I'm not a big eater of bananas. Sure I like them in my protein drink or as a great slice of banana bread, however, after reading about all the benefits that they have other than just containing potassium, I feel like I better start eating one more often.

-For instance one medium banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, or about 12 percent of your daily value of the mineral. 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.

-Bananas also help keep you hydrated 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.

-Bananas are good for your gut because a medium one 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.

-Bananas are the perfect pre-workout fuel because they 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.

-On the flip side, bananas may be beneficial after your workout, too. It's been 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.

-Bananas are also good for your heart because of the potassium they contain. 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 heart.

-Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and 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 by helping to curb your cravings. Bananas contain a type of fiber called resistant starch, which seems to help people eat fewer calories and manage their appetites. 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.

-Bananas also keep your kidneys healthy because they seem to have the most pronounced effect due to their high concentration of phenolics, compounds with antioxidant effects.

So even if a few of these advantages work for you it seems a no-brainer to add more bananas to your diet. I would be lying if I said that I would be having one every day from now on, but I sure will be buying and eating more of them. And the store even sells frozen bananas coated in dark chocolate, so that sounds like a win-win to me!

Source: Excerpts from Prevention Magazine by Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

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