According to the US Department of Agriculture, the banana is America’s favorite fresh fruit, and also among the most widely consumed fruits on the planet. Bananas are very high in potassium, and pectin (a form of fiber).
They are also a good source of vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Bananas are high in antioxidants which gives us protection from the free radicals that we constantly encounter daily; from the sunlight, itself, to the lotions that we put on our skin.
Bananas are presently grown in at least 107 countries, and are ranked as fourth among the world’s food crops in monetary value.
These curved yellow fruits that are wrapped in a convenient packaging of its own is being consumed by Americans much more than even the apple. They are consumed so much now that you can even order organic bananas for a decent price on Amazon!
Are they healthy enough to match this consumption? Yes, they are!
A Brief History of Bananas
Originally, bananas were found in South East Asia, specifically in India.
They were brought west by Arab conquerors in 327B.C. Following this, they were moved from Asia Minor to Africa, before finally being carried to the New World by missionaries and the first explorers of the Caribbean.
In 1834, mass production of bananas commenced, and later exploded in the late 1880s.
Based on the reports of UNCTAD, fair trade and the production of organic bananas has been increasing, as the market for the organic bananas in 2003 hit 152,000 tons, and fair trade bananas also hit 46,000 tons.
There are about 50 recognized species of bananas, and nearly all bananas that are sold in stores are cloned from one variety (the Cavendish banana plant).
The Cavendish banana plant was originally native to Southeast Asia, as it replaced the Gros Michel which was wiped out by fungus.
The Gros Michel reportedly tasted better, had a longer shelf life, and was bigger; before its demise.
Nutritional Facts of Banana
When it ripens, however, the starch will turn into sugar (sucrose, glucose, and fructose). This simple factor makes bananas themselves excellent for athletes while in competition, as they are full of fast-absorbing nutrients you need to be successful over a sustained period!
Health Benefits of Bananas
Dietary fiber has been associated with many health benefits, most notably improved digestion. Bananas are a good source of fiber, because a medium sized banana contains about 3 grams of fiber. Bananas contain two main types of fibers:
- Resistant starch, which is found in unripe bananas
- Pectin, which decreases as the banana ripens.
The resistant starch escapes digestion and ends up in our large intestine, where it serves as food for beneficial stomach bacteria. Cell studies have proposed that pectin may be able to help protect against colon cancer.
Together, these two types of fiber are an incredible team for your digestion and overall health!
Bananas and a Healthy Heart
One of the many minerals that is essential for the health of the heart is potassium, especially when talking about blood pressure control. Even though potassium is very important, most people are not getting nearly enough of it.
Bananas are a good, natural, dietary source of potassium; as a medium sized banana contains 9 percent of the RDI.
A diet that is rich in potassium can help to lower blood pressure, and people who eat plenty of potassium have up to a 27 percent lower risk of contracting heart disease.
Another mineral which can be found in bananas that is important for a healthy heart is magnesium.
Combining high levels of both magnesium, and potassium, in one fruit is a recipe for a healthy and functional heart!
Bananas Enhance Digestion
There are several ways that bananas can aid digestion, including all the following:
- Bananas act as a prebiotic, which stimulates the growth of the friendly bacteria in your bowel. They also produce digestive enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients.
- Bananas are rich in pectin, and they chelate toxins and heavy metals from your body.
- Since they are a natural antacid, bananas provide great relief from acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn.
- Bananas are soothing to the digestive tract, and assist in restoring lost electrolytes after diarrhea or any other digestive issues.
- Bananas happen to be the only raw fruit that can actually be consumed without distress, to help relieve ulcers. Bananas coat the lining of the stomach against corrosive acids.
- The high fiber content in bananas can help to normalize your bowel motility.
Bananas and Natural Cures
Eating a banana can help to prevent several health issues, including:
- When you eat bananas between meals, it will help to stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day. Stabilizing blood sugar levels is also a very good way to avoid binge eating, making bananas extremely helpful for this.
- The potassium and magnesium in bananas make it extremely efficient at helping to prevent nausea, or calm nauseous attacks.
- The intake of bananas helps to protect the eyes against macular degeneration, prevent kidney cancer, and help to build strong bones by increasing the absorption of calcium.
- Eating bananas makes you more intelligent, and enhances learning ability by making you more alert. You can eat a banana before an exam to benefit from the high levels of potassium.
- The natural mood enhancer known as tryptophan, which can be derived from bananas, helps to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- You can obtain a quick shine for your leather handbag or shoe by simply rubbing the inside of the banana peel on them, and polishing them with a dry cloth!
- For smokers that are quitting smoking, bananas can provide you with high levels of vitamin B, magnesium, and potassium to enable the enhancement of recovery from the negative effects of withdrawal.
- The inside of the banana peel can provide relief to itching, and irritation that is caused by a bug bite. Simply run the inside of the banana peel on the hives or bite.
- Due to the high levels of tryptophan which is converted into serotonin, bananas can help you overcome depression. Serotonin happens to be the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter!
The greatest risk from a banana peel happens to be slipping on it. The peels are not poisonous, as they are contrarily loaded with nutrients, and are edible.
Although the banana peel is often eaten in several parts of the world, they are not commonly eaten in the west.
The banana peel contains high amounts of vitamin B12 and B6, as well as potassium and magnesium.
According to an article in the Journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology in 2011, banana peels possess various bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and others.
Before eating banana peels, it is important to wash them thoroughly because pesticides may be sprayed in banana groves.
There are several ways of eating banana peels, as they are either served cooked, fried, or boiled; and they can also be eaten raw or blended with other fruits. They are as sweet as the flesh, and riper peels are sweeter than unripe ones.
Concluding Thoughts on Bananas for Athletes
When bananas are eaten in moderation, there are no major side effects associated with it. However, when they are eaten in excess, bananas may trigger sleepiness and headaches.
This can even be an additional benefit though (my personal favorite)!
Bananas are an excellent food to eat about an hour before you sleep, for a unique amount of reasons.
The tryptophan will help you with falling asleep, and the many other nutrients will help to prevent hunger or waking in the middle of the night.
For an athlete, there are few better foods on the planet to be ate consistently than the incredible, edible, banana!