There's lots of hype these days about the miracles of various “Super Foods” and bananas have been one in the spotlight. But do these yellow gems truly have health benefits that many claim or are they simply a calorie laden food to avoid?
With all the foods on the market shelves that claim miracles from weight loss to eradicating disease only to disappoint, bananas are not in that category. They, indeed, are a powerhouse of nutrition and can have a positive impact on our well-being when eaten on a daily basis; or at least close to it. They have a wide range of heath benefits from aiding digestion to combating depression, and are high in vitamins A, B6, C as well a fiber, potassium, phosphorus and tryptophan.
Bananas contain both soluble and
insoluble fiber, both of which aid in digestion and possibly even
assist during weight loss. Soluble fiber to help you feel full and
promote movement of material through digestive tract; eating one
before a meal can help prevent overeating during the meal. They make
a great snack and can help you feel full until it is time for your
next meal. The insoluble fiber sweeps waste from your digestive
tract, which may help your body remove excess waste that can pack on
pounds. (And I say “may” because if not eaten with a healthy
diet, you may not enjoy all the benefits of bananas.)
While potassium deficiencies are a known factor that contributes to dangerous, irregular heartbeat, the high potassium content of bananas can be a good preventative and may help
protect you from high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. This is due
to the double whammy of fiber as well as the high potassium. In fact, a
study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine proved that
eating fiber rich foods like bananas helps prevent heart disease
while the FDA states that “Diets containing foods that are good
sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high
blood pressure and stroke.” (1) Bananas do fall into this category
and therefore can be heart healthy.
Not only does potassium protect your heart, but potassium helps prevent muscle cramps. Many health enthusiasts advocate eating a banana a day to ward of painful night leg cramps and cramping during work outs. And the before-workout bananas may not only ward off cramps, but can help maintain energy as well as even out blood sugar levels.
Due to the beneficial fiber along with
the combination of nutrients, bananas can help you absorb more
calcium along with other nutrients. This is because they contain
something called fructooligosaccharides, which feed the good bacteria
in your digestive tract, thereby increasing digestive enzymes and
Plaintains in particular, or “green
bananas,” contain an extra component; short-chain-fatty-acids or
SCFA's for short. These make absorption even more efficient and can
activate cells of the stomach lining to help strengthen the stomach
lining against ulcers. But we're not done with the health benefits
yet – there's more.
Bananas may help ward of depression.
The amino acid, tryptophan, coverts into the mood-elevating hormone
called serotonin. With the help of the natural vitamin B6 found in
bananas, tryptophan is more easily converted to serotonin while
fibers helps your body absorb what it needs.
Vitamin B6 has many other benefits, too. It also helps reduce swelling, protects against type II diabetes and aids in the production of white blood cells, thereby boosting your immunity. All of the preceeding reasons are why the “super food” movement began; to inform the public that when done right, you can truly let food be your medicine – or at least an effective preventive measure.
The following recipes using bananas can spark your imagination and help you get more good stuff in, without sacrificing flavor. Choose bananas that have just a hint of brown spots on them for peak nutritional value.
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 Cup Packed Spinach
1 Cup Almond Milk (or Rice Milk)
2 Frozen Bananas
2 Pitted Mejool Dates
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Cacao Powder
2 Tsp Matcha Green Tea Powder (Optional - Added for extra calorie burn and energy boost)
Blend together in blender or Vitamix. Top with chia seeds or dark chocolate shavings.
Super Easy Banana Pancakes
2 Very Ripe Bananas
2 Farm Fresh Eggs
1/8 tsp Baking Powder
1. Whisk together eggs and baking powder
2. Lightly mash the bananas
3. Pour egg mixture into banana bowl and mix
4. On a griddle or frying pan, pour only 2 Tablespoons of batter to make mini pancakes. (Because these are flourless, they will be difficult to flip, so it is best to make small ones as they are more manageable.)
5. Best served with fruit such as blueberries or raspberries and a little pure, maple syrup.
Of course, as with any food, bananas are not a cure-all. To enjoy the benefits, you have to practice healthy eating as much as possible throughout your day. And daily exercise not only helps in weight control, but increases metabolism all day while helping your body absorb more of the beneficial nutrients found on fresh, whole produce.
Although no one has ever known to get fat from eating too many fresh fruits or veggies, keep in mind that may contribute to weight gain if 2-3 a day is added to your diet. So as with anything, all things in moderation, and include more Super Foods like bananas, and less processed foods for ultimate health.
"U.S. Food and Drug Administration."Health Claim Notification for Potassium Containing Foods. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 31 Oct. 2000. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.