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Surprising Side Effects Bananas Have On Your Immune System, Says Science

This popular fruit can give your immune system a serious leg up, experts say.
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

Bananas are the most popular fruit in America, and it's not hard to see why: they're tasty, inexpensive, and can be purchased practically anywhere food is sold, from gas stations to grocery stores. However, the benefits of making bananas part of your regular routine extend well beyond your taste buds—these delicious fruits can provide a surprising amount of support to your immune system, keeping you healthier in the long run. Read on to discover the surprising benefits bananas have on your immune system. And for more ways to stay healthy, check out Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.

They may help reduce your chance of developing the flu.

Allergic african woman blowing nose in tissue sit on sofa at home office study work on laptop

Want to get through the next flu season unscathed? Try adding some bananas to your routine now. According to a 2020 research article published in PNAS, an engineered banana lectin—a type of indigestible protein that binds to sugar—was shown to exhibit flu-fighting activity against multiple strains of the influenza virus.

They are very high in immune-system boosting vitamins.

frozen banana slices

According to the National Library of Medicine, vitamin B6 deficiency impacts a variety of immune responses by the body. Bananas are one of the healthiest foods that contain large amounts of vitamin B6, 32% of the recommended daily value in one cup sliced or one medium banana. Additionally, UC Health cites the role of vitamin B6 in making new blood cells and maintaining the lymphatic system.

They may help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

Woman holding stomach cramps digestive problems

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer among men and women in the U.S. and has the third-highest death toll, as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, consuming foods rich in resistant starch, like bananas, may help lower your risk. According to a 2013 review of research published in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, resistant starch is effective at reducing inflammation and may help reduce a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer. And if you want to protect yourself, check out these Colon Cancer Signs to Watch For Now, Say Doctors.

They may give your body an immune boost after working out.

older women biking outside exercising

Looking for the ideal food to fuel your workouts and keep your immune system going strong? Instead of grabbing a protein bar, grab a banana. According to a 2012 study published in PLOS One, individuals who ate a banana prior to a 75-km cycling time trial had less pronounced immune system-weakening responses to the vigorous exercise, including lower levels of exercise-induced inflammation and oxidative stress.

They may reduce your risk of post-surgery complications.

Team of experienced doctors and assistants performing surgery.

Resistant starch, like that found in bananas, might just be your secret weapon when it comes to preventing adverse post-surgical outcomes, like graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). A 2016 study published in Nature Immunology found that resistant starch, like that found in bananas, may cause beneficial alterations to bacteria in the human digestive tract, thereby reducing the risk of GVHD.

They may improve your overall gut health.

Sideways angle woman holding bloated belly

The overwhelming majority of your immune cells live in your digestive tract, making gut health of the utmost importance when it comes to staying healthy. Fortunately, bananas can help maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, giving your immune system a major leg up.

According to a 2017 research article in the American Society for Microbiology journal mBio, resistant starch, like that found in bananas, can help beneficial gut bacteria flourish as well as boosting a person's lipid metabolism.


Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah
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