Spotlight on Bananas
Versatile – that’s one word you could use to describe bananas. As a fruit on their own, a filler, a substitute (e.g eggs in vegan cakes) or as an ingredient; you can have them fresh, boiled, fried, frozen, blended, dehydrated, mashed and even powdered; you’ll find them fresh on the fruit shelves, in a cake, as part of a spicy dish or mixed up into your favourite smoothie. You get the picture, they’re versatile. With all this versatility, we had to put a spotlight on Bananas, is it healthy for you? How can you benefit by including it in your daily diet?
A trip back in time
- Banana’s may have been the world’s first cultivated fruit as archaeologists have found evidence of banana cultivation in New Guinea as far back as 8000 BC.
- In later history, Banana’s first appeared in Malaysia around 4,000 years ago. From there, they spread throughout the Philippines and India, where in 327 B.C. Alexander the Great’s army recorded them being grown.
- Nearly all the bananas you see in stores are cloned from the same variety – the cavendish banana plant, originally native to Southeast Asia.
Bananas are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. There also provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B6, manganese, Vitamin C, Potassium, Dietary Fibre, Protein, Magnesium, Folate, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin A and Iron.
- Heart Matters – packed with potassium, a mineral electrolyte that keeps electricity flowing throughout the body (required to keep your heart pumping), they also have a low sodium content which may also protect your cardiovascular system against high blood pressure.
- Happy eating – they have high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter. They are also full of vitamin B6 which can help you sleep well, and magnesium which helps to relax muscles.
- Digestion and weight loss – high in Fibre, they help keep your digestive system regular and also help towards your daily fibre requirement. In general, they’re great for weight loss because they taste sweet and are filling, helping to curb cravings.
- Better visuals – carrots might be known for improving eyesight, but bananas do too. They contain a small amount of vitamin A, essential for protection your eyes, maintaining normal vision and improving vision at night.
- Strong bones – while not abundant in calcium, they are in abundance of fructooligosaccharides, which are non-digestive carbohydrates which encourage digestive friendly probiotics that enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Getting more bananas into your diet
- Fresh bananas are available all year-round. Unlike other fruits, the ripening process of bananas doesn’t slow down after they’re picked.
- Since bananas are picked off the tree while they’re still green, not unusual to see them this color in the store. Base your choice of bananas depending upon when you want to consume them. Bananas with more green coloration will take longer to ripen than those more yellow in hue and/or with brown spots.
- Bananas should be firm, but not too hard, bright in appearance, and free from bruises or other injuries. Their stems and tips should be intact. The size of the banana does not affect its quality, so simply choose the size that best meets your needs.
- They should be stored at room temperature, the warmer the temperature the faster bananas will ripen. However, to slow down ripening, put them in the fridge (note the outer peel may darken but the banana itself will stay intact longer).
- To encourage faster ripening, place the banana in a brown paper bag with an apple, tomato or avocado, at room temperature.
- Ripe mashed bananas can be used in baked goods to replace oil or butter.
- Peel and freeze bananas to make a great base for your smoothies.