About 18 months ago I hated bananas, and I mean really hated them…
And despite eating a plant-based diet (check out this (free) plant-based recipe eBook including recipes from yours truly) I instantly knew if something had banana in it and would refuse to eat any more of it. I couldn’t stand the smell of them and certainly wouldn’t remove the peel from my husband’s lunch bag when he brought it home to compost.
Though times have changed. Now love bananas, which I like to refer to as nature’s energy bars.
Here are 6 reasons why I now love bananas and recommend we both eat one a day:
Though first, here’s nutritional breakdown for this powerhouse of a fruit. One large banana contains approximately:
- Calories: 121
- Carbohydrates: 31g of which 17g is sugar, 7g is starch and 3.5g is fibre (14% of your RDA of fibre)
- Protein: 1.5g
- Vitamin B6: 25% of your RDA
- Vitamin C: 20% of your RDA
- Potassium: 14% of your RDA
- Manganese: 18% of your RDA
1. Perfect pre and post exercise
Bananas are a great source of carbohydrates mainly sucrose, fructose and glucose. The Glycaemic Index of bananas (how quickly the sugars enter the bloodstream) is approximately 50 which is low (less than 55), so they are ideal as a slow release food during exercise. A 2012 study called ‘Bananas and Exercise Metabolism’ showed that eating half a banana every 15 minutes during exercise was just as effective as a popular, processed sports drink given to trained cyclists during prolonged and extensive training.
During exercise your body loses potassium through sweat and over time during intense exercise and training this can cause cramping and discomfort. Eating bananas will help maintain potassium levels and reduce the possibility of cramping occurring; so important in a race situation.
2. Bananas promote good cardiovascular health
The FDA states that diets containing foods which are high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Bananas are definitely high in potassium and low in sodium (only 1.4mg of sodium per banana). An average banana also has 21.8mg phytosterols, which are plant sterols that lower cholesterol absorption. Studies show that increasing phytosterols in your diet can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
A 2014 published article in the journal ‘Stroke’ followed 90,000 women between the ages of 50-79 for 11 years. The results showed that women who ate a banana a day had a 25% reduction in their risk of stroke due to their higher potassium intake.
3. Bananas are great for brain health
Vitamin B6 is important for proper brain function. A 1996 study in the American Journal of Nutrition showed participants on high concentrations of vitamin B6 scored better on two measures of memory.
A 2010 study performed at Oxford University, England showed that elderly people who suffered from some kind of mild cognitive impairment and took high doses of B Vitamins every day reduced the rate at which their brains shrunk by 50%. This could potentially lower the risk of dementia. Combine this with the latest research showing that phytosterols may reduce Alzheimer’s onset and we’re onto a winning combination for keeping the brain in tip top condition!
4. Bananas help to improve your mood
Bananas contain tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin; the body’s happy hormone! A 2001 study in Neuropsychopharmacology quotes that ‘tryptophan simply makes people nicer’! Tryptophan depletion can replicate symptoms of irritability, mood disorders, anxiety, and stress, while tryptophan supplementation is proving capable of reversing many of these symptoms. Most studies have been carried out on supplements but studies also show tryptophan found in foods is more beneficial if eating with carbohydrates for better absorption to the brain. This makes bananas the idea food to eat for tryptophan supplementation.
High levels of stress reduce potassium levels in the body therefore bananas are the idea food to eat when going through a stressful period.
5. Bananas support bone health
Manganese is essential for bone health and one banana contains 18% of your recommended daily amount of manganese. Not only that but bananas also help absorb calcium and therefore contribute to better bone health. It is the fructooligosccharadide (FOS) which helps calcium to be absorbed. FOS is a prebiotic that helps probiotic bacteria produce digestive enzymes and vitamins. These in turn promote the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and this includes calcium. The potassium content of bananas also helps lower the risk of osteoporosis.
6. Bananas offer digestive benefits
Bananas are high in fibre, essential for a healthy digestive system. Fibre can also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (another heart benefit to eating bananas), reduce your risk of colon cancer and digestive issues such as diverticular disease. Bananas are a great source of fibre if you are suffering from constipation and a great source of electrolytes if you have diarrhoea. A 2001 study showed that due to their pectin levels, green bananas are useful to manage persistent diarrhoea in hospitalised children. The pectin (type of fibre) in bananas also acts as a prebiotic to support growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria.
So there you have it!
Bananas really are nature’s energy bars. Jam-packed with nutritional goodness and so versatile. There are so many different ways to eat them – on their own, fresh or frozen, made into smoothies, desserts or nice-cream.
Be sure to try this Energy-Boosting, Breakfast Chia Seed Pudding Recipe, which contains the humble banana and remember to grab your copy of NOURISHMENT, the free plant-based recipe eBook.
Do you have an awesome banana recipe or food combo that we need to know about? Share it via the comment section below, we’d love to hear it!
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