You know they’re good for you, they’re a race-day staple, and a key ingredient in your smoothie. You probably even know that they’re a great source of potassium, but what does that mean for your health?
Bananas are a major source of potassium, but they’re much more than that. They’re a certifiable super food with dozens of benefits for your health and athletic performance. Let’s look at a few:
Instant Energy – This is why you’ll find them at most race aid stations. A medium-sized banana has about 105 calories. As an added bonus, they soothe your stomach after popping all those gels and energy beans that long distance runners have come to rely on. No judgement! I’ve jammed my share of gummy packets into those tiny spandex pockets. I’m also notorious for being a total failure at adequate pre-race fuelling which I’m working on! Bananas are now part of my pre-race breakfast, and should be part of yours too.
Controls Appetite – You can get instant energy from Oreos too, but the difference is fiber (ok, it’s not the only difference but it’s a big one). Bananas are full of fiber both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber slows down digestion and keeps you feeling full and satisfied for much longer.
Naturally Probiotic – Bananas are full of resistant starch that your body doesn’t digest. It moves to the large intestine where it becomes food for the friendly gut bacteria, and it produces digestive enzymes.
Healthy Heart – Bananas are recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke. Yes, really. And is if that’s not enough, they also promote healthy kidney and bowel function, and the pectin in unripe bananas is said to help prevent colon cancer. Mind=blown.
Antacid – Eating bananas provides relief from acid reflux, heartburn and GERD.
High in Antioxidants – Antioxidants reduce damage in your body from free radicals, but what does any of that even mean?? Antioxidants are compounds found in food, usually plants. They clean out waste from our cells before that waste – free radicals – has a chance to harm us ie cause disease. How cool is that?
The list of vitamins and minerals in bananas is impressive; potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron among them. It’s also a great source of B6 which is key for things like energy metabolism and transport of oxygen to cells as well as many other things. These are key for runners, though, because it supports muscle activity while engaged in exercise.
Electrolyte rebalance – When you exercise you lose electrolytes. Your muscles release them and then they exit your body through sweat. Potassium and magnesium – both found in bananas – replace and replenish electrolytes. Our bodies rely on electrolytes to carry the electrical charges required for muscle contraction so they’re pretty vital when training and racing.
Remember that these benefits are greater in less-ripe bananas so don’t buy too many at once as some of them will become overly ripe before you have a chance to eat them!