I don’t hear a lot about bananas, except that they are a good way to get potassium and B vitamins.
You often write about phytonutrients and antioxidants in fruits. Do bananas have any?
Also, why do some diets forbid you from eating bananas the first few weeks?
— Sandra Talenda
Let’s get the frustrating things out of the way first.
I will never, ever, ever understand diet plans that treat bananas (or any other nutritious, whole foods) as if they were radioactive waste.
A standard medium banana is not only a very good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, it also only delivers 105 calories.
FYI: When it comes to potassium, potatoes and avocados surpass bananas.
Anyone who recommends banana avoidance in the name of health needs to take a nutrition class. Stat.
As far as phytonutrients are concerned, all plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and spices) contain them. That’s one significant reason why a diet heavy on plant-based foods is optimal for health!
Keep in mind that we are still in the process of identifying phytonutrients; the nutrition nerd in me can’t help but feel excited when researchers uncover a new one.
Bananas provide high amounts of the following phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants:
- Glutathione: a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect against cellular oxidation and damage
- Phenolic compounds: a Cornell University study concluded that certain fruits — including bananas — contain phenolic compounds that protect neural cells from oxidative damage, thereby helping slash the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Delphinidin: a naturally-occurring pigment that helps lower cancer risk — particularly of the prostate — by causing tumor cells to undergo apoptosis (“cell suicide”)
- Rutin: a flavonoid also found in asparagus that is associated with blood pressure reduction
- Naringin: also found in grapefruits, this flavonoids reduces LDL cholesterol oxidation, thereby lowering atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease risk
For what it’s worth, the riper a banana, the higher its phytonutrient, antioxidant, and flavonoid content.
If you don’t like the texture of a very ripe banana, I suggest peeling, slicing, freezing, and incorporating it into a smoothie.