You may already know that bananas are stocked with potassium—a medium one has 422 milligrams of the mineral or 12% of the recommended daily value, according to the USDA. It also has a solid 3 grams of filling fiber and nearly 20% of your daily value for both vitamins C and B6. Plus, they’re great to add to healthy smoothies. If that’s not enough, here are five other ways bananas can make your life better:
They can sub in for sports drinks
Bananas could give sports drinks a run for their money. A study published in PLoS ONE analyzed the blood samples of 14 trained cyclists, who were given either a cup of carbohydrate drink or half a banana to consume every 15 minutes during a simulated 2.5- to 3-hour road race. Researchers found that performance was the same for both, but bananas come with added benefits. “They pack more nutrients than sports drinks and have a healthier blend of natural sugars with bonus antioxidants,” says Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. And if you’re low on key electrolytes like potassium that help regulate nerve and muscle function, you might suffer from muscle cramps. So grabbing a banana to replace what you sweat out during an intense workout isn’t a bad idea.
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They may boost your metabolism
Bananas are a good source of resistant starch, a starch found in carbohydrate-rich foods that may help you slim down. Your body digests resistant starch slowly (it literally “resists” the process), making it a natural appetite suppressant because you feel fuller longer. RS also encourages your liver to switch to fat-burning mode. Health‘s CarbLovers Diet recommends eating 10 to 15 grams daily. A medium, slightly green banana has 12.5 grams of RS, but even ripe bananas have almost 5 grams.
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They can help keep blood pressure in check
Another upside to the high potassium content in bananas: it may help regulate blood pressure. The more potassium you consume, the more sodium that can exit your body, according to the American Heart Association. That’s because the mineral acts like a natural diuretic. “It triggers the kidneys to release excess sodium and fluid the body is holding onto,” Sass says. Lower blood pressure is great news for your heart: It means the muscle won’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. It doesn’t hurt either that a diet with potassium-rich foods was found to cut your risk of stroke by 21% and may also lower your risk for heart disease.
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They’re good for your gut bacteria
You’ve probably heard of probiotics, the “good” bacteria that aid digestion and are found in certain foods like yogurt. Well, there’s also such a thing as prebiotics, and bananas happen to be a great source of them. Prebiotics are actually carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the human body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Still, they play a vital role in maintaining a healthy gut. “Prebiotics supply food for probiotics,” Sass says. “So they help the ‘good’ probiotic bacteria grow.” Bananas aren’t the only food that will help you get your fill of prebiotics: You’ll also find them in raisins, asparagus, onions, and garlic.
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They can ease stomach troubles
Bananas can help with several tummy issues. The 3.1 grams of fiber you’ll find in a medium banana is split into two different types: soluble and insoluble, which can help ease digestion and relieve constipation, respectively. Bananas could even aid recovery after a bout of diarrhea, when fluid loss depletes levels of key electrolytes like potassium, Sass says. That’s not all. “Bananas neutralize the acidity in the stomach and coat the lining to reduce irritation,” Sass says. So they are thought to help fight heartburn and stomach ulcers, too.