Recently, I was sent an old-fashioned e-mail blast. It wasn’t about love or friendship nor did it warn me that if I didn’t send it to 10 people I would have bad luck for the rest of my life. It was actually about the many health benefits of bananas — some of which were a bit exaggerated. I love bananas. As a child, I often baked banana bread; my favorite dessert is banana cream pie; and my meal of choice before running the NYC marathon was a peanut butter and banana sandwich. It truly is an amazing fruit chock-full of the kind of nutrition that’s bursting with energy — but no one benefits from nutrition exaggeration! So here’s my own homage to my favorite fruit — with credible info you can count on.
The top five reasons you should start eating bananas:
1. They lift your spirits. Since bananas contain tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin (the happy brain chemical), they can have a calming effect on our minds and bodies.
2. They can help reduce blood pressure. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which is an electrolyte involved in muscle control, nerve function, and blood pressure. Therefore, it has the ability to restore potassium lost through sweat in athletes and prevent muscle cramping. Increased potassium intake may also help excrete sodium from our bodies, which can help reduce blood pressure. One banana contains about 440 mg of potassium — more than 20% of our daily need.
3. They help you… er… go. Bananas contain pectin, a source of soluble fiber, which can help our digestive systems and maintain normal bowel function. A medium banana contains about 27 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of dietary fiber.
4. They give you energy. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps make iron more available to the body and therefore can help reduce risk of anemia. In addition, B6 is a vital component of the pathway that converts carbohydrates and fat into energy. And more energy = better mood!
5. They’re perfectly packaged. Bananas are packaged naturally by Mother Earth which makes them a convenient snack that won’t get destroyed or melt in your handbag as the warm weather arrives.
How to select bananas: Choose plump, even-colored bananas without a green tip. You can ripen bananas at home by placing them in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter. If they become full of brown speckles, just use them to make banana bread.
My favorite ways to eat ‘em: Besides bread, pies, and sandwiches, bananas are great in smoothies, cereal, yogurt, or ice cream. You can even freeze a banana and eat it as a popsicle for longer-lasting goodness.
— Rachel Berman RD, CSR, CDN