Bananas For Respiratory Health: A Closer Look

  • Ann Rose JosephDoctor of Pharmacy - PharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
  • Janell PenhaDoctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), Pharmacy, University of Hawaii at Hilo, United States
  • Linda NkrumahBiological Sciences with International Year, University of Birmingham, UK

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Introduction

Respiratory health is of paramount importance for several reasons, as it directly impacts an individual's overall well-being and quality of life. Here are some key reasons why respiratory health is crucial:

  • Oxygen supply: The respiratory system's primary function is to facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Adequate oxygen supply is essential for the proper functioning of all organs and tissues
  • Vital organ Function: The respiratory system is linked to the proper functioning of vital organs, such as the heart and brain
  • Detoxification: The respiratory system plays a role in removing waste gases and toxins (such as carbon dioxide) from the body 
  • Immune function: The respiratory system also helps defend the body against infections and airborne pathogens. It contains mucus and tiny hair-like structures (cilia) that trap and expel foreign particles
  • Physical activity and fitness: Good respiratory health is essential for physical fitness and endurance. When your respiratory system functions well, you can engage in aerobic activities and exercise more effectively
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*Image credit by CC BY-SA 4.0,

Maintaining and improving respiratory health involves various strategies, including:

Exercise

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*Image credit by CC BY 4.0,

Smoking

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*Image credit by CC BY-SA 2.0,

The nutritional content of bananas

Bananas play a role in promoting respiratory health due to their nutrient content and certain properties, though they should be considered as part of a balanced diet alongside other fruits and foods. The incorporation of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods is key to supporting overall respiratory health and overall well-being. If you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ensure you are making the best dietary choices for your individual needs.

 Here are some examples of how bananas support the respiratory system:

Antioxidants in bananas

Bananas contain several antioxidants that contribute to their health benefits. Some of the key antioxidants found in bananas include:

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative damage. It plays a crucial role in neutralising free radicals and reducing oxidative stress in the body
  • Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene): beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, and it functions as an antioxidant. It is involved in the protection of cells from free radicals
  • Dopamine: Bananas contain small amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter with antioxidant properties. Dopamine can help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases
  • Polyphenols: While not as high in polyphenols as some other fruits, bananas do contain various types of polyphenols, including catechins, which are known for their antioxidant properties1

Anti-inflammatory properties

Bananas contain certain compounds and nutrients that are associated with anti-inflammatory properties. While they may not have the same level of anti-inflammatory effects as some other foods, they can still contribute to reducing inflammation in the body. Here are a few ways in which bananas can have anti-inflammatory effects:

  • Vitamin B6: This vitamin plays a role in reducing inflammation in the body by helping to regulate the production of cytokines, which are signalling molecules involved in the inflammatory response
  • Antioxidants: Bananas contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A (beta-carotene), which can help reduce oxidative stress and combat inflammation. Oxidative stress is a significant contributor to inflammation
  • Fibre: fibre can support digestive health. A healthy digestive system can help prevent inflammation, as problems with digestion can sometimes lead to low-grade systemic inflammation
  • Tryptophan: Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can have mood-regulating and anti-inflammatory effects 
  • Phytochemicals: While not as rich in polyphenols as some other fruits, bananas do contain certain phytochemicals, which are compounds with potential anti-inflammatory properties. For example, catechins found in bananas have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects2

Fiber and digestive health

Bananas are a good source of dietary fibre, and the amount of fibre in a banana can vary depending on its size. On average, a medium-sized banana (about 18 cm long) typically contains approximately 3 grams of dietary fibre. The majority of this fibre is soluble, particularly pectin, which is known for its ability to help regulate digestion and support overall digestive health.

Dietary fibre offers several health benefits, including:3

  • Digestive health: Fibre helps promote regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. It also supports a healthy gut microbiome
  • Blood sugar regulation: Soluble fibre, such as that found in bananas, can help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract
  • Cholesterol management: Some types of soluble fibre may help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Appetite control: Fibre-rich foods can help you feel full and satisfied, which may aid in weight management by reducing overall calorie intake

Eating bananas as part of a balanced diet with various fruits and vegetables can contribute to your daily fibre intake, promoting digestive and overall health.

Digestive system

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*Image credit by CC BY 3.0,

Practical tips for incorporating bananas

Bananas are a versatile and nutritious fruit that can be easily incorporated into your daily diet in various ways. Here are some suggestions for including bananas in your meals and snacks:

  • Simple snack: Enjoy a banana as a quick and easy snack. It's portable, requires no preparation, and provides a natural source of energy
  • Smoothies: Add sliced bananas to your morning smoothie for a creamy texture and natural sweetness. You can also freeze banana slices and use them as a base for a thicker, ice cream-like smoothie
  • Oatmeal: Slice a banana and add it to your morning oatmeal or cereal. The natural sweetness of the banana can reduce the need for added sugars
  • Yoghourt parfait: Layer sliced bananas with yoghurt, granola, and a drizzle of honey or a sprinkle of nuts for a tasty and nutritious parfait
  • Peanut butter or nut butter: Spread peanut butter or almond butter on banana slices for a satisfying and healthy snack
  • Banana bread: Make homemade banana bread or muffins using overripe bananas. Look for healthier recipes that use less sugar or alternative sweeteners
  • Salads: Add banana slices to fruit salads or green salads for a sweet and creamy contrast to other ingredients
  • Sandwiches: Include banana slices in your peanut butter and banana sandwich for a classic and delicious combination

However, like any food, it's important to include them as part of a well-balanced diet.

Oats and banana

File:Banana blueberry oatmeal.jpg
*Image credit by CC BY 4.0,

Banana bread

File:Sliced Filipino Homemade Banana Bread.jpg
*Image credit by CC BY 2.0,

Summary

In conclusion, bananas can have a positive impact on respiratory health due to their nutrient content and certain properties. They are a good source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A, which protect the respiratory system from oxidative stress. Bananas also have anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce airway inflammation in conditions like asthma. Their rich potassium content supports the proper function of respiratory muscles, and their easy digestibility makes them a soothing food during illness.

However, it's important to remember that bananas are just one component of a balanced diet, and they should be consumed as part of a diverse range of fruits and foods to ensure comprehensive nutritional support for respiratory health. Additionally, some individuals may need to be cautious due to allergies to bananas.

Overall, bananas can be a valuable addition to a respiratory-healthy diet, but it's essential to consider them within the context of overall nutrition and dietary preferences. If you have specific respiratory concerns or dietary questions, consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised guidance.

References

  1. Someya S, Yoshiki Y, Okubo K. Antioxidant compounds from bananas (Musa Cavendish). Food Chem [Internet]. 2002;79(3):351–4. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814602001863
  2. Savitri D, Wahyuni S, Bukhari A, Djawad K, Hatta M, Riyanto P, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of banana (Musa balbisiana) peel extract on acne vulgaris: In vivo and in silico study. J Taibah Univ Med Sci [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 22];18(6):1586–98. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtumed.2023.07.008
  3. Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients 2020;12:3209. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103209.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ann Rose Joseph

Doctor of Pharmacy - PharmD , Acharya and BM Reddy college of Pharmacy, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Ann Rose is a PharmD intern , showcasing an unwavering passion for healthcare field. With comprehensive knowledge regarding the principles and operational techniques of pharmacy in Healthcare settings.Equipped with a strong background in medication evaluation and clinical management of multiple chronic disease states.

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