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 fresh, dried, or cooked and made into different sweet and savory dishes.
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.
ARE BANANAS GOOD FOR YOU – 10 LITTLE KNOWN 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.
Eat them with a little protein such as peanut butter, for more sustained energy.
2. HIGH FIBER
Bananas 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; slice them onto your cereal, add to oatmeal, or mash onto toast with some sugar free peanut butter for added protein. This will for sure keep you full up until lunch.
3. A NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSE
Bananas 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.
4. 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.
5. BRILLIANT SOURCE OF POTASSIUM
Probably the thing bananas 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.
6. HELPS ANEMIA
Bananas 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 makes them more readily absorbed. Our body is designed to eat and digest natural whole foods remember, so the closer we can keep to that the better we will feel.
7. HELPS REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR
This is more so the case in an unripe banana which is due to their fiber called pectin, and 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 will lower your chance of many other diseases such as heat disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and metabolic syndrome. All modern day diseases often caused by eating too much sugar and high GI foods.
For a list of low GI foods to add into your diet, please read this low GI foods list.
8. GUT FRIENDLY
The pectin and resistant starch in an unripe banana has a prebiotic effect so can increase healthy gut bacteria, which in turn will 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.
9. ANTI AGING
As with all other fruits and vegetables, bananas contain food amounts of antioxidants. In fact, a they actually contain the potent antioxidants dopamine and catechins, both of which offer a reduced chance of heart disease and other degenerative diseases.
Antioxidants 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 alleviate depression. Serotonin is the ‘happy hormone‘ that we all need in adequate levels in order to feel good.
Bananas also work on the level of keeping your gut healthy, and it has been found that those with a healthy gut microbiome are much less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those who don’t.
My absolute favorite way to use a banana is to slice (this works best with quite ripe bananas) and freeze in a container ready to be eaten either frozen as they are as a sweet treat, OR added to smoothies. This works great in smoothies with a good plant based protein powder as it’s a great post workout drink as the frozen banana gives it a frothy cold milkshake effect. Just delicious!
You can also easily make 2 minute banana ice-cream in your blender; another guilt free heavenly treat. Be sure to use only sliced frozen banana as a whole one will bust your blender as I have found to my detriment – twice!
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!