The combination of nutrients in bananas, including soluble fiber, makes this fruit an easily digested source of energy. Unlike insoluble fiber, or "roughage," soluble fiber transforms into a gel-like substance in water. The soluble fiber in bananas offers several health benefits, from correcting diarrhea to lowering cholesterol and helping you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
One small banana has a total of 2.2 grams of fiber, including 0.6 grams of soluble fiber and 1.6 grams of insoluble fiber, according to Harvard University Health Services, or HUHS. The Institute of Medicine advises women through the age of 50 get 25 grams of total fiber daily; older women need about 21 grams a day. The fiber in a small banana represents 9 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber. Although there are no intake guidelines for soluble and insoluble fiber, HUHS recommends that you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and grain products containing soluble and insoluble fiber to reap the benefits of both types.
Soluble fiber delays the rate at which your small intestine releases glucose into your bloodstream, which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Soluble fiber also regulates bowel movements by absorbing water from your wastes, making stools more solid and easier to pass. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, this gelatinous form of fiber may help lower cholesterol by binding with fats in your intestinal tract and facilitating their removal through waste.
In addition to soluble fiber, bananas provide simple sugars as well as complex carbohydrates in the form of starch. During digestion, your body converts the carbohydrates in bananas into glucose, which acts as fuel for your organs and muscles. Because starch takes longer to break down, bananas provide sustained energy for workouts or other activities. Bananas are also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps control the balance of fluids in your body and reduces the effects of sodium on your blood pressure. Potassium also plays vital roles in nerve and muscle function.
Because of their starch and soluble fiber content, bananas often feature on lists of recommended foods for people who have diarrhea, an upset stomach or a gastrointestinal condition that requires a bland diet. Bananas are the first ingredient on the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – a traditional regimen for treating diarrhea. The starches and fiber in bananas may help solidify watery stools, reduce the number of bowel movements and prevent dehydration. Bananas also help replenish any potassium that may have been lost during prolonged bouts of diarrhea.
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