August is National Wellness Month, focusing America’s attention on caring for oneself, creating healthy routines and managing stress. At our house, we yearly pay homage to our own best wellness food—the banana.
When Washington, D.C.’s foremost kidney specialist removed my wife’s kidney stones after telling her she had enough “stones to build Trump’s wall,” I decided to follow her post-op regimen as well which consisted mostly of two directives: first, drink lemonade for the citrate that protects against new stones developing and secondly, eat a banana every day; they are cheap, easily portable and extremely healthy for the following reasons.
How a banana per day can help keep you healthy:
- You get a daily boost of potassium, according to registered dietitian Amanda Kostro Miller. Potassium is used for fluid regulation, blood pressure, nerve signaling and heart rhythm.
- Bananas help your energy. Certified personal trainer Nancy Feinstein says, “You’ll have more energy because bananas have three natural sugars: sucrose, fructose and glucose. Those naturally occurring sugars are accompanied by vitamins and minerals without fat or cholesterol.
- Dietitian Rachel Berman says eating a banana after your daily exercise workout is better than any sports drink as the banana’s potassium prevents muscle cramps if you’ve lost water through sweat, and bananas have enough electrolytes and natural carbs to replenish your tired muscles. They are an easily digested source of carbohydrates which fuel exercise as well because the potassium helps with fluid balance and muscle function.
- Bananas help with weight loss. Trainer Feinstein says, “Foods high in fiber make you feel full longer, so you won’t consume as many calories.”
- Bananas have healing powers that lower the risk of cardiovascular issues, the number one cause of death throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. Certified nutritionist Shelley Gawith said that the potassium in bananas lowers the risk of heart disease by 27 percent. The potassium prevents hardening of the arteries and keeps blood vessels flexible to carry the blood throughout the body.
- Bananas help maintain healthy blood pressure. Berman claims that one banana’s potassium of 422 milligrams is 10 percent of the recommended daily dose, and the more potassium you eat, the more sodium you excrete. Your goal is to have the safest blood pressure at 120/80 and when high blood pressure begins at 140/90, one banana a day could make a big difference.
- Bananas improve your insulin sensitivity. Registered dietitian Trista Best claims that bananas are an excellent source of resistant starch which has a positive impact on insulin resistance.
- Bananas help the digestive tract. Berman claims bananas contain prebiotics, fiber that helps good bacteria or probiotics grow in the gut and digest food. They’re particularly good when unripe or slightly green. Their fiber protects the colon’s wall and keeps one regular. One banana has three grams of fiber which may help ward off colon cancer, as well.
- Bananas blast harmful free radicals due to their antioxidant levels. Nutritionist Laura Flore states that bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, copper and manganese. Since free radicals cause oxidative stress in our bodies that harm cells and body function and have been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory diseases, immune deficiency, emphysemas, Parkinson’s and other inflammatory or ischemic conditions, we need any help we can get to help our antioxidants.
- Bananas help with kidney function because of their high concentration of phenolics, compounds with antioxidant effects, dietitian Natalie Rizzo claims. As the noted Washington, D.C., kidney specialist and surgeon Patrick Mufarrij says women who consume 4,099 milligrams or more of potassium every day are less likely to develop kidney stones.
- Bananas even help eyesight. They have vitamin A that helps keep eyes protected by aiding the membrane that covers one’s eyeballs and helps facilitate the amount of light that enters the cornea. Bananas even help prevent macular degeneration.
- Bananas can help improve your mood and help you sleep. Trainer Feinstein says, “Bananas help produce serotonin, a hormone that affects our sleep cycle and moods. They also contain tryptophan which the body can convert into the mood-boosting brain neurotransmitter.
- Bananas are versatile—on top of cereal, baked into banana bread, blended into a smoothie, or eaten as is. In our household, it’s not “an apple a day;” it’s “a banana a day,” to help us with weight control, heart health and especially in fighting kidney stones.
Les Megyeri is a frequent contributor to Lifestyles After 50. His past subjects covered exercise, financial planning, cancerous melanomas and volunteering. He is a CPA, attorney, retired Army officer and ski patroller who resides in Venice, FL, when not on the ski slopes.