Nutrition – The why and how to go bananas

Posted on 17 October 2014

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

Bunch of bananas - photo courtesy of x-eyedblonde at FlickrEvery banana that you consume is packed with energy. Bananas are excellent food for nutritional support at anytime, especially when we are stressed or on the move. This fruit is quick to peel, one of the least messy to eat and can be stored outside of a fridge.

Ideally bananas should be organically grown for optimal nutritional and health benefits.

Why sports people are usually banana fans

Bananas are renowned for helping to relieve muscle cramps. Sports people are especially fond of snacking on bananas to boost their energy, replace potassium and ease cramping. As science has shown potassium and magnesium to be key minerals that affect muscle contraction and relaxation, it makes perfect sense why bananas are often the fruit of choice for active athletes. It is recognised that one large banana, weighing 150 grams, supplies 10% of our magnesium needs and over 10% of our potassium requirements.

Athletes experience a great amount of physical stress during training and competing in events. Stress always reduces immune function and makes us more prone to colds and flus. We can increase our immune function with vitamin C. Fortunately bananas are also high in Vitamin C!

Why bananas are great for pregnancy and the elderly

Bananas are great for helping to reduce high blood pressure. Various studies show a correlation between a high potassium and magnesium intake and reduced heart disease. As magnesium helps relax muscles it also helps relieve high blood pressure. As bananas supplying useful amounts of magnesium, this is something to remember. Pregnant women sometimes experience temporary high blood pressure associated with the carrying of a foetus. The elderly tend to experience high blood pressure. As bananas are easy to chew and digest, they are great for anyone, no matter how old you may be.

Health benefits of sweet bananas

Roughage, otherwise known as fibre, is essential in supporting wellbeing. This is because the fibre supports toxin removal from our body. One large banana can deliver 16% of our fibre needs.

For those concerned about calorie intake, a large banana will supplies about 135 calories. Compared to the average snack bar, bag of crisps or serving of sweets; this is low. Packing a banana or two for tea time snacks or as mid-afternoon energy boosters truly does wonders for health.

Yes, bananas are a fruit and mainly composed of sugar. As a banana ripens its stored starch converts to more easily digestible sugars. For a lower glycemic index banana, choose one with a slight greenish tinge along the outer skin. Generally, bananas are a moderate glycemic index fruit.

Did you know that bananas may be one of the best remedies for ulcers. Countless cases of ulcer sufferers report relief from eating bananas. What we do know is that they help line the stomach and act as an antacid. For better bacteria gut population it is of benefit to eat fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Research reveals FOS are found in bananas. This means bananas are a cost effective prebiotic!

Although bananas can claim to have an assortment of minerals and vitamins, they are especially high in vitamin B6. One large banana feeds us about 28% of our daily vitamin B6 requirements.

Don’t discard and throw away that banana peel too soon

Banana peels are great home remedies. The inside of the peel can be wrapped and tapped over a wart, for wart removal. While rubbing the inner peel on bites also serves to relieve itching and irritation from mosquito bites.

Bananas are a happy fruit

Bananas are significant sources of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is a starting material for a neurotransmitter that has been linked to help ease depression and increase better moods.

Banana flavours are not always true

The banana flavour is used in the food industry for an assortment of edibles, such as confectionery (including sweets), milkshakes, ice-cream and biscuits. A flavour can often be artificially manufactured. To be truly healthy, we need to eat more naturally based foods and less processed based foods.

Ways to get banana into your meals

Here are 7 ideas to inspire you to include more banana based snacks in your daily menu.

Banana chips – oven bake slices of banana and soon you will have crispy high energy banana chips. Slice bananas and place on a baking tray lined with a baking sheet. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and leave in a preheated oven for about an hour and a half. Having a food dehydrator is perfect for making chips from bananas. Your oven or microwave can do it too.

Banana quick snack spiced with cinnamon – bananas can be peeled, sliced up and served on a plate sprinkled with cinnamon. Pouring over fresh lemon, will add a zesty flavour and keep the banana from turning brown, if left exposed to the air for a longer period. Have a fork handy and you have a great nutritional snack!

Banana bread – there are easy ways to prepare yummy banana bread. Fortunately supermarkets sell it, as not everyone enjoys baking. While banana bread tends to be high in sugar and refined ingredients, it may not always be the healthiest option. Another option is to slice banana and add it as a filling to make toasted sandwiches. You can add some cinnamon or crushed black pepper corns. For healthy banana toasties, prepare with wholegrain based bread.

Mashed banana and avocado pear – this is another great chip dip or sandwich filler. Also great for babies!

Banana shake – to thicken up any shake, bananas serve well. When you prepare smoothies, use this fruit for a thicker consistency, while they also deliver some key nutrients with a touch of sweetness.

Banana pancakes/flapjacks/muffins– all these are popular, especially with children. Bananas can easily be incorporated into your batter before layering in the frying pan or popping in the oven to bake.

Frozen banana delight – freeze peeled banana chunks, then blend or whizz until it’s a smooth consistency. You can make it more interesting by topping it with chocolate sauce, pieces of cashew nuts or berries if desired. This gives a yummy cool sweet treat for hot days.

Take care, Anastacia

For more tips on vegan health, visit Vegan SA.


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