Banana: Health benefits and risks from consuming it
Banana is one of the most important foods in the world. It belongs to the Banana family (Musaceae) which includes also Plantain. They originate from Southeast Asia and are cultivated in many of the warmest regions of the world.
Bananas are a very good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, and contain various antioxidants and phytonutrients.
A medium-sized banana provides about 105 calories, most of which come from carbohydrates. The table below contains detailed information on the nutrients of bananas.
Bananas are a rich source of carbohydrates, mainly starch in unripe (green) bananas and sugars in ripe bananas. The carbohydrate composition of bananas changes greatly during the ripening process. The main ingredient in unripe bananas is starch. Green bananas contain up to 70-80% by weight of starch. During ripening, the starch is converted to sugars and ends up in less than 1% when the banana is fully ripe.
The most common sugars in ripe bananas are sucrose, fructose, and glucose. In ripe bananas, the total sugar content can reach more than 16% of their weight.
Bananas have a glycemic index of 42-58, depending on their maturity (the more unripe ones have a lower glycemic index). The glycemic index is a measure of how fast carbohydrates in food enter the bloodstream. The relatively low glycemic index of bananas is explained by their high content of resistant starch and fiber, which mitigates the increase in blood sugar after a meal.
A high percentage of starch in wild bananas is resistant starch, which as the name suggests, is resistant to digestion and is, therefore, a type of fiber. The resistant starch ends up in the large intestine where it is fermented by the bacteria of the intestinal microbiome in a process that forms butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that seems to have beneficial effects on intestinal health and the proper functioning of the whole organism. Unripe banana is a very good choice for the microbiome diet, i.e. the nutrition of the microorganisms of the intestinal microbiome.
Bananas are also a good source of other types of fiber, such as pectin. Some of the pectins in bananas are water-soluble. When bananas ripen, the percentage of water-soluble pectin increases, which is one of the main reasons why bananas become softer as they ripen.
Vitamins and minerals
Bananas are an important source of many vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They also contain the vitamins thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folate (B9), and choline as well as the trace elements iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. Bananas are high in vitamin B6. A medium-sized banana can provide up to 33% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin B6.
Most fruits and vegetables contain many types of bioactive plant compounds and bananas are no exception.
Dopamine: It is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. However, banana dopamine does not cross the blood-brain barrier to affect mood but rather acts as a powerful antioxidant.
Catechin: Many antioxidant flavonoids are found in bananas, with catechins being the most important. These substances have been linked to various health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Health benefits of eating bananas
Like most natural foods, bananas can have many health benefits. Bananas are known to reduce swelling, protect against type 2 diabetes, help with weight loss, strengthen the nervous system and help produce white blood cells, due to the high level of vitamin B6 they contain. Bananas are high in antioxidants, which provide protection against free radicals in our cells.
1. Heart health
Bananas are good for the health of the heart. Bananas are high in potassium, a metal that promotes heart health and normal blood pressure. A medium-sized banana contains about 0.4 grams of potassium. According to a large study, a daily intake of 1.3-1.4 grams of potassium is associated with a 26% lower risk of heart disease. In addition, bananas contain antioxidant flavonoids that have also been linked to a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease.
2. Depression and mood disorders
Bananas can help fight depression due to high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted in the body to serotonin, the neurotransmitter of good mood. In addition, vitamin B6 can help with sleep and magnesium helps relax muscles. In addition, the tryptophan contained in bananas is known for its sleep-inducing properties.
3. Gastrointestinal Health and Weight Loss
Unripe, green bananas contain significant amounts of resistant starch and pectin, which are types of dietary fiber. Resistant starch and pectins act as prebiotic nutrients, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Reaching the large intestine, they are fermented by beneficial bacteria to form butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that promotes intestinal health.
The high fiber content can also help with regular bowel movements. A banana can provide almost 10% of your daily fiber needs. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against type 2 diabetes and help with weight loss. In general, bananas are good food for weight loss (especially unripe), because they help reduce the desire for sweets.
To replenish energy and electrolytes, bananas may be more effective than sports drinks. A study involving long-distance cycling athletes found that athletes who drank Gatorade every 15 minutes had the same effectiveness (in performance and physiology) as athletes who consumed bananas and water. But bananas’ serotonin and dopamine improved athletes' antioxidant capacity and further reduced oxidative stress, improving overall athletes' performance.
Carrots can get all the glory in eye health, but bananas also claim a share. Bananas contain a small but significant amount of vitamin A, which is essential for protecting the eyes, maintaining normal vision, and improving night vision. Like other fruits, bananas can help prevent macular degeneration.
6. Bone health
Bananas may not have much calcium, but they still help maintain strong bones. The reason is the abundance of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) contained in bananas. These are non-absorbable carbohydrates that help the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut microbiome and enhance the body's ability to absorb calcium.
Some evidence suggests that moderate consumption of bananas may be protective against kidney cancer. Women who consume 4-6 bananas a week, reduce the risk of developing kidney cancer by half. Bananas can help prevent kidney cancer due to the high levels of antioxidants they contain.
