Are Bananas Healthy?

Child eating a banana

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A favorite first food and an easy-to-pack snack, bananas are the most popular fresh fruit in the U.S. for good reason. They are inexpensive, portable, a cinch to peel, tasty, and filling.

What some people don't realize is that this tropical treat is a nutritional powerhouse, too. Bananas have several nutrients, including fiber and essential vitamins, which make them a healthy fruit for babies as well as kids, teens, and adults. Read on to learn more about why bananas deserve to be a staple in your family's diet.

Banana Nutrients

Enthusiastically endorsed by the American Medical Association as a healthy fruit choice for children in the early 1900s, the banana might be the first "superfood." Here is an overview of some important nutrients in a single banana:

  • Calories: 105
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 27 grams
  • Sugar: 14 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.4 milligrams
  • Vitamin C: 10 milligrams
  • Potassium: 422 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 32 milligrams

Benefits

Are bananas healthy? Yes! With their balance of essential vitamins and minerals, bananas have a surprising number of good-for-you benefits. The fruit is a good choice for all people, but might be especially useful for people at risk for certain health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Diabetes Management

It is recommended that people with diabetes eat foods that have a low glycemic index (GI) score. Foods with low GI scores (below 55 or so) are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes that are dangerous for those with diabetes.

A ripe banana has a GI score of 51. A slightly unripe banana has a slightly lower GI score than that, so a very light yellow banana might be an even smarter choice for those watching their blood sugar.

Heart Health

There are several reasons why your heart doctor might recommend bananas to keep your ticker healthy. First, the high potassium in bananas serves as a mineral as well as an electrolyte. Carrying small electrical charges throughout the body, electrolytes are important for keeping heart rates steady.

Decreased Blood Pressure

In another boost for the cardiovascular system, the potassium in bananas helps regulate the amount of sodium in our bodies. Too much sodium can stress our blood vessels, leading to hypertension, or high blood pressure. Potassium prompts the body to flush out any extra sodium in urine.

Weight Management

Some people mistakenly think that because bananas are sweet and easy to digest, they might lead to weight gain. The opposite is actually true. Besides having half the calories of some popular protein bars, bananas have a fair amount of fiber, which creates a filling sensation to stave off hunger.

Risks

When included as part of a balanced diet, bananas don't pose health risks. You can consume too much potassium for the kidneys to process, leading to hyperkalemia, which can damage your heart. Hyperkalemia usually happens in people with kidney disease or who are taking certain medications, like diuretics, that affect the way our bodies process potassium. But in healthy people, hyperkalemia from food is rare.

Expert recommendations for adequate potassium intake is 400 to 860 milligrams for babies, 2000 to 2,300 milligrams for kids, 2,600 milligrams for women, and 3,400 milligrams for men. If you have kidney problems or take diuretics, be sure to check with a doctor about how many bananas and other potassium-rich foods you can include in your diet, so you aren't getting more of the mineral than your body can handle.

Bananas are low in calories and high in satiating fiber, which make them a great choice for kids and adults who are looking to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Why Bananas Are Great for Babies and Kids

Bananas are one of the best "first foods" for babies since they are simple to mash with a fork (or gums) and easy to digest. But there are a number of reasons that bananas should be a fruit you grab for children at all ages and stages.

Naturally Sweet

Babies have a natural affinity for things that taste sweet, and bananas deliver, which is why they're often so easily accepted by babies who are starting new foods in addition to breast milk or formula. It's no wonder you see them as a flavoring in many packaged toddler snacks, from puffs to other finger foods.

Packed With Nutrients

Picky eaters in particular benefit from foods that pack a variety of vitamins and minerals in a single serving. Along with potassium, vitamins B6 and C, fiber, and magnesium, bananas also have small amounts of health-boosting vitamin D, vitamin K, folate, choline, calcium, iron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, and selenium.

Good Source of Fiber

With 3 grams per fruit, bananas can boost your overall daily intake of fiber. You might hear conflicting information about whether or not to give bananas to a child who is constipated. This is because it depends somewhat on a banana's ripeness. Less ripe bananas can contribute to constipation, while riper bananas do not. However, there are other foods that are better suited to relieve constipation, including plums, peaches, and pears, as well as whole grains.

If constipation is an issue, offer bananas that are bright yellow with a spot or two of brown, which indicates that they are fully ripe and less likely worsen constipation.

Super Convenient

One of the great things about bananas is how simple it is to turn them into homemade baby food, even on the go. You can mash a ripe banana into a puree with the back of a plastic fork—no fancy baby food-making equipment necessary. For bigger kids, bananas are easy to pack in lunch boxes or backpacks. Tough to bruise, bananas come in their own easy-to-remove, natural "wrappers" and don't need refrigeration to stay fresh.

How to Add Bananas to Your Diet

Adding bananas to your diet can be as easy as having them for a snack a few times each week. To make the most of this supermarket standby:

  • Choose "just ripe" fruits. When buying bananas, select fruits that are fully yellow in color and separate easily from each other at the stem—both indications of ripeness. You also can purchase bananas that are still a little green and allow them to ripen in a bowl outside the refrigerator.
  • Serve mashed bananas until your baby is about 9 months old. Most babies can handle eating chunks of the fruit after that.
  • Give half or whole peeled bananas to children around their first birthday. By the time kids are a year old, most should be ready to handle the whole fruit. Or, roll sticks of banana into things like crushed cereal to make them easier to hold.
  • Use bananas in recipes for a nutritional punch. Quick breads and cookies are made moister and sweeter by substituting a little fat with banana puree. Frozen banana chunks can make smoothies creamier and healthier. For a special breakfast treat, try banana bread doughnuts.

You may notice that mashed or pureed banana turns brown. Don't worry—this is a natural result of the enzymes in the fruit reacting with oxygen. If it bothers you, you can dip slices into lemon juice, lime juice, or apple juice. The ascorbic acid in the citrus will counter the process that leads to browning and shouldn't affect the flavor of the fruit.

A Word From Verywell

Bananas can be a smart first food for babies, a super snack food for kids, and a great addition to a healthy diet for adults. Don't be fooled by their sweet taste: Just-ripe bananas have fiber to aid digestion and healthy weight goals, as well as essential B and C vitamins, potassium, and magnesium for a nutritional boost.

When you want a quick and convenient snack, consider bypassing the packaged food aisle and looking for the bright yellow bunches in the produce section. Bananas are a tasty nutrition boost to anyone's diet.

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11 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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