The Health Benefits of Bananas

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on December 08, 2023
8 min read

Bananas grow from a tropical flowering plant. They're soft, sweet, and a convenient source of some important nutrients. 

They have origins in Southeast Asia. People have grown bananas since ancient times, and their health benefits have been promoted for more than a century.

Today, bananas are grown in more than 150 countries in tropical climates, including Africa, South and Central America, China, and India. There are hundreds of types. The dessert banana (Cavendish) is the most popular variety in North America and Europe.

Bananas are versatile as well as tasty. You can eat them raw, mixed into your favorite smoothie, or in a peanut butter-banana sandwich, banana bread, or muffins. Bananas:

  • Can be found at your grocery store all year long
  • Are easily stored
  • Travel well in their peel 

Is a banana a fruit? 

A banana is considered a fruit. Bananas grow in a cluster at the top of a tropical plant.

Is a banana a berry?

A banana is a berry from a botanical point of view. Berries are fruits that come from one flower and usually have several seeds.

Bananas are rich in potassium and other important minerals and vitamins that help your body perform critical functions. Their potential benefits include:

Heart health

Bananas are best known for containing potassium, which is a big player in heart health. This vital mineral and electrolyte carries a small electrical charge, causing nerve cells to send out signals for your heart to beat regularly and muscles to contract. Foods with potassium help protect against hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure. 

 A medium banana gives you about 450 milligrams, which is about 10% of what you need every day. Potassium-rich foods also help you get rid of more sodium when you pee and relax the walls of your blood vessels, both of which help lower your blood pressure. 

What’s more, potassium:

  • May lower your risk of stroke
  • Can help keep your bones healthy as you age
  • May help your muscles work better
  • Can help prevent kidney stones

If you have kidney problems, too much potassium isn’t good for you. Check with your doctor to see how much you should have.

Digestive health

Despite their sugar content, bananas have a low glycemic index (GI) value of 51. (Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a food causes your blood sugar to rise.) Their fiber – which helps with digestion – is the reason for this. Bananas contain a type of fiber called pectin, which can play a part in controlling how quickly you digest carbohydrates. 

Bananas may be good for your tummy, too. They have probiotics, which are the good bacteria found in your gut, and prebiotics, carbs that feed these good bacteria.

There’s also evidence that probiotics can help with the annoying diarrhea people get after taking some antibiotics.

Probiotics may also help:

  • Improve yeast and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Treat some infections in your gut
  • Ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Lessen lactose intolerance
  • Ease some allergy symptoms

Probiotics may even help make colds and the flu less severe.

Bananas contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are unique fructose-filled carbohydrates that you don't fully digest. These FOS are involved in a process that helps maintain the balance of good bacteria in your lower intestine.

Green, or unripe, bananas are a good source of resistant starch, which is a type of carbohydrate that isn't digested in your small intestine. Instead, it ferments in your large intestine and feeds good bacteria in your gut. Resistant starch can make you feel fuller, which helps with weight loss. It's also good for dealing with constipation. Resistant starch can also lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Because most people don't like to peel and eat a green banana – they're hard to chew – the unripe fruit is being used in flour and other food products. 

Diabetes management

Eating a diet rich in low-GI foods (and avoiding higher-glycemic foods) may decrease the risk of complications in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, you can enjoy half a banana when you need a snack. 

Like all fruits, bananas have carbs, but they won’t blow up a low-carb diet. A medium one gives you about 27 grams of carbs.

Weight control

Eating low-GI foods may promote weight loss. Fiber, like that found in bananas, can also help you control your weight. 

It’s no secret that the right amount of fiber in your diet is good for you. An average-size ripe banana gives you 3 grams of it. That’s about 10% of what you need each day. Most of the fiber in bananas is what’s called soluble fiber. It can help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check and help ease inflammation.

In general, foods that are high in fiber make you feel full without extra calories. That also makes them a good choice if you want to shed a few pounds.

Faster workout recovery

Research suggests bananas can also help you bounce back from strenuous workouts. But we need more studies to confirm this. 

Cancer prevention

One study found that children who ate bananas and oranges regularly, and drank orange juice, had a lower risk of childhood leukemia. Various compounds in bananas have shown promise against breast, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, liver, oral, prostate, and skin cancers. But more research is needed. 

