Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world. As an infant, you probably started eating bananas before you even had teeth. This fruit has myriad health benefits, and since most dieticians recommend that you get between three and five servings of fruit a day, you might think that it would be hard to eat too many bananas. However, as with many things, overindulgence can potentially lead to health problems. In this article, explore the health benefits and health ramifications of eating bananas regularly, including their impact on heart disease, general health and cancer.


History

Bananas probably originated in Malaysia almost four thousand years ago. They come in hundreds of sub-varieties, but the two most common and popular types are the sweet banana and the plantain. They did not become widely available outside of their native lands until the twentieth century, when improved packing, shipping and refrigeration allowed them to be sold in markets everywhere.


Significance

Bananas have long been believed to be the perfect “package.” The firm, light colored fruit is encased in a hardy rind or peel, and is full of nutrients, fiber and even foods for certain types of beneficial bacteria that live in your stomach, bowels and kidneys. In fact, bananas can help your eyesight and help prevent ulcers as well as nourishing cells that live in the lining of your intestines.

Misconceptions

Several years ago, scientists began researching the effects of chlorophyll on humans. Chlorophyll is the part of the plant that makes leaves and fruit green, and it helps plants absorb sunlight and turn it into food. Some scientists feared that as chlorophyll was broken down during the ripening process, it could have adverse health effects if it was consumed in large quantities. Some experts even suggested that eating too many fruits like bananas, which start out green and become yellower and yellower as the ripen, might contribute to health problems like cancer.

Function

Fortunately, these fears turned out to be unfounded. Not only do the extremely high potassium levels in bananas help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, bone disease and–for the athletes out there–cramping, the high fiber levels in the fruit contribute to cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal regularity and even protection from ulcers. Bananas are actually better for your eyes than carrots are, and in a study published in the “International Journal of Cancer,” women who ate bananas four to six times a week literally halved their risk of kidney cancer.

Considerations

While eating too much of anything can cause health problems, very few people actually eat enough bananas. However, you should not confuse getting enough fruit with getting enough fruit juice, especially when it comes to bananas. While consuming the raw, natural forms of fruits can fortify your body against a number of health problems including cancer, overconsumption of fruit juice has been credited with increased risks of kidney cancer. Make sure that you are getting your bananas in as natural a way as possible–straight off the bunch–to avoid this.

Expert Insight

If you really want to amp up your cancer protection using bananas, then you might want to think twice before you pitch the peel. Researchers in Tokyo, Japan found that the antioxidant compounds in banana peels were much stronger than those in the fruit itself. Antioxidants can help keep high energy molecules called free radicals in check. Free radicals can seriously damage healthy cells and even cause them to start replicating uncontrollably, which results in cancerous growths. The researchers even suggested that banana peel extract be considered a good source for natural antioxidants in foods.