Are bananas good for you? YES, they most certainly are, and below are 10 little known facts about the humble banana that will get you rushing to the fruit bowl in a jiffy.
Bananas naturally come conveniently packaged and are at their most nutrient dense when eaten raw and straight out of their skin. They are also wonderfully versatile and taste delicious either fresh, dried or cooked and turned into sweet and savory dishes alike.
The Ripeness Spectrum of the Banana
As you’ve probably already noticed, bananas come in different degrees of ripeness. On one end of the spectrum you have the unripened, firm green banana and on the other end they can be very ripe and yellow with brown spots. Interestingly, these two are poles apart both nutritionally and sugar content wise, and as they both have different pros and cons it’s important to know the difference.
PROS AND CONS OF A RIPE BANANA
- Easier to digest due to the fact that the banana’s starches have turned into simple sugars.
- The more they ripen, the higher they become in antioxidants (a good thing).
- They are not suitable for diabetics, as the riper the banana, the higher the GI. (GI is short for glycemic index, and is a number associated with how fast a food’s sugars hit the bloodstream. The system rates on a scale of 1-100, and anything under 50 is considered low GI. Really ripe bananas come in at around 60, unripe around 30, and the average banana 51).
- The ripe banana is not as good for weight loss due to its higher GI.
PROS AND CONS OF AN UNRIPE BANANA
- Their low resistant starch content makes them low GI, which is good for diabetics or anyone on a low sugar diet.
- Probiotic bacteria – unripe bananas contain a healthy bacterium that is very good for the colon.
- Unripe bananas help you to absorb other nutrients more effectively, especially calcium.
- In conclusion to this, unless you have specific needs you should generally go for the medium ripened, yellow bananas as you will get some of the nutritional benefits of both.
10 Amazing Banana Facts
1. INSTANT ENERGY
One medium banana contains around 90 calories and will give you both a mental AND physical boost. This is due to its low GI, sustained energy release, making it a perfect pudding, between meal snack, or pre/post workout snack. Or even a snack to fuel yourself between longer, harder workouts as they are easily transportable.
Eat them with a little protein such as peanut butter for more sustained energy.
2. HIGH FIBER
Banana’s are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which means they will give you a feeling of fullness very quickly. Great to have at breakfast as a nutritious start to the day; just slice them onto your cereal, add to oatmeal, homemade healthy muesli, or mash onto toast with some sugar free peanut butter for added protein. This will for sure keep you full up until lunch.
3. BRILLIANT SOURCE OF POTASSIUM
Probably the thing banana’s are most famous for is their high potassium content, and for good reason as one banana contains at least 20% of your RDA of this mineral. Potassium is needed for heart health, as it regulates both the heartbeat and blood pressure, and is also great for keeping the brain sharp and alert – so a great, cheap and healthy snack for students.
4. A NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSE
Banana’s are a nutritional powerhouse of vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and folate. They are also packed with fiber which helps keep your system ‘cleaned out’ and your digestion firing on all cylinders, and eating them with other fiber rich foods will really enhance this effect.
Getting enough fiber into your diet is crucial to health as it also normalises bowels, lowers cholesterol, keep you full which helps with weight control, and generally helps you to live longer.
5. GOOD FOR DIGESTION
Because of their pectin content, bananas are great for easing stomach problems such as diarrhea. They also help to soothe an upset stomach and replace any potassium and electrolytes that may be lost due to a bout of sickness or a bug.
Bananas are perfect added to a healthy breakfast along with other fruits, nuts and seeds, and will work well with all these things to make a tasty and nutritious meal. OR who’s ever had sliced banana and hot custard for pudding? Yum! That’s a treat I remember well from my childhood.
6. HELPS ANEMIA
Banana’s are high in iron, and so are a good choice for those suffering from anemia. As with all food products, many of the nutrients have a higher availability in the body when they are in their natural whole form, which allows them more readily absorbed. Remember, our body is designed to eat and digest natural, whole foods, so the closer we can keep to that way of eating, the better we will feel.
7. GUT FRIENDLY
The pectin and resistant starch in an unripe banana has a prebiotic effect, so therefore can increase healthy gut bacteria which will help reduce bloating, ease IBS, and help alleviate other digestive disorders.
A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system, and recent research has found that the gut has a ‘brain’ of its own and therefore can even control our mood and mental state. This explains a lot to me personally, because I know that when I eat lots of fiber and probitics I really do feel happier, have more clarity and focus, and generally feel high on life.
8. HELPS REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR
This is more so the case in an unripe banana, which is due to their fiber called pectin and also their resistant starch content. Both of these help to moderate blood sugar levels, making them an excellent choice for diabetics, or anybody with blood sugar issues.
Keeping your blood sugar on an even keel is the cornerstone of great health, and will not only keep you slim, but can lower your chance of many other diseases such as heat disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and metabolic syndrome. Many modern day diseases can caused by eating too much sugar and high GI foods.
Eating a diet full of low GI foods in general will help to lower you chances of disease, and will also help keep you within a healthy BMI.
9. ANTI AGING
As with all other fruits and vegetables, bananas contain food amounts of antioxidants. In fact, they actually contain the potent antioxidants dopamine and catechins, both of which offer a reduced chance of heart disease and other degenerative diseases when eaten alongside other healthy plant base foods and regular exercise.
Antioxidant rich foods in general will also help neutralise the free radical damage done from environmental toxins, which will ultimately help keep you youthful looking; and more importantly, will help to slow aging on the inside too, including the oxidation of your grey matter itself.
10. MOOD BOOSTER
Due to their high levels of tryptophan (which converts to serotonin in the body), bananas can make you happy and help alleviate mild depression or low mood, alongside other dietary changes and moderate exercise. Serotonin is the ‘happy hormone’ that we all need in adequate levels in order to feel good, and even get ourselves out of bed in the morning.
My absolute favorite way to use a banana is to slice and freeze in a container ready to be eaten either frozen as a sweet treat, OR added to smoothies (this works best with quite ripe bananas). This works great in smoothies with a quality plant protein powder as a great post workout. The frozen banana gives it a frothy cold milkshake effect, its sugars help to put glycogen back into the muscles, and the protein helps to repair and rebuild. Just perfect!
2 Minute Ice-cream
Another easy, tasty and super healthy treat for all the family is 2 minute banana ice-cream in your blender. Use sliced, frozen very ripe bananas for this, and simply blend in your high speed blender with a little nut milk or coconut cream until smooth. Adding frozen blueberries works well too. You will have to keep adding a little milk at a time until you can get it just right; you want it to just about turn in the blender but not beyond that or it will be too runny.
Be sure you use SLICED frozen banana, otherwise you will more than likely bust your blender up. A mistake I have made in the past!
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and learn about bananas. I hope you enjoyed the post, and I would love to hear from you with any comments or questions related to anything in this article. Please post below and have an awesome day!