The unassuming, ubiquitous banana quietly ripening on your kitchen counter works as a digestive aid, weight loss tool, and is heart healthy. The health benefits of bananas may lower blood pressure and may prevent certain types of cancer.
A quick and easy snack food, a good source of energy, and super tasty, bananas may just be the perfect food!
Bananas And Weight Loss
Low in calories, bananas make a perfectly packaged, on-the-go snack. Eating a 100 calorie fruit instead of a prepackaged 100 calorie processed snack will help in your weight loss goal. Body weight management is a goal we can all aim to achieve and substituting fruit for a low quality snack is a great start.
Bananas offer a good source of resistant starch which is a type of fiber. Eating more fiber, will help to keep you feeling full so you won’t be reaching for additional snacks.
Bananas For Blood Pressure And Heart Health
Clocking in at 9% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of Potassium, a mineral that is necessary to control blood pressure, make eating a medium banana a good, heart healthy snack choice.
Potassium, according to Harvard School of Public Health, is “needed to maintain a healthy balance of water in cells, and offsets the effects of excess dietary sodium”. The imbalance between too much sodium and too little potassium can lead your body down the path to high blood pressure. One study on Potassium, found the “higher dietary potassium intake is associated with lower rates of stroke”.
Bananas also contain 8% of the RDI of Magnesium, a mineral that can lower blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory benefits. We all want better heart health, bananas can help us reach our goal.
It is easy to add Magnesium to your diet. In addition to bananas, a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 46% of the RDI for optimum health. Grow some pumpkins in your home garden for the wonderful fruit and perfect, healthful organic seeds. Check out 11 Types of Pumpkins You Can Grow In Your Backyard.
Keep your blood pressure in check and improve your heart heath – eat more bananas!
Health Benefits of Bananas: Blood Sugar
Unripe bananas contain a resistant starch. Resistant starches are long chains of glucose, a soluble fiber, and passes through the upper part of your digestive system without being absorbed. The resistant starch found in unripe, green bananas functions similarly to fiber.
Green bananas have a low sugar content; conversely, as the bananas ripen and turn yellow, they become sweeter because they have less resistant starch and more sugar.
Green, unripe bananas have a lower glycemic index than yellow, ripe bananas. Also keep in mind the size of your banana, a larger fruit will carry more sugar which will increase the glycemic index number.
Bottom line, if you love bananas and want to keep your blood sugar levels low, opt for a less ripe fruit that is on the smaller side.
Health Benefits of Bananas: Digestion
Fiber intake is important for your digestive system to operate properly. Fiber also plays a role in eating a healthy diet.
Bananas contain two types of fiber; resistant starch and pectin. Both fiber sources are higher in unripe bananas and decrease as the fruit ripens.
Resistant starch passes through to the large intestine and helps feed your Gut Microbiome. Feeding your gut with fiber may help to prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and the risk of several types of cancers. Having healthy gut bacteria will power up your digestion.
Your doctor may recommend the BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) diet if you have diarrhea, vomiting, or need a bland diet. Since they are easy to digest and help replace lost electrolytes like potassium, contain resistant starch, and support gut healthy, Bananas are nothing short of a superfood when you are under-the-weather.
Bananas And Nutrition
A medium banana has 105 calories, .4 grams of fat, 24 grams of net carbs, 1.3 grams of protein, and 3.1 grams of fiber.
Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin that is important to your overall health and may aid in the prevention of chronic diseases. Bananas contain 33% of the RDI of Vitamin B6, a third of your daily requirement.
According to Healthline, Vitamin B6 may be instrumental in helping our body:
- Decrease the high levels of homocysteine in your body which has been linked to depression
- Increase brain health
- Decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease
- Prevent Anemia, and Iron deficiency
- Ease PMS symptoms
- Alleviate pregnancy related nausea
- Reduce the risk of clogged arteries
- Help prevent certain types of cancer
- Prevent eye diseases
- Reduce symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
That’s quite an extensive list. Consuming a banana several times a week will go a long way to upping your body’s Vitamin B6 requirement.
Well know for its healthful properties, Vitamin C is found in bananas. A medium fruit provides 11% of the RDI of Vitamin C adding a powerful antioxidant to your menu that will help boost your immune system.
Only needed in small amounts, a banana contains a tiny amount of copper, 10% of RDI. This trace mineral helps your body absorb iron, produce red blood cells, regulates blood pressure, and helps activate your immune system.
Your body also needs trace amounts of the mineral Manganese, and a banana provides 14% of the RDI. Manganese my help improve bone health, reduce inflammation, and help regulate blood sugar.
Health Benefits of Bananas
Eating a banana, particularly one that isn’t too ripe, offers a wealth of healthy benefits.
Bananas are a good substitute for butter in baked goods. Substitute equal amounts of mashed bananas for butter in your favorite quick bread, muffin, or cookie recipe for a healthier version. Additionally, the bananas add sweetness to your recipe, so you can cut the sugar required by one-quarter to one-half. Keep an eye on the finish line as your batter will cook a little faster when you swap out bananas for butter.
