Bananas are eaten by people in many different countries and it’s not hard to understand why. They are readily available, come in a cheerful and convenient yellow package, taste sweet, are easily digested and contain lots of natural goodness. One of the many benefits of eating bananas is because of their fiber content. So, how much fiber is in a banana and what makes it such a beneficial part of any diet?
How much fiber do you need?
The US recommended daily allowance of fiber is 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. A medium-sized banana contains 3.1 grams of fiber. Many people do not have enough fiber in their diets today due to the increasing amount of highly processed foods being eaten. In the US, for example, the average daily fiber intake is only about 15 grams a day.
TIP: If you increase fiber in your diet, you also need to bump up your fluid intake. Increase fiber intake gradually or you may get stomach cramps and feel bloated.
Two types of fiber in bananas
It’s hard to grasp that although our bodies cannot digest fiber, we need it for our body to function properly. In a medium-sized banana, 1 gram of the 3.1 grams of fiber consists of soluble fiber and the rest is insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and swells up, becoming a gel-like substance. It helps to keep us feeling full.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water. This type of fiber helps sweeps material through our digestive tracts, which is why it is called “nature’s broom.” Insoluble fiber also helps prevent constipation by making stools softer.
The health benefits of fiber
- It regulates the speed of digestion.
- It lowers glucose levels.
The fiber slows down digestion and gives the body time to use the sugar as fuel instead of storing it as fat.
- It lowers cholesterol levels.
- Pectins in the fiber are great for digestion. They help us feel fuller longer and get rid of potential toxins and carcinogens in our intestines. This soft fiber also helps lower serum cholesterol, so it helps to reduce our cardiac risk.
- It helps maintain the balance of “friendly” bacteria in the lower intestine.
Bananas contain fructooligosaccharides. These fructose-containing carbohydrates are not broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract but move along through to the lower intestine where they are metabolized by bacteria. They have a prebiotic effect, stimulating the growth of intestinal microflora.
- It helps to decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Other good reasons to add bananas to your diet
- They are nutrient rich
Potassium – one cup of sliced banana contains more than 500 milligrams of potassium. The amount of potassium we need depends on the levels of sodium and magnesium in our blood, but most adults need about 4.7 grams a day. This vital mineral normalizes our heartbeat, regulates fluid balance and sends oxygen to the brain. It helps to counterbalance some of the harmful effects of sodium and reduces blood pressure. It is necessary for the cardiovascular, digestive, nervous, neuromuscular and renal systems to function correctly.
Vitamin B6 – bananas are the fruit with the highest amount of this vitamin. B6 is important for about 100 different metabolic enzyme reactions in our bodies.
Vitamin C – an important antioxidant that helps to combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. It is also needed for building collagen.
Vitamin A – found in a small but significant amount. This vitamin is essential for protecting our eyes, maintaining normal vision and proper night vision.
Some of the other nutrients found in bananas are folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
- They improve mood
They help us relax and improve our mood. This is because they contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin. They also contain magnesium, known to help boost mood.
- They are low in calories
Many people who want to lose weight feel that they should not eat bananas because they are denser calorie-wise than other types of fruit. However, they are by no means high in calories. They need to bear in mind that a medium banana contains around 110 calories, less than the calories in many diet snack foods. A medium serve of fries contains 375 calories per serve, so eating a banana instead is a no-brainer.
- They are low in fat
A medium-sized banana only contains about 0.5 grams of fat.
- They are low GI
They contain a fair amount of sugar but the sugar does not cause a sharp peak in blood sugar levels followed by a quick drop. A banana will satisfy a craving for sugar in the best way possible because it does not give a sugar rush and the sugar is used effectively instead of stored as fat.
Ways to include bananas in a healthy diet
Bananas make a great snack to grab on the run, but here are some ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.
- Serve chopped banana on cereal or in porridge. Add a dash of cinnamon.
- Serve with yogurt and sprinkle with nuts and seeds.
- Make a banana smoothie with milk and some honey.
- Wrap a banana in foil and roast in the oven. Serve with yogurt for dessert.
Freezing bananas and putting them through a blender makes a healthy alternative to ice-cream or a good creamy base for a smoothie.
- Start with overripe bananas because they have more flavor.
- Peel bananas.
- Slice them into 1- to 2-inch chunks. (Smaller pieces are easier to blend)
- Arrange them in a single layer on wax paper in a sheet pan.
- Once frozen, transfer them into freezer bags. (If you put them into a freezer bags before they are frozen they will turn into a brick of chunks). Put just enough chunks in a bag for a smoothie like the following one.
- 1/2 milk
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 frozen sliced banana
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients except yogurt and blend. Add yogurt and process until just blended. Serve straight away.
Bananas also provide a palatable way to combine greens and fruits into one smoothie.
- 3-4 bananas
- 1 cup berries
- 1 handful of spinach
- 1 cup Almond milk
Blend and serve.
If you want to buy a blender, this high-speed Nutribullet is available at Amazon.com.