Bananas – Nature’s Most Perfect Food?
I absolutely adore bananas, and eat 3 (or sometimes more) every day. Many people avoid them because they worry that they are “fattening.” But I assure you, if the rest of your diet is balanced (not like a diet by blood type) and not too high in the slower digesting macronutrients of fat and protein, you can thrive on bananas, as I do.
I believe bananas are one of the perfect foods for humans. If you look down at your hands, you’ll see that your nimble fingers, pushing buttons on your computer to read this right now, were also designed to peel bananas and eat other fruit. We do not have claws for ripping apart other animals, we have monkey-like fingers.
I’ve used my own body for dozens of food experiments. There was a time when I was eating a whole lot more fat, and that was when I was a strict raw foodist. I tried to avoid bananas, because I was told they were made up of “fast-moving sugars” and would pile on the pounds. However, I had more sweet cravings back then, and ended up eating some form of cacao pretty often and lots of raw food desserts.
Now, I’m still an all-plant eater, but my diet it much lower in fat, and much higher in fruit like bananas. I eat a lot of raw food, but I also eat cooked food. Bananas are low in fat and high in nutrition, as I’ll get into, below. I actually weigh almost 8 pounds less now on this type of diet- filled with bananas!- then I did when I was a raw foodist and avoided them. I’ve taken many a client off a high protein, no fruit (but it’s sugar they cry out at first!) diet, and watched them grow years younger and sizes slimmer before my eyes.
Remember, your diet has to be balanced overall. For instance, you can’t just cut out gluten and eat low-nutrient gluten-free foods like corn and potato flour-based replacements and expect to improve. You have to cut out the gluten, and make better choices. And likewise, when you start eating more bananas and fruit, you want to be sure you’re not eating so much heavy and slow digesting foods- namely fat and animal protein in your overall diet. You may find, as I did, that by eating more bananas, which come in a complete nutritional package, you don’t have as many cravings for desserts and sweet things.
Bananas are high in potassium (about 600 mg per medium banana), which is an important mineral and electrolyte necessary for muscular function and digestion. Potassium also helps balance the effects of sodium on your body. As other natural plant foods, bananas contain fiber (3 grams in a medium-sized one). Bananas also contain vitamins A, B, E, K and C as well as 6 mcg of folic acid, which is essential for red blood cell formation. All of this comes in a tasty package that has about 105 calories with 0 grams of fat.
Bananas fell into disfavor with many people during the rise of low-carbohydrate diets. Because of this, many perceive bananas to be sugary and starchy. While bananas do contain natural fruit sugars, they also come in a complete nutritional package with fiber and vitamins, so they don’t unbalance your blood sugar like refined sugars. A banana has a glycemic index rating of between 40 and 52, which is much lower than foods like white bread or table sugar. Meanwhile, the carbohydrates in bananas can help provide quick-acting long-term energy. (Here is a list of suggested foods for energy to get through the day.)
Bananas and Digestion
Bananas contain natural oils and enzymes that help your body easily digest them, so they won’t weigh down your digestive tract, and in fact help lubricate it. The fiber in bananas can also help keep bowel movements regular, while the electrolytes this fruit contains can help restore electrolytic balance if you are experiencing digestive issues such as diarrhea. Again, bananas are perfect, natural human food.
Bananas digest with a net alkaline pH that keeps your body in balance. Some studies have even shown that banana pulp increased mucosal thickness of the stomach lining, protecting it against acids and ulcers. Bananas also contain protease inhibitors, which protect against the stomach bacteria that can cause ulcers.
Bananas contain fructooligosaccharide, which is a prebiotic. Prebiotics are substances that feed probiotics in the intestines. The consumption of prebiotics can help increase the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut, promoting internal cleansing and providing protection against disease. A healthier bowel also improves nutrient absorption, which can have overall beneficial health and beauty effects.
Protective Health Benefits
Along with potentially preventing ulcers, the nutrients in bananas contribute to a number of health benefits:
- The potassium in bananas may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
- The vitamins in bananas (particularly vitamins A, C, and E) can help protect your eyesight.
- The potassium in bananas can help protect against high blood pressure and stroke.
- The tryptophan in bananas can help increase levels of serotonin in the brain, giving you a mood lift.
- The vitamin B6 in bananas can help regulate blood glucose levels.
The Perfect Food for Humans
Bananas come in a natural “package”, which helps them retain freshness yet is extremely easy to peel. Like our banana-loving relatives the chimpanzees, we have the perfect length and shape of fingers just made for peeling bananas. Bananas also offer a source of natural nutrition in a whole, completely unprocessed food.
Buying and Storing Bananas
You can get organic bananas all year at your local natural foods store. It’s perfectly okay to buy green bananas – they will ripen on the counter. But try to get them as ripe as possible so you don’t have to wait so long to eat them. Select bananas that are firm and un-bruised.
Store bananas at room temperature. Do not refrigerate them, or they will stop ripening. They are the best when they have some brown spots on them. That’s like Christmas for me, when I devour them. Riper bananas are sweeter, and they also have higher levels of antioxidants than unripe bananas.
Stop Avoiding Bananas
If you’re one of the people who got the misinformation bananas were “fattening”, don’t worry. The good news is bananas are great for you. They will support health and beauty, give you energy, and they taste great. If you haven’t had a banana in a while, get peeling. Your body will thank you.