I love Bananas; who doesn’t? They taste great, are easy to take anywhere and eat and are healthy. But are up to speed on all the nutrition data? Check these out:
1. A medium size banana contains the following vitamins: Vitamin B3 (4% of your minimum daily requirement), B2 (5%), B5 (7%), B6 (28%), B1 (2%), B9 (5%), Vitamin C (15%), Vitamin A (3%)
2. A medium size banana contains the following minerals: Calcium (1% of Minimum daily requirement), Iron (2%), Magnesium (7%), Phosphorus (3%), Potassium (8%), Zinc (1%)
3. Yes, they have lots of potassium, but no more so than almost every other fruit and vegetable that people eat, so there is really no need to eat bananas for the potassium, like you hear all the time. On the other hand, potassium has definitely been shown to be beneficial. Case in point; researchers followed 40,000 American male health professionals over four years to determine the effects of diet on blood pressure. Men who ate diets higher in potassium-rich foods, as well as foods high in magnesium and cereal fiber, had a substantially reduced risk of stroke.
In addition to these cardiovascular benefits, the potassium found in bananas may also help to promote bone health. Potassium may counteract the increased urinary calcium loss caused by the high-salt diets typical of most Americans, thus helping to prevent bones from thinning out at a fast rate.
4. The fiber in bananas makes them good for your cardiovascular health. A 2003 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal showed that eating high fiber fruits like bananas, helps prevent heart disease. The study followed 10,000 American adults for 19 years. People who ate the highest amount of fiber, (21 grams/day), had 12% less coronary heart disease and 11% less cardiovascular disease than people eating the least fiber (5 grams/day).
5. Bananas have virtually no saturated fats, around 2 grams of protein and around 50 grams of carbohydrate each. This sounds like they are high in sugars, but because of the fiber, they actually have a medium glycemic index rating (51), at least if they are not over-ripe.
6. Banana Calories: in a medium banana, there are 100 calories and in a large banana, 125 calories.
7. Bananas have properties which acts as anti-acids. They can protect you from stomach ulcers and ulcer damage. One study showed that a blend of bananas and milk notably lessened acid secretion. How? Compounds in bananas help trigger cells making up your stomach lining to produce thicker protective barriers against stomach acids. Plus, protease inhibitors found in bananas can assist in removing bacteria in the stomach that cause ulcers.
8. Bananas have nutritional value for eyesight. It is said carrots keep your eyes sharp, but fruits are even more valuable for your sight. A 2004 study in the Archives of Opthamology showed that eating 3 or more servings of fruit a day could lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration by 36%. The researchers postulated the effects were due to the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E in the fruit.
9. Bananas grow in a multitude of sizes and colors, including yellow, purple and red. They can vary in taste from starchy to sweet, and texture from firm to mushy. Unripe or green bananas and plantains are used for cooking various dishes such as banana pudding and are the staple starch of many tropical populations. Banana sap is extremely sticky and can even be used as an adhesive glue. 10. Eating bananas can help expand your body’s ability to absorb calcium and keep your bones strong. This because bananas are an especially valuable source of fructooligosaccharide (FOS). This compound is classed as a prebiotic since it nourishes friendly, probiotic bacteria in your colon. These bacteria produce vitamins and enzymes that help you absorb nutrients. When fructooligosaccharides are fermented by the friendly bacteria, the digestive tracts capacity to absorb calcium also gets a boost.
A 2004 study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences journal highlights bananas ability to improve absorption of nutrients. The study looked at 57 5-12 month old babies who had persistent diarrhea. They were given a 7 day treatment consisting of rice-based diet with either green banana, apple pectin or the rice diet alone. Treatment with both green banana and apple pectin resulted in a 50% reduction in stool weights, proving the babies were absorbing meaningfully more nutrients.
The most popular of all the banana varieties is ‘Cavendish. It accounts for the vast bulk of bananas exported from the tropics. The Cavendish gained popularity in the 1950s after the previously mass produced variety, Gros Michel, became commercially unviable due to Panama disease, a fungus that attacks the roots of the banana plant.
The key properties making ‘Cavendish’ the main export banana are related to transport and shelf life rather than taste; major commercial cultivars rarely have a superior flavour compared to the less widespread cultivars.
Export bananas are picked green, and then usually ripened in ripening rooms when they arrive in their country of destination. These are special rooms made air-tight and filled with ethylene gas to induce ripening. Bananas can be ordered by the retailer “ungassed”, however, and may show up at the supermarket still fully green.
While these bananas will ripen more slowly, the flavour will be notably richer, and the banana peel can be allowed to reach a yellow/brown speckled phase, and yet retain a firm flesh inside. Thus, shelf life is somewhat extended. The flavour and texture of bananas are affected by the temperature at which they ripen.
Bananas are refrigerated to between 13.5 and 15 °C (57 and 59°F) during transportation. At lower temperatures, the ripening of bananas permanently stalls, and the bananas will eventually turn grey.
For a more in-depth look at Bannanas, I recommend Dan Koeppel’s Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. The book takes you on a global journey through the history of bannanas and their cultivation and explains why the Cavendish, the banana variety we all eat, is quickly being infected with an incurable disease, which may wipe out not only the whole crop but whole countrys’ economies.