The banana is one of the most consumed fruits in the world. This is because it is cheap, has a very pleasant taste, can be easily combined into different dishes, and is easy to transport, store and dispose of.
It also has many medicinal properties, especially cardioprotective. Let’s see what these benefits are due to and how you can take advantage of them in the best way.
Bananas are characterized by being rich in vitamins, especially B and C, folic and pantothenic acid, niacin, and minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
However, its best known mineral and to which it owes most of its properties is potassium. This is a type of electrolyte, a substance that helps the body:
- Eliminate cellular debris.
- Balance the amount of water.
- Balance the pH (level of acidity or alkalinity).
- Transport nutrients.
- Ensure the proper functioning of the nerves, muscles, brain and heart.
For this reason, consuming bananas regularly is associated with many benefits:
- Relieve swelling.
- Control blood sugar levels.
- Take care of intestinal health.
- Facilitate the increase in body mass.
- Strengthen the bones.
- Prevent mental disorders.
Another key aspect of the banana is that its high potassium content is combined with a low amount of sodium. Many specialists agree that this makes it a great food to help lower the risk of heart disease.
How do bananas help the heart?
Eating bananas is a good way to take care of our hearts for many reasons. For one thing, potassium helps lower blood pressure levels, lowering the risk of hypertension.
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This is because it works as a vasodilator, promoting proper blood flow and helping to reduce the tension on the walls of the blood vessels.
Due to its function as a vasodilator, potassium is also linked to the prevention of cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) or strokes. These conditions occur when blood flow to the brain is impaired, causing damage to brain cells.
Another key aspect to take care of cardiovascular health is that potassium stimulates the natural elimination of sodium through the urine. Sodium is a known risk factor for heart disease.
Also, the combination of potassium and fiber found in bananas works very well to “clean” cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Keeping blood cholesterol levels low is essential to prevent coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. This is characterized by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
How to eat bananas?
As we pointed out, the practicality and versatility of bananas is one of its main virtues. You can incorporate banana into your diet in many ways:
- Eating it natural.
- In smoothies and juices with other fruits and vegetables.
- In desserts. You can freeze its slices, puree it smooth, and enhance its flavor with cocoa, almond butter, or cinnamon.
- Sliced with cereal (hot or cold).
- On peanut butter sandwiches.
Another very healthy option is infusion. To prepare banana tea, cut its ends, without removing the peel, and immerse it in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Preferably make the decoction over low heat. Let it rest for a few minutes, pass it through a strainer, add a pinch of cinnamon and enjoy it.
How much potassium to consume?
Although potassium has a very good reputation, the key to taking advantage of its benefits is in moderation.
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Low levels of potassium in the body, known as hypokalemia, can lead to weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms, and a slight increase in blood pressure.
While too much potassium in the blood, which is known as hyperkalemia, can cause abnormal and dangerous heart rhythms.
The Food and Nutrition Center of the Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily potassium intake, based on age:
- 0 to 6 months: 0.4 g.
- 7 to 12 months: 0.7 g.
- From 1 to 3 years: 3 g.
- 4-8 years: 3.8 g.
- From 9 to 13 years old: 4.5 g.
- From 14 to 18 years old: 4.7 g.
- 19 years and older: 4.7 g.
- Lactating women: 5.1 g.
For reference, a single banana provides about 450 mg of potassium. Although this fruit is the best known option to obtain it, you can easily add it to your diet with other foods:
- A cup of lentils provides 731 mg of potassium.
- A cup of sweet potato or sweet potato provides 694 mg of potassium.
- A cup of clams provides 534 mg of potassium.
- One cup of canned tomatoes provides 528 mg of potassium.
- One cup of beets provides 519 mg of potassium.
- A cup of pumpkin provides 505 mg of potassium.
- One cup of Brussels sprouts provides 495 mg of potassium.
- A cup of orange juice provides 473 mg of potassium.
- One cup of chicken soup provides 367 mg of potassium.
- A cup of skim milk (2%) provides 342 mg of potassium.
Until significant scientific evidence from human trials is available, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: American Heart Association, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.