Fun Ways To Eat Bananas
Adding bananas to your menu is super simple. You can just grab one as a tasty and healthy snack that provides energy, vitamins, minerals, and reduce some health risks. Bananas can also help you feel full and satisfied. Of course, they taste great too!
So simple to make, Banana Pops are a fun and festive snack to bring to a party, a rainy-day craft to decorate and eat, or just an entertaining afternoon treat. Anyway you coat them – they are delicious!
Peal the banana and cut in half. Insert a popsicle stick in the cut end. Place the bananas on parchment paper on a sheet tray and freeze until firm (approximately one hour). Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Set out toppings like sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut, and small candies. Spoon the melted chocolate over the frozen banana then roll in your desired topping.
Enjoy right away or store in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag or container. Allow the bananas to thaw a bit if you take them decorated from the freezer.
Thickly slice the bananas or plantains and fry them in a nonstick pan to get each side crispy. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon. Yum!
Frozen Banana Cream
Ice cream is the best dessert any time of year, but it is loaded with sugar and fat. A healthy alternative is frozen fruit “ice cream”. Bananas make the perfect creamy substitute that you can churn on demand. Simply freeze your bananas, process them in a Frozen Dessert Ice Cream Maker, and enjoy a delicious dessert without all the guilt.
This is a great way to use up ripe bananas. Just peel, chunk, and freeze the ripe fruit; and it is ready anytime you crave a sweat and creamy frosty treat.
Banana Bread is a classic standby. Hearty and flavorful, it can be made with good-for-you grains to amp up your morning toast. Try this recipe from Kristine’s Kitchen for a bread made with whole wheat flour. For a gluten-free version, try Gimme Delicious‘ bread.
Other Ideas for Cooking With Bananas
Bananas are so versatile, sweet, and easy to work with. Here are a few other ideas for adding these sweet little fruits to your menu.
- Banana Pudding
- Banana Pancakes
- Banana Muffins
- Banana Cookies
- Top off your granola
- Smoothies – fresh or frozen
- Dehydrated banana chips
In addition to making a beautiful placemat or centerpiece, banana leaves can be used to wrap up fish, rice, and any number of dishes as a natural alternative to aluminum foil. Banana leaves are porous, so if you bake with them in the oven, be sure to cook them on a tray with a lip to save your oven from the boil-over. They are perfect for wrapping up food that goes in your steamer.
The banana leaves don’t add much flavor to your dish, but they make a standout presentation!
Types Of Bananas
There are, of course, many varieties of bananas, but the three most popular varieties are listed below.
Generally your local grocery store caries the Cavendish, a dessert banana. They are the go-to plantation variety because they are prolific producers that can be harvested unripe and shipped easily.
An unripe Plantain is a green banana that needs to be cooked. With a high starch content, they are unpleasant eaten raw. Treat a Plantain more like a potato; they are wonderful when fried, boiled, or broiled. When the plantains ripen, they turn yellow and are slightly sweet, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
A Red Banana is shorter than a Cavendish and has a dark red color. The ripe banana is creamy and sweeter than the Cavendish.
Lady Finger Bananas are small and sweet. Grown by home orchardists, you will find them at farmers markets and occasionally at the local supermarket.
The best way to store bananas in at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Air circulation will help prevent excess weight and moisture to affect the lower fruit in the bunch, so hang them if you can.
Do not refrigerate green bananas, it will stop the ripening process and result in tasteless, off texture fruit.
To accelerate the ripening process, place bananas in a brown paper bag. Ripe fruit emits ethylene gas, so placing your unripe bananas near other ripe fruit will also speed up their ripening.
When fully ripened, you can store your bananas in the refrigerator in the crisper. It will help preserve the banana for a about week, although the peel will darken.
Overripe bananas can be peeled, chopped or mashed, and frozen for use in smoothies or baked goods.
Where Do Bananas Grow
Bananas are native to Southeast Asia and love hot, tropical weather. Ideal growing temperatures for banana plants is between 79 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and your banana plant will call it quits. They love water, lots and lots of water misted on them frequently. High humidity is a banana plants ideal growing condition.
If you live in a tropical climate, growing bananas as an ornamental plant of for the banana harvest is a fun addition to your fruit orchard. You can purchase a variety of banana plants, including this dwarf Cavendish Banana Plant to get you started on your banana gardening journey.
The Perfect Package
Wrapped in their own little carrying case, bananas are a near perfectly packaged snack.
Because of their thick outer skin, they contain less pesticides than thinner skinned fruits.
The health benefits of bananas are amazing! Perfect for an on-the-go snack, peel, eat, and fuel your body all in one neat, self-contained treat.
Excited for more banana content? Then check out my banana tree page for info guides, growing tips, recipes, and more!