Kale has been stealing the healthy-food thunder for far too long, because there’s another ultra-healthy food out there that was right under your nose this whole time: bananas.
Yes, bananas are pretty amazing, because—in addition to being one of the most portable snacks on the planet—they have dozens of health benefits. Actually, the riper the banana, the more nutrients it has, according to EatThis!.
Here are 10 health benefits of bananas and why you should totally be eating them more often.
1. Bananas Build Lean Muscle
Bananas are packed with magnesium, which helps with muscle contraction and relaxation and protein synthesis—all of which are needed to build stronger, leaner muscle, according to EatThis!. Magnesium also helps with lipolysis, which is the process your body utilizes to release pesky fat from fat stores.
2. They Could Help With Depression
Bananas have high levels of tryptophan and vitamin B9 (also known as folate), which is converted to the happy brain chemical called serotonin, writes Food Matters. Eat enough bananas, and you might see your mood improve a bit.
3. Tryptophan May Also Help You Sleep Better
Like pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving, bananas contain tryptophan, which will make you feel sleepy and relaxed, according to EatThis!. If you’re feeling agitated, eat one a few hours before bedtime.
4. Bananas Are Great For Digestion
Bananas contain pectin, which can help eliminate toxins and metals from the body, says Food Matters. But bananas are also a probiotic, so they help friendly bacteria grow in your bowels and promote nutrient absorption.
5. They Can Keep You From Bloating
According to EatThis!, women who ate bananas twice daily as a snack before a meal for 60 days found that their belly bloat was reduced by 50 percent. That’s because bananas activate the production of those helpful gut bacteria, but also because bananas contain potassium, which can moderate fluid retention.
6. They’re Great For Athletes
A 2012 study found that distance cyclists who ate about one half of a banana every 15 minutes of a three-hour race had the same steady energy levels as those who drank a processed sports beverage to get carbohydrates and minerals, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods. The level of potassium in bananas also helps reduce muscle cramps.
7. They Burn Fat
A banana contains 12 milligrams of choline, which is a B vitamin that helps burn fat. It also interacts directly with genes that cause your abdomen to store fat, according to EatThis!. This is the same reason that heavy alcohol drinkers develop a “beer belly”—alcohol depletes choline, and that then causes weight gain around the liver area. Now that’s b-a-n-a-n-a-s.
8. Bananas May Protect Against Chronic Disease
Bananas have lots of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, which are two provitamin A carotenoids that can help with vitamin A deficiency, according to EatThis!. Recent studies have shown that carotenoid-rich foods can help protect against certain cancers (like kidney cancer), cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
9. They May Help With The Effects Of Withdrawal
If you’re trying to quit smoking, then stock up on bananas. The fruit contains B vitamins, potassium and magnesium, which all help with recovery from the effects of withdrawal, according to Food Matters.
10. Bananas Could Help Strengthen Your Blood And Speed Up Your Metabolism
Bananas are packed with iron, which is necessary to prevent anemia, according to EatThis!. But iron is also critical for weight loss, because without it your body will try to conserve energy by slowing your metabolism and holding onto those extra pounds that you’ve been fighting to lose.