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Bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world. Eating them could help prevent asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and digestive problems. Bananas are a healthy source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and various antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Today, bananas are grown in at least 107 countries and are ranked fourth among the world’s food crops in monetary value. Americans consume more bananas than apples and oranges combined. With the world consuming so many bananas, it’s not surprising that people are asking the question: Why and how are bananas good for you?
How are Bananas Potent Against Diseases?
Bananas are rich in a mineral called potassium. This mineral is important as it helps maintain fluid levels in the body and regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of cells. Studies have shown that daily banana consumption, can help lower blood pressure. One study, in particular, said just two bananas a day can reduce your blood pressure by 10 percent!
Potassium can be harmful in patients with kidney disease, any condition that affects how the body handles potassium, or those who take certain medications.
Potassium also helps muscles to contract and nerve cells to respond. It keeps the heart beating regularly and can reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure. It may reduce the risk of kidney stones forming as people age. In turn, healthy kidneys make sure that the right amount of potassium is kept in the body.
One medium-sized banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend an intake of 3,510 mg per day and agree that most of the global population is not meeting this recommendation. It is best to try to get potassium from dietary sources such as bananas. Otherwise, potassium supplements are available to purchase online.
Foods that are rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) because potassium lessens the effects of sodium. So, the more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine. Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.
Why Potassium Helps to Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition where the force of your blood against the blood vessels is too high. High blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for stroke. The normal range of blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, if your blood pressure is consistently higher than this range, you must consult a doctor immediately.
Potassium is a key mineral that the body relies on heavily to function properly. It helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt.
Your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body. The more fluid, the higher your blood pressure.
The kidneys do this by filtering your blood and sucking out any extra fluid, which it then stores in your bladder as urine. This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder.
Here is a table showing the nutritional benefit provided by one cup of the most potassium-rich foods.
|Food Type (1 cup)||Amount of Potassium Provided in Milligrams (mg)|
|Cooked, boiled, or drained beet greens, without salt||1,309|
|Canned white beans||1,189|
|Cooked, boiled, or drained soy beans, without salt||970|
|Cooked, boiled, or drained lima beans, without salt||969|
|Baked sweet potato||950|
|Cooked, boiled, or drained mushrooms, without salt||555|
|Red, ripe, raw tomatoes||427|
|Raw cantaloupe melon||417|
A good way to reduce the harmful effects of high-sodium meals is to eat a high-potassium fruit or vegetable with each meal.
Increasing potassium through diet is recommended in adults with blood pressure above 120/80 who are otherwise healthy. Potassium can be harmful in patients with kidney disease, any condition that affects how the body handles potassium, or those who take certain medications. The decision of whether to take excess potassium should be discussed with your doctor.
Potassium deficiency can cause a range of symptoms and health problems. It is also known as hypokalemia. A normal potassium level is defined as between 3.5 and 5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
Hypokalemia is diagnosed when potassium levels fall below 3.5 mmol/L. Mild potassium deficiency will generally not present with symptoms. A potassium level lower than 2.5 mmol/L is considered extremely deficient, and symptoms will become more severe as levels reduce.
Symptoms of low potassium levels include:
- malaise and fatigue
- weakness and muscle pain all over the body
Extremely low potassium levels can cause:
- severe muscle weakness and paralysis
- respiratory failure
- painful obstructions in the gut
- tingling, crawling, numb, or itchy sensations main felt in the hands, feet, legs, or arms
- intermittent muscle spasms
Low potassium can be diagnosed using simple blood tests and treated by alterations to the diet, including supplements. Having regular medicals and health screenings will also help a person track their potassium levels and avoid any potential shortfalls.
Fruits that are Rich Potassium
The following fruits are particularly rich in potassium and may be more helpful in controlling blood pressure:
- Tomato juice and puree
- Orange juice
Vegetables that are Rich in Potassium
The following vegetables are particularly rich in potassium and may be more helpful in controlling blood pressure:
- Sweet Potatoes
To make your fruits and vegetables even more effective, don’t forget to cut down on the amount of salt you are eating.
Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods such as bananas should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Dr. Peter S. Gelfand, who practices Internal Medicine in Long Beach NY, says:
“Certain medications used for heart disease and hypertension have the potential to increase potassium levels. Examples include certain beta-blockers such as Labetalol, medications that work by blocking the actions of the hormone aldosterone such as Lisinopril and Losartan, and certain diuretics like Spironolactone and Eplerenone. This is a partial list only, and you should consult with your doctor if potassium levels become a concern.”
Bananas may trigger migraines in some people. People who often experience migraine headaches are advised to eat no more than half a banana daily. Some people may have an allergy to bananas. If anyone with a banana allergy eats a banana, they may experience symptoms in the mouth and throat such as itching, hives, swelling and wheezing. Bananas also contain a lot of fiber. Eating too much fiber can lead to bloating, gas, and stomach cramps.