11 February 2018
Health Benefits of Banana
The banana is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with energy-giving carbohydrate and heart-healthy potassium. Find out more about the UK's favourite fruit.
Bananas are the UK’s most popular fruit. On average we each eat 10kg of bananas every year (about 100 bananas). There are hundreds of edible varieties that fall into two distinct species: the banana and the plantain banana.
Bananas have a distinct shape and a firm but creamy flesh inside a thick, inedible peel. While people think of bananas as having yellow skin, their colour changes from green (underripe) to yellow (ripe) to brown (overripe).
Although it looks like a tree, the banana is actually a plant. The banana plant grows up to 15 metres and belongs to the same family as the lily and orchid. Bananas grow in clusters of 50-150, with individual bananas grouped in bunches known as ‘hands’ of 10-20 at a time.
The most popular type of banana is the large, yellow, smooth-skinned variety of sweet banana. This banana Musa sapienta varies in size and colour and is usually eaten raw. The larger, green bananas are known as plantains. Plantain bananas are prepared in a similar way to vegetables in that they are usually cooked or fried.
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and vitamin B6, fibre and carbohydrate, and supply some vitamin C. Since they have a lower water content than most fruit, bananas typically have more calories as well as a higher sugar content compared to other non-tropical fruits.
A 100g serving provides 81kcal, 20.3g of carbohydrate, 1.4g fibre and 18.1g of natural sugar.
Unripe bananas have a higher starch content. As they ripen, the starch is converted to sugar (and the fruit becomes sweeter). Green bananas are also a good source of pectin, which is a type of dietary fibre found in fruits and helps them keep their structural form. Pectin breaks down when a banana becomes overripe, which causes the fruit to become softer.
Bananas are loaded with valuable micronutrients, especially potassium. Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body, helping to regulate heart function as well as fluid balance – a key factor in regulating blood pressure. The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, in lowering blood pressure and protecting against heart disease and strokes is well accepted and bolstered by considerable scientific evidence.
Bananas are soothing to the gastrointestinal tract due to their high content of pectin – as soluble fibre that not only lowers cholesterol but normalises bowel function. The high fibre content of bananas promote satiety (feelings of fullness).
The resistant starch in bananas also has a prebiotic effect, helping to keep gut bacteria happy by increasing the production of short chain fatty acids for digestive health.
Did you know?
The inside of a banana skin can be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite - many people find that rubbing the bite with the skin helps to reduce irritation.