Bananas are nature?s version of?candy: they?re so naturally sweet that they make anything you pair them with taste like dessert, albeit a much healthier version of it.

When you consider the versatility, portability, affordability, and tastiness of the humble banana, it?s not exactly shocking to see that global production of the tropical fruit is at an all-time high. In fact, bananas are the most exported fresh fruit in the world, according to the?Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

But are bananas good for you?

Even with its unwavering popularity, some still avoid bananas because they’re higher in carbs and?sugar than many other fruits. But here’s the thing: it’s easy to forget that your body actually needs carbs to fuel your body, and unlike processed sweet treats, a banana’s naturally occurring sugars are accompanied by many vitamins and minerals. Plus, bananas are also rich in fiber, which slows your digestion of sugar, not to mention helps keep you feeling full.

So, are bananas healthy? You bet!

??BANANA NUTRITION FACTS:?105 calories, 1 g?protein, <1 g fat, 26 g carbs (3 g fiber), 14 g?sugar?in 1 medium

10 science-backed health benefits of bananas

Bananas are packed with potassium

One medium banana contains 422 milligrams of?potassium, or about 12 percent of your daily value of the mineral, according to the?National Institutes of Health.

Your body needs plenty of?potassium?to operate normally. This electrolyte helps your muscles contract, nerves function, move nutrients into cells (and waste out of them), regulate your heartbeat, and regulate sodium in your body. So?when you don?t get enough potassium, your blood pressure and kidney stone risk can increase, you may feel weak and tired, or even experience muscle cramps. (Here are other?foods high in potassium.)

Bananas help keep you hydrated

How the heck can a solid food aid in?hydration??Potassium?plays a part here by helping regulate the balance of fluids in your body, especially the?electrolytes?you lose (like sodium,?magnesium,?calcium, and yes-potassium!) after a sweaty workout. Moderate to intense activity can cause small cellular changes in?potassium, and athletes are encouraged to eat?potassium?rich foods to counteract these imbalances, according to the?International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Bananas are good for your gut

One medium banana has 3 grams of filling fiber (about 10 percent of your daily intake). Bananas also contain?prebiotics, a type of fermentable fiber that helps the good bacteria in your gut (also know as?probiotics) thrive. (Learn more about?prebiotic vs. probiotic?foods.) That?s a big win for your overall health, since research suggests these beneficial bugs may?improve digestion,?shorten the duration of your cold, and even aid in?weight loss.

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Bananas are the perfect pre-workout fuel

The?best foods to eat before you work out?are the ones that contain natural sugars (carbs) for energy, but aren?t too harsh on your stomach. Bananas check off both of those boxes, and are portable enough to throw in a gym bag. Plus,?research?suggests that bananas have unique compounds that can enhance athletic performance.

? and they may help boost post-workout recovery

On the flip side, bananas may be beneficial after your workout, too. One small 2018?study?published in the journal?PLOS One?found that certain compounds and phytochemicals in bananas could play an effective role in reducing exercise-induced inflammation-which spurs muscle soreness-after a tough bout of endurance training (in this case, intense cycling).

Bananas are good for your heart

Put another point in the?potassium?column, because this important mineral is vital for your heart. Research shows that eating lots of?potassium?is associated with significantly?lower blood pressure levels?and a?decreased risk of stroke. That?s because?potassium?helps flush excess heart-stressing sodium from your body through your urine, reducing the potential damage it may have on your ticker.

Bananas can replace sugar in baked goods

One of the best reasons to eat bananas is the naturally sweet taste and soft texture that makes them an ideal ingredient in many baked goods. You can?t sub in bananas for?sugar?in every recipe, but you sure can look for recipes that have already done that work for you.

Bananas are rich in vitamin B6

While?vitamin?B6 doesn?t see the spotlight all that often, it?s an essential?vitamin?for a reason. Bananas contain nearly one third of your daily value of?vitamin?B6, which is important for brain development during pregnancy and enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. Most Americans don?t seem to fall short on their intake, but it doesn?t hurt to eat foods that are naturally rich in the nutrient.

Bananas might keep your appetite in check

No one food will take away the hanger after skipping a meal. However, eating a banana as part of a well-balanced diet may help curb your cravings. Bananas contain a type of fiber called resistant starch, which seems to?help people eat fewer calories?and?manage their appetite, studies show. While more research needs to be done to understand the link, one medium banana only packs about 100 calories and is super satisfying due to its fiber content, so need to feel guilty about adding one to your breakfast?smoothie, peanut butter sandwich, or post-dinner yogurt parfait.

Bananas keep your kidneys healthy

A banana a day may keep the doctor away. In a?study?of 61,000 Swedish women, researchers found that people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables-more than 75 servings per month, or roughly 3 servings total per day-had the lowest risk of developing renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of?kidney cancer.

When researchers looked at fruits specifically, bananas seemed to have the most pronounced effect due to their high concentration of phenolics, compounds with antioxidant effects.

Another large?study?of more than 90,000 women also found that women who consumed more than 4,099 milligrams of?potassium?daily had a 35 percent lower risk of?kidney stones?than women who downed less than 2,407 mg. That?s because?potassium?can also help your body get rid of excess calcium, a building block of the most common type of kidney stone.

by Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD for MSN

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