Memory and mood help

Bananas contain tryptophan, which is a beneficial amino acid. In your body, it gets converted to serotonin, which boosts mood. Many other substances in bananas are known to fight cognitive decline, which can cause memory loss. Research continues on the best way to use those compounds for brain health.

One medium banana provides about 110 calories and: 

  • 1 gram of protein 
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 3 grams of fiber 
  • 15 grams of naturally occurring sugar 
  • 450 milligrams of potassium 

How many carbs are in a banana?

A medium banana has about 28 grams of carbohydrate. Some people like to count "net" carbs, a number you get by subtracting the fiber and and sugar alcohols from the total carbs. But the FDA doesn't offer a legal definition of net carbs and recommends sticking with the total carbs number. The American Diabetes Association also doesn't recognize net carbs, because the process used to calculate them isn't scientifically accurate. 

Banana nutrients

Bananas provide vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B6: A medium banana gives you about a quarter of the vitamin B6 you should get each day. It helps with metabolism. And it plays an important role in brain development during pregnancy and infancy, as well as immune system health. B6 can help you sleep better, may help you lose weight, and may improve your brain health.
  • Magnesium: This mineral helps control your blood pressure and blood sugar and keeps your bones strong. It also helps your nerves and muscles function and boosts your immune system. A banana gives you 8% of what you need.
  • Fiber: One banana provides about 3 grams of fiber, which is roughly 10% of the recommended daily amount. Fiber can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, lower your cholesterol, help keep your blood sugar normal, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Vitamin C: You should shoot for 75 to 90 milligrams per day. With about 10 milligrams, your morning banana can get you well on your way. Vitamin C helps protect you from the damage caused by harmful molecules in your body called free radicals. These form in reaction to the food we eat as well as cigarette smoke, pesticides, and other potentially harmful things. Vitamin C also helps your immune system work better and can help you heal.
  • Vitamin A: This vitamin is good for your vision and might help protect you from cancer. 

Organic bananas are grown without man-made pesticides or herbicides. While some believe they're more nutritious and better tasting than conventional bananas, very little scientific research has been done on the subject.

Health benefits

Organic bananas contain the same nutrients as conventionally grown bananas, including vitamin B6 and tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that your body needs. 

Some studies have shown that organically grown fruits and vegetables may have higher levels of certain nutrients, but we need more research on this.

Thanks to their thick peels, conventionally grown bananas are considered to have low to moderate levels of pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group's rankings. But some chemicals can get through the peel. 


Like most fruit, bananas can be enjoyed raw – just peel and eat! But they can also be used in many recipes. Bananas can be a substitute for eggs, butter or oil, or a sweetener in healthy baked goods.

Some other ways to enjoy them include:

  • Adding sliced bananas to your morning cereal
  • Making dairy-free "nice cream" by tossing frozen bananas in a food processor
  • Slathering halved bananas in nut butter and topping with chocolate chips, raisins, or shredded coconut
  • Slicing banana into pancake batter
  • Freezing a sliced banana, dipping it into melted dark chocolate, and freezing it again for a sweet summertime treat
  • Using overripe bananas to make sweet, moist banana bread
  • Making indulgent bananas foster
  • Tossing frozen bananas into smoothies with greens, protein, and healthy fats

Bananas can ripen quickly, so it's best to store them away from direct sunlight. You can also place yellow bananas in a sealed refrigerator drawer, which helps keep the taste even after the peel becomes brown, or on a banana hanger, which helps them to ripen more evenly.

If you want to ripen bananas fast, place them in a paper bag or store them close to other ripe fruit.

Once the peel darkens, cut up or mash the banana and freeze it to use in smoothies or other recipes.

Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and other important nutrients. They're good for digestive and heart health. You can eat this tropical fruit raw, or add it to smoothies or baked goods.

What are the benefits of eating a banana?

A banana is loaded with nutrients your body needs. It may even help you recover faster from a hard workout. 

Is it good to eat a banana every day? 

You should aim for three to five servings of fruit every day. Bananas are a good choice, but don't focus on them so much that you skip other fruits that offer different nutrients. Bananas are higher in calories than some other fruits, something to keep in mind if you're trying to lose weight. 

What is the healthiest fruit in the world?

There isn't one perfect fruit. Different fruits offer different nutrients. That's why it's important to eat a variety.