Bananas in Peruvian Rivertown Market. Photo by: Zoe Helene © 2008

Bananas: The Miracle Fruit

Common Name


Botanical Name

Musa paradisiaca
Musa paradisiaca
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Bananas: The Miracle Fruit

“Most of the time when people think of super fruits or healing plants, they don’t tend to think of bananas. You could easily make the claim that in bananas, we have one of nature’s most perfect foods.” - Chris Kilham, Fox News Health

Most of the time when people think of super fruits or healing plants, they don’t tend to think of bananas. Yet bananas are powerhouses of protective ingredients, and are especially good for mind and mood. As Hippocrates said so famously, “let your food be your medicine.” With that in mind, let’s explore the medicinal benefits of bananas.

For starters, bananas are rich in natural fiber. As most people are aware, Americans typically get too little fiber in their diets. Yet fiber is essential for proper digestive health, and adds bulk to waste for improved elimination.

Bananas are a well known source of potassium, an essential nutrient that helps to maintain proper fluid balance in the body. Potassium and sodium work hand in hand. Sodium helps the body to retain water, and potassium helps to eliminate excess fluid. Potassium is needed for the proper function of all living cells, and few foods have more of this nutrient than bananas.

From a protective standpoint, bananas are high in a variety of compounds, many of which are antioxidants. While blueberries, acai, mangosteen and other fruits get more time in the antioxidant spotlight, bananas are especially loaded with these compounds, thereby helping to reduce premature aging of the body’s cells. Alpha linolenic acid, one of these compounds, demonstrates significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activity. Alpha linolenic acid also boosts immune function and enhances blood circulation.

Bananas are a great source of the super-protective compounds kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds have been extensively studied, and are known to protect cells, reduce inflammation, fight numerous types of tumors, protect nerves, enhance blood circulation, and reduce the risk of a number of diseases. So even as you are slicing bananas into your morning cereal, these compounds are ready to impart serious benefits to your overall health.

Bananas also contain high amounts of rutin, a compound that complements the activity of vitamin C, and helps to maintain strong, flexible blood vessels. Rutin also possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

As much as bananas are protective, they are also very significant mood food. They are excellent sources of the two important brain compounds dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is the primary “reward” chemical in our bodies. When we do something and feel a sense of satisfaction, that satisfaction is the effect of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine helps to protect against some kinds of neuro-degneration, including Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine demonstrates numerous benefits for the brain, helps to strengthen the heart, and enhances circulation.

Serotonin, on the other hand, may be the best known of all brain chemicals. Serotonin is our so-called “feel good” neurotransmitter. Serotonin is absolutely essential for mood, and is the target of numerous antidepressant drugs. Some of these drugs work to increase serotonin production, while others help to maintain serotonin in the brain for longer periods of time. Of all its many known functions, serotonin is powerfully antidepressant.

We all hear that we should eat fruits and vegetables, and yet so many people fail to consume adequate amounts of these all-important food groups. And while many foods are loaded with beneficial compounds, bananas are one of the truly great foods. Rich in vitamins B 6 and A, bananas are the most popular fruit in America. Yet in addition to their great flavor and ease of use, they also demonstrate very significant health-imbuing properties. Often the first solid food of infants, bananas offer a great way to take in easy to digest nutrition, enhance digestive health, protect the body from a host of ills, and elevate mood. You could easily make the claim that in bananas, we have one of nature’s most perfect foods.

By Chris Kilham, for Fox News Health