Take, for instance, stocking up on a bunch of bananas during your weekly grocery haul. Munching on this ubiquitous but powerful fruit may actually be one of the simplest pro-aging dietary hacks at your disposal. Ahead, Bianca Tamburello, RDN, an NYC-based dietitian with FRESH Communications, explains why.
Why eating bananas and longevity go hand in hand
As a friendly reminder, antioxidants stave off oxidative stress—the latter of which not only accelerates aging but is also associated with a greater risk of disease and mortality from all causes. In turn, higher intakes of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies can effectively promote your healthspan (aka a longer and healthier life). “Bananas are packed with flavonoids, a specific type of antioxidant, that offers anti-inflammatory benefits to promote healthy aging,” Tamburello explains. “Preventing chronic inflammation is important because it’s associated with certain diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.”
2. Soluble fiber
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans don’t get enough of the all-important nutrient of fiber. But the good news is that bananas—a large one of which packs 3.5 grams of total dietary fiber—can make a dent on the recommended 21 to 38 gram daily quota. “Soluble fiber found in bananas promotes heart health by helping to lower cholesterol levels,” Tamburello shares. “This type of fiber also helps balance blood sugar and can contribute to managing or preventing type 2 diabetes risk.” Last but not least, fiber is famed for its abilities to promote digestive regularity and nourish the gut.
3. Resistant starch
To amplify the gut-friendly benefits of bananas, you may want to keep an eye out for unripe green bananas, as they provide a special type of fiber called resistant starch. “Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic and feeds healthy gut bacteria to promote a balanced microbiome,” says Tamburello. ICYMI, thriving gut health supports a healthy body and mind in countless ways. “Emerging research has shown that a healthy gut can promote better health throughout the whole body including heart health, immunity, and even mental health,” the dietitian continues. “Like soluble fiber, resistant starch also promotes healthy blood sugar levels.”
Bananas are well-known as a great source of potassium, a mineral that’s crucial to prioritize as the years pass by. “Eating more potassium is associated with higher bone mineral density, which declines as we age,” Tamburello explains. (Tip: To proactively minimize bone loss, be sure to include calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet, as well.) Bone health benefits aside, she adds that potassium promotes healthy kidney function, supports muscle recovery, and may help lower blood pressure levels.
5. Vitamin C
Move over oranges: Bananas are also a valid source of vitamin C, a crucial vitamin and antioxidant that can bolster immune function day in and day out. “Bananas offer a significant amount of vitamin C (12 percent daily value), [which] supports a strong immune system and wound healing,” Tamburello shares. In addition, she says that some micronutrients (C among them) can potentially help slow down age-related macular degeneration, though research is still ongoing.
The takeaway on the “banana a day keeps the doctor away”
To maintain momentum with your pro-aging goals, it’s worth looking at easy peasy foods and habits that are already in your rotation—with your banana intake among them. After all, healthy dietary and lifestyle staples that you can adopt on a consistent basis are your best bet to support well-being now and for years to come.
Tamburello says that most people can benefit from eating one serving of the fruit a day. To get creative with your banana game, she suggests:
- Stirring small pieces into your morning oats until they dissolve
- Mashing them as a base for pancakes or low-sugar pastries
- Slicing and dipping them in peanut butter
- Blending frozen bananas with vanilla and cinnamon for an ice cream-like dessert
- Dipping them in dark chocolate and freezing them for a crunchy treat
On a parting note, though bananas can surely prove to be beneficial on the aging front, remember that it’s only one part of a larger whole. “Keep in mind that one food will not act as a magic bullet to healthy aging and that a varied diet is important,” Tamburello concludes.
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- Ullah, Asad et al. “Important Flavonoids and Their Role as a Therapeutic Agent.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 25,22 5243. 11 Nov. 2020, doi:10.3390/molecules25225243