Bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits. In fact, Americans eat more bananas than both apples and oranges combined–about 27 pounds per year. Now that’s a lot of bananas!
The elliptical-shaped yellow fruits (technically considered berries since their fruit is produced from a single seed) are chock-full of nutrients and one of nature’s most convenient on-the-go superfoods.
Health Benefits of Bananas
You may have heard that bananas contain too much sugar, and they aren’t a good choice if you’re trying to mind your waistline. The truth is, while a medium-sized banana does contain about 14 grams of sugar, it is still considered low on the glycemic index (GI) and contains about 3 grams of fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer. At just over 100 calories, eating a banana is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth!
You probably know that B vitamins are essential for your body. One such essential B vitamin, B6, is naturally present in bananas and may be beneficial for lowering your risk of heart disease, keeping certain kinds of cancer at bay, and boosting immunity. Some studies have even shown B6 to help with PMS, so a daily banana could help with moodiness, irritability, and bloating at that time of the month.
Fact or Fiction?
Have you ever had a really bad leg cramp or charley horse and your mom’s advice was to eat a banana? That’s because bananas are known for their healthy dose of potassium. When we sweat, we lose potassium, which is essential for muscles to contract properly and to keep blood pressure in check. While eating a banana isn’t likely to make a cramp go away, getting enough potassium each day (the Institute of Medicine recommends 4.7 grams) could reduce the number of muscle cramps you have in general. A medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium, and because it’s so convenient, it’s a great way to replenish after a sweaty workout session.
Speaking of workouts…you know the electrolyte-replacement drinks that many runners, cyclists, and other athletes tote with them on long hauls? A study conducted on cyclists at Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that the subjects who consumed a banana and plain water had just as effective performance levels as the group who were given a carbohydrate-rich drink such as Gatorade. What’s more, higher levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine were found when the subjects’ blood was analyzed.
With loads of health benefits and year-round availability, there’s no reason not to add this super fruit to your shopping list. If you are wondering whether to buy organic, you’ll be happy to know that bananas are not on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, a list of the top 12 conventionally raised (a.k.a. non-organic) fruits and vegetables known to contain the most pesticides.
Want some tips to getting more bananas in your diet? You can substitute mashed bananas in recipes that call for butter or cooking oil. Simply replace half the oil with that amount of mashed fruit. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of canola oil, use ¼ cup of oil and ¼ mashed banana.
Got more bananas than you can use before they go bad? No problem! Peel, slice, and store in a freezer bag. The next time you are whipping up a smoothie or protein shake, toss frozen banana slices in instead of ice to cool down your beverage.