Bananas - sometimes hailed as a no-no for dieting, should they be part of your diet? Oh yes ....

Pretty much the one fruit that most adults and children alike will happily devour, and it comes in its own yellow zip-lock carrier ;-) 

The one ‘negative' about bananas is their high carbohydrate and natural sugar content. You're looking at 90% of your calories coming from carbs (which starts off as starchy carbs when the banana is green and then converts to sugar carbs as it ripens). 

There is about 27g of total carbohydrates and about 14g of naturally-occurring sugar in a medium banana. So if you're really going hard-core on your low carb diet (think ketogenic diet and the stricter end of Paleo or if you're diabetic), bananas may be a ‘in moderation' only fruit in your diet.

All that said, for most, bananas are ‘in' and they are usually readily available, inexpensive, delicious and versatile. I use them widely in my green smoothies and baking so head over to the 'recipes' section to check them out - just search by 'banana' in the search box :-)

Nutritional breakdown - medium ripe banana (approx 118g):

(of which sugars)14.4g
(of which fibre)3.1g
Vitamin B6 (33% RDA)
Vitamin C (11% RDA)
Potassium (9% RDA)422.44mg

Magnesium (8% RDA)

Here are some of the best reasons to make bananas part of your lifestyle:

1. Bananas can help reduce your blood pressure

Bananas are rich in potassium, which has a vasodilatory effect [in English that means increasing potassium intake expands your veins, which reduces blood pressure]. Now, you need about 4,700 mg of potassium per day, and 1 cup of banana provides over 10% at 540 mg. Spinach has the highest potassium levels per 1 cup: 840mg (sweet potato, broccoli, tomatoes and cantaloupe melon are other potassium-rich friends).

Bananas are rich in B-complex vitamins that help your body maintain a healthy metabolism and reduce health risks associated with type 2 diabetes. They are also important for your nervous system and help your body produce white blood cells.

2. Bananas can help with asthma problems

In a 2011 study by Imperial College London, it was found that children who ate a banana a day experienced less asthmatic problems (by up to 34%). Many fruits were tested in this experiment, and only bananas and apple juice concentrate (not fresh apples) make a significant difference.

3. Bananas can help ward off depression

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid present in bananas. As tryptophan is digested, it is converted into serotonin (with help from iron, riboflavin & vitamin B6), which can help to alleviate depression and regulate your mood

4. Bananas can help with weight loss

The fibre in bananas (about 4g) helps you feel full longer, which is certainly helpful when trying to lose a few kilos. 

This weight-loss benefits can be even more keenly felt when eating unripe bananas, the higher starch:sugar carb ratio also helps you feel fuller for longer. The starch is resistant starch, which you don't find in other fruits. 

And did you know bananas are 75% water? That helps to make them a low-energy density food which is great for weight loss also.

5. Bananas can keep your bones strong!

Yes, it's true - bananas help strengthen your bones despite the lack of calcium. They contain fructo-oligosaccharides, which act as the right arm of calcium. These non-GI carbohydrates can promote the growth and balance of probiotics in the gut, boost immunity, and enhance calcium absorption.

6. Bananas contain vitamin C 

Bananas are a good source of vitamin C. A normal serving of banana contains 15% of your Recommended Daily Allowance. Vitamin C is used to fight free radicals, prevent inflammation and ward off colds. 

7. Bananas provide energy

You've seen endurance athletes and tennis stars munch on endless bananas before and during races. It's partly to do with sugar - every banana contains three different kinds of sugar. Glucose and fructose are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, so they'll give you an quick energy boost. Sucrose acts more slowly and keeps blood sugar level stable.

The Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab recently found that eating half a banana every 15 minutes during a cycling time trial test aided performance just as much as drinking a sports energy drink at the same intervals.

The potassium in bananas has shown to reduce the frequency of muscle cramps also. All this because it contains vitamin B1 that helps the metabolism of sugar and muscle functioning.

8. Bananas and stroke prevention

Having bananas on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of postmenopausal stroke. This was announced by one study conducted in the US at the Albert Einstein College of New York and published in the American Heart Association. The study involved a group of more than 90,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years for a period of 11 years. 

During the study the women did not take potassium supplements, only getting it from fresh foods (not only bananas, they also got it from foods such as in white beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, pumpkin, courgettes, raisins and almonds). The incidence of stroke diminished by over 20%.

9. Bananas protect the stomach

Eating bananas regularly may protect the stomach from ulcers. The nutrients and prebiotics present in the bananas help to feed friendly bacteria, which supports the lining of your gut. 

Bananas are also awesome for restoring normal bowel function if you have a stomach bug, again thanks to those helpful prebiotics and potassium.

10. Improve Concentration

A 2008 study conducted in school, which involved more than 300 students, showed that eating bananas frequently helped young people to have the energy needed to study and concentrate better. Elevated potassium levels would help students learn, memorize better and to have more attention in class. The riper the banana in this instance, the better, due to increased dopamine levels.

The humble banana is rightly among the most consumed fruits of the world. From a nutritional point of view they are a great source of potassium, magnesium, prebiotics, dietary fibre, resistant starch and vitamin B6. Now go make a green smoothie or make a banana cake, I command thee ;-)