A Quick Peek at the Different Benefits and Side Effects of Bananas

Bananas are fruits native to Southeast Asia, India, and Australia and can be consumed as a dessert fruit or cooked as part of a dish (referred to as “plantains” in the West). Bananas have either yellow, green, red, purple, or brown skin and usually taste sweet.

I quite know these fruits for their soft flesh which is a great source of starch, fiber, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals which are all good for the body. 

Bananas are available all year round. Unlike other fruits, bananas continue to ripen even after being picked. Temperature is a major factor in the ripening process. Thus, the warmer it gets, the faster the fruit will ripen.

Bananas get their sweetness from the starch that is stored in the flesh that turns into sugar while it ripens. Thus, the riper the banana is, the sweeter it will get.

Below is a list of banana benefits and side effects.

The Benefits

Some of the minerals and vitamins present in bananas can help prevent or decrease the risk of some cancers and diseases such as diabetes. 

Here is a rundown of the vitamins and minerals found in bananas and their corresponding benefits.

  • Potassium
    • Helps maintain the fluids in the body
    • Helps regulate the movement of waste products and nutrients to and from the cells
    • Helps with the response of the nerve cells
    • Promotes heart health since it helps muscles contract and relax
    • Can help with the reduction of the effects of sodium on your blood pressure
    • Helps in reducing the risk of kidney stones 
    • Essential in maintaining blood pressure
    • Can help in keeping the balance of acids and bases in the body
  • Vitamin A
    • Helps fight free radicals, which cause aging in the body 
    • Helps with skin growth and repair
    • Can help with the maintenance and formation of teeth, soft tissues, and bones
    • Helps with better eye health
  • Vitamin B6
    • Helps with the transmission of impulses of the nerves
    • Helps with metabolism
    • Can help in inducing better sleep
  • Vitamin C
    • Protects the cells by reducing the harmful effects of free radicals  and provides the body with stronger immunity against diseases
    • Helps with collagen formation that is essential for repairing bones, cartilage, and tendons 
  • Manganese
    • Important in a number of physiological processes such as growth in children
    • Serves as an activator for enzymes such as the components of connective tissues (e.g. tendons and ligaments)
    • Serves as an antioxidant that can reduce premature aging of the cells in your body
  • Dietary Fiber
    • Can prevent or relieve constipation
    • Regulates weight
    • Can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart attack
  • Protein
    • An important component for the cells, bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin 
    • Helps with the repair of body tissue
    • Used in the production of hormones for muscle development, and enzymes to keep your tendons and ligaments healthy
  • Magnesium
    • Essential in the formation of bones by helping with calcium absorption
    • Helps provide better bone density and lowers the risk of osteoporosis after menopause
    • Helps with the breaking down of carbohydrates and glucose in the body, thus lowering the risk of diabetes
    • Helps maintain a healthy heart by reducing the risk of fat buildup in arteries
    • Can help in relaxing muscles
    • Helps minimize the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) such as swelling of the legs, weight gain, and bloating
  • Tryptophan
    • Can relieve symptoms of the following:
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • Irritable bowel syndrom (IBS)
      • Inflammation of the colon
      • Hormonal imbalances
      • Cravings for alcohol and carbohydrates
      • Insomia
      • Other common emotional and mental difficulties
  • Folate
    • Lowers the risk of depression
    • May reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
    • Has been associated with reducing the risk of some cancers
  • Riboflavin
    • Helps with metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats essential in producing energy
    • Optimizes the use of oxygen by the cells in the body to give you energy
    • Helps with the development of the skin, blood cells, and other organs
    • Improves eye health
    • Helps maintain blood pressure during the latter stages of pregnancy
  • Niacin
    • Helps lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the body
    • Helps increase the levels of good cholesterol
    • Can help prevent heart disease
    • Helpful in treating type 1 diabetes
    • Helps keep the brain healthy
    • Might help prevent some skin cancers
  • Iron
    • Helps in the transportation of oxygen in the body
    • Helps maintain healthy cells
    • Can reduce symptoms such as lack of focus, irritability, and low stamina
    • Prevents anemia that may cause palpitations, fatigue, and paleness of skin

The Side Effects

Bananas can provide a multitude of benefits from the minerals and vitamins they contain. However, having too much of something is never good for anyone. Below are some side effects of eating too many bananas:

  • Headaches
    • When eaten in excess, bananas can trigger headaches because of the amino acids that can dilate your blood vessels.
    • These headaches can also be caused by getting excessive amounts of vitamins that are present in bananas.
  • Sleepiness
    • Having bananas in excess can cause sleepiness since these fruits contain high amounts of tryptophan, a chemical that relaxes the body and thus helps induce sleep.
  • Poor dental health
    • Since bananas contain sugar, these may cause tooth decay, especially if proper dental hygiene isn’t being practiced.
  • Hypervitaminosis
    • Excessive intake of bananas can cause high amounts of vitamins and minerals, which may lead to health problems such as weakening of muscles.
    • Taken in large amounts, vitamin B6 can lead to nerve damage in the arms and legs.
    • Toxicity in the body caused by high amounts of vitamin A may result in the following:
      • Softening of the skull in infants and children
      • Blurred vision
      • Swelling or pain in the bones
      • Poor appetite
      • Dizziness
      • Double vision in young children
      • Changes in the skin and hair, even hair loss
    • High amounts of vitamin C can also cause toxicity in the body and may present the following symptoms:
      • Stomach cramps
      • Diarrhea
      • Nausea
      • Kidney stones 
  • Hyperkalemia
    • High potassium levels can cause the muscles in the body to be weak and cause an irregular heartbeat.
    • This might also lead to temporary paralysis.
    • If hyperkalemia reaches critical levels, the result can be fatal — it can induce a cardiac standstill such as heart attack.
    • It has been found that certain medications for heart disease and hypertension might cause potassium levels to rise due to the beta-blockers contained in these medications. Thus, it is important to visit your physician to regularly check your potassium levels if you take such medications.
  • Diabetes
    • People with diabetes should be wary of their consumption of carbohydrates, which raise blood sugar. An average-sized banana (about 4.5 ounces or 126 grams) may contain around 30 grams of carbohydrates.

As mentioned above, there are a lot of banana benefits and side effects that need to be considered. It is always a good move to visit your nutritionist, doctor, or any health professional to maximize the benefits and minimize or even eliminate the harmful side effects of bananas.

If bananas are taken in moderation, the risks of having these side effects can be lowered or even avoided entirely. However, note that even with moderated intake, bananas can still contribute to one or any of the side effects listed above if you are taking vitamin supplements such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and vitamin B complex.

The Banana Peel

The fruit’s rind or peel is not poisonous, and banana peels are actually edible and quite delicious. Though they may not be as tasty as the flesh itself, banana peels also contain nutrients that may be beneficial to you.

It is not common practice for banana peels to be eaten in the West but in some parts of the world, the skins of bananas are eaten as a delicacy. Banana peels can be boiled for around 10 minutes before eating or drinking the juice after it has cooled. The peels can also be fried. Some even use the whole fruit (together with skin) to make yummy, nutritious fruit shakes.

Whichever way you might want to consume banana peels, you should always make sure to thoroughly wash them first to get rid of harmful chemicals or substances.

Conclusion

Indeed, bananas are packed with vitamins and minerals that your body needs to maintain optimal health. However, bananas cannot cover all of your nutritional needs. Having a varied diet that contains the right amount of nutrients is a must in order to achieve good overall mental and body health. Pay your health professional a visit to get advice on how bananas can fit into your daily diet and maximize their health benefits.