The Banana, A Nutritional Health Wonder

A banana is not only one of the tastiest health foods, it is a wonder snack, too. It contains three natural sugars — fructose, glucose, and sucrose. These, combined with its fiber, provide a quick, sustained and substantial energy boost.

Compared to an apple, it has four times the protein, five times the iron and vitamin A, three times the phosphorus, and twice the carbohydrate and other vitamins and minerals. And, like other fruits, it contains no fat or cholesterol. It is a widely acknowledged fact that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is important for health and for lowering the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disorders.

Potassium: Bananas are known for being high in potassium, one of the essential minerals that help regulate heartbeat, normal growth, muscle-building and fluid balance in the body. It plays a role in nerve transmissions and muscle contractions, and so helps to prevent muscle cramping. It is also important for bone strength, as optimal intake of potassium reduces loss of calcium in urine, which in turn minimizes the risk of kidney stones.

Potassium helps to oxygenate the brain. Studies have shown that the potassium-rich fruit can improve learning by making students more alert.

Besides being rich in potassium, it is low in salt, which makes it ideal for preventing high blood pressure and protecting against atherosclerosis. Research by the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that consuming bananas regularly can reduce strokes by as much as 40 percent. The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has allowed the banana industry’s claims for the fruit’s ability to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Vitamin B6: Bananas are high in the B vitamins that help calm nerves. They are especially rich in vitamin B6, which is needed for normal growth and brain function, and helps the body eliminate toxic substances and fight off diseases, as well as regulate blood glucose levels and enhance moods. Vitamin B6 is also useful in cancer prevention, treatment of allergies, and in alleviating premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Iron: Bananas are rich in iron, which is needed for the production of hemoglobin to make red blood cells. A lesser-known fact about iron is that it is required for the immune system to function properly, and for resistance to disease and infections.

Stress: People suffering from depression can benefit from a banana. Bananas contain tryptophan, that the body converts to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is used to regulate moods and induce relaxation.

Nicotine Withdrawal: Bananas are also said to be useful for people trying to give up smoking. The vitamin B6, B12, potassium, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals present in them help the body recover more quickly, physically and psychologically, from nicotine withdrawal.

Digestive Health: Being high in pectin, a water-absorbent fiber, bananas can help in cases of both diarrhea and constipation, to restore normal bowel function. They are also exceptionally rich in a probiotic-like compound, so called because it nourishes friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the colon, which is beneficial for digestive health. These friendly bacteria improve our ability to absorb nutrients such as calcium, and protect us from ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut.
Bananas have also long been recognized for their protective effects against stomach ulcers. They not only help eliminate the bacteria that cause ulcers, but can significantly increase the thickness of the protective mucous membrane on the inner walls of the stomach.

They can calm an upset stomach, neutralize acidity, and reduce irritation, especially in cases of chronic ulcers. As they neutralize acidity, they are a good way to reduce heartburn, by acting as a natural antacid.

Storage: The best bananas are, of course, the tree-ripened ones. They are also the sweetest. Most bananas turn yellow when ripe, though there are reddish/purplish varieties as well. As bananas ripen, their starch turns to sugar and they become sweeter.

Commercially sold bananas are typically plucked and sold while still green. Store those over the counter at room temperature until they turn yellow. They are best eaten at this stage before they over-ripen, which is when the skin turns black and the flesh becomes mushy. You can store ripened bananas in the refrigerator. In the fridge, the skin of the fruit might continue to darken, but the flesh should still be firm.

Su Yun has thirty years of experience in the practice of healthy nutrition, and is the editor of the “Health Supplements Nutritional Guide,” a quick reference guide that simplifies research into health-enhancing nutrition. It includes all vitamins and minerals, RDA charts, deficiency symptoms, food sources, overdose levels and multi-vitamin ratings.


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