating a banana, such as cramps and bloating. The less ripe the banana, the harder it will be to digest."

They increase the level of sugar in the blood

"That's because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose," says Weston. "I would recommend pairing bananas with full-fat yogurt to avoid this, or eating one after a balanced meal."

"If you have type two diabetes, you can eat bananas, but in moderation," adds the dietitian. "There is little evidence to suggest that bananas can cause type 2 diabetes."

Banana is fattening

Doctors keep urging us to eat more fruit, but as with any food, if we overdo it, we'll gain weight. Some nutritionists believe that a banana is a "chocolate bar in a yellow package".

banane
photo: Shutterstock

Penny Weston recommends limiting your intake to "no more than two bananas a day."

"Bananas are carbohydrates and they contain sugar, so if you eat a lot of bananas and don't exercise, it can lead to weight gain - but this is true for most foods."

Avoid them before going to bed

Although they are obviously healthier than chocolate chip cookies, they don't seem to be the best for bedtime.

"Some experts note that bananas should be avoided before bedtime because they can cause restless sleep due to the high levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) they contain, which can cause an imbalance," says the dietician. However, he adds that if you haven't noticed it affecting your sleep, it's not a bad option for a bedtime snack because "a banana digests quickly."

Conclusion

Dietitian Penny Weston says that eating bananas is a really individual matter. "If you like them, enjoy them," she says, "Although I wouldn't recommend eating more than two a day."

"As with any other food, you have to listen to your body and how it reacts. If they seem to make you sick when you eat them, find other ways to get all the nutritional benefits that bananas clearly have."

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