Eating bananas can help prevent gestational diabetes. Lack of sleep during pregnancy can contribute to gestational diabetes, while magnesium and tryptophan in bananas can contribute to a restful night.
A recently published study found that potassium in bananas may be associated with more boys being born. The study looked at 740 women and found that women who consumed high levels of potassium before conception were more likely to give birth to a boy.
1. Diabetes mellitus
There are contradictive opinions on whether bananas are good for diabetics or not. It is true that bananas are high in starch and sugar and therefore are expected to cause a large increase in blood sugar. However, due to their relatively low glycemic index, moderate consumption of bananas does not increase blood sugar levels like other foods high in carbohydrates. However, diabetics should avoid eating large amounts of ripe bananas.
Immediate allergic reaction to bananas is rare, occurs mainly in children, and may include:
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
- Swollen, itchy, or red eyes
- Runny nose
- Breathing difficulty
- Abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
In extremely rare cases, a reduction in blood pressure and anaphylactic shock may occur.
3. Food Intolerance
Banana (11) (Musa sp.) is usually eaten raw, but can also be eaten fried, roasted, and dried. From the dried banana is obtained the banana flour. The species consumed are Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, and the hybrid between the two species called Musa paradisiaca. Bananas can be found in juices, breakfast cereals, pastries, ice creams, and other sweets. Natural banana flavoring is used quite often in confectionery. In Western cuisines, the inside of the fruit is generally consumed raw while the peel is not used. In some cuisines, mainly Asian, both the outer skin and the inner part are eaten cooked. In some Asian cuisines, banana blossoms are also eaten as a vegetable in soups or grilled. It tastes like artichoke.
To date, several banana allergens have been identified. From Musa paradisiaca: Mus xp 1, Mus xp 2, Mus xp 5, Mus xp TLP. From Musa acuminata: Mus a 1, Mus a 2, Mus a 3, Mus a 4, and Mus a 5. Extensive cross-reactivity is expected between the individual species of the genus (practically between banana and plantain).
Cross-reactions between banana antigens and products containing natural latex are often seen in a syndrome called "latex-fruit syndrome".
Foods associated with latex allergy are grouped as having a high, moderate, or low/indefinite connection with cross-reactions with latex antigens. High connection: Banana, avocado, chestnut, kiwi. Moderate connection: Apple, carrot, celery, melon, papaya, potato, tomato. Low/undefined connection: Apricot, buckwheat, cherry, chickpeas, citrus fruits, coconut, cucumber, dill, eggplant, fig, Goji berry, grape, hazelnut, lychee, mango, nectarine, oregano, passion fruit, oregano, peppers, persimmon, pineapple, pumpkin, rye, sage, strawberry, shellfish, soybeans, sunflower seeds, turnip, walnut, wheat, zucchini.
In addition, cross-reactivity can occur between bananas and avocados without simultaneous latex sensitization. Banana has been implicated in the sudden onset of migraines in vulnerable individuals. This may be (in addition to hypersensitivity) due to the presence of vasoactive substances such as serotonin and tyramine.
In addition to the common banana, there is also the plantain (305), which is less sweet, contains more starch, and is not eaten raw but cooked. The color, size, and shape of the fruit, however, are similar.
Food intolerance to Bananas (Code 11) is tested with Trophoscan® 10+, 40+, 100 (Mediterranean), 200, 300, and 400 as well as Trophoscan® Asian, Kids, and Vegetarian. Banana antigens have been isolated without prior heat treatment* of the antigens.
Food intolerance to Plantain (Code 305) is tested on Trophoscan® 400. Plantain antigens have been isolated after heat treatment* of the antigens.
Diagnostiki Athinon's TrophoScan® is the most valid, reliable, and effective way to test food intolerances, by measuring the levels of total IgG antibodies in the blood against potentially allergenic foods. The presence of these antibodies has been associated with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (irritable bowel, celiac disease, and other disorders), migraines and other neurological disorders, disorders of the immune system (autoimmune diseases, susceptibility to infections, etc.), obesity and weight loss difficulty, skin diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthralgias, and other chronic diseases.
TrophoScan® has been designed and created entirely by Diagnostiki Athinon. The food antigens used for the test have come from Greek products and from products that we can find and consume in the Greek market. Various studies have shown that there is a difference in the antigenic composition of food depending on the variety of food. Even the maturity of a fruit or vegetable can play a role in the antigenic composition.
*The heat treatment of antigens we use in Diagnostiki Athinon before the isolation of the antigens is a unique process before the beginning of the process of isolation of food proteins. It is made in foods that are commonly cooked (e.g., meat, poultry, fish) and undergo a thermal laboratory preparation equivalent to cooking so that their antigenicity is even closer to the actual antigenic structure of the food we consume.
Antigens isolated in this way have been proven to be more effective (making the ELISA system much more sensitive) in recognizing and binding antibodies of all classes (IgA, IgG, IgE, IgM). Only the TrophoScan® test of food intolerance across Europe uses this approach to the investigation of Food Intolerance. Food processing results in the formation of neo-allergens.