It is no wonder Australian bananas are the number one selling fruit and in the top 10 supermarket sales items. Australians eat around 5 million bananas every day.
Think banana and you think of a great tasting, easy-to-eat fruit. Well, there are 9 other brilliant reasons to choose a banana, according to Accredited Practising Dietitian, Glenn Cardwell.
Put simply they are a brilliant pack of health and nutrition all presented in a natural package.
Bananas Power Athletes
A banana gives a sustained and substantial boost of energy, which is why they are a favourite choice for cyclists, tennis players, footballers and other athletes looking for a quick source of carbohydrate. The riper a banana, the quicker it is digested and converted to muscle fuel. Athletes love to eat bananas before sport, at breaks during a match, and to recover quickly from sport.
Bananas have Antioxidant superpower
Two research papers confirmed that bananas have significant antioxidant power. One study showed that bananas reduced the oxidative stress in the blood and reduced the ability of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) to be damaging.
The prevailing view is that oxidised LDL plays a major role in the formation of plaques leading to heart disease, so anything that reduces this risk is good news.
Another study showed the antioxidant compounds in bananas helped protect nerve cells, which in turn could help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
Banana have Vitamin Superpowers
The banana is the best fruit source of vitamin B6 (one medium banana provides more than 25% of daily needs). B6 helps with the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin and GABA. The banana is also a wonderful source of vitamin C and folate, along with modest amounts of the B group vitamins niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.
Bananas have a Low Glycaemic Index
The average Glycaemic Index of bananas is 52, less for under-ripe bananas as they have a higher starch content and a lower sugar content. A GI of 52 is classified as low, meaning that it doesn’t cause high blood sugar levels. That makes the banana a good fruit choice for people with diabetes.
Banana are a Cancer fighter
Bananas contain lectins, which have been strongly linked to a reduction in the risk of cancer and potentially helpful in the treatment of cancer. Plant lectins are known to resist digestion and enter the blood stream intact. They can affect the growth and proliferation of cancer cells, and even cause their ultimate death.
Bananas can help reduce the risk of kidney cancer. Research on 61 000 Swedish women found that, of all the fruits, bananas gave the greatest protection against renal cancer. Women eating five bananas a week nearly halved their risk of renal cancer.
Banana are Perfect afternoon pick-me-up
Carbohydrate snacks are very useful for bringing low blood glucose levels back to normal and help avoid the mid-afternoon slump often experienced at work.
We can control our blood glucose levels by snacking on natural carbohydrate foods every 2-4 hours to keep levels steady. Healthy carbohydrate snacks are very useful for clear thinking, improved memory and mood. Bananas are ideal, because of their low GI and zero fat level.
Bananas promote healthy Blood Pressure
This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium and salt-free, making it perfect to beat high blood pressure. Australian and international research shows that a diet high in potassium and low in salt helps to keep blood pressure normal. Less than 10% of the population gets an adequate intake of potassium to reduce their risk of chronic disease, like stroke. That leaves a lot of room for high potassium foods like the banana.
Banana create healthy & happy insides
We all know that high fibre foods help keep you regular and prevent constipation. High in fiber, bananas included in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, without resorting to laxatives. A medium banana will provide about 10% of your fibre needs for a day.
Banana help with weight control
You won’t get fat on a banana because bananas contain no fat, they are low in kilojoules, and they are very filling.
In fact, the average sized banana has fewer than 100 calories, which is half as the calories of a typical can of soft drink or a café mocha and less than a chocolate biscuit.
A medium fries has around 370 Calories, the same as you will find in four bananas. Even if you could eat four bananas in one sitting, which most people couldn’t, you wouldn’t feel hungry afterwards. After a medium fries, it is easy to eat a hamburger and a soft drink, giving you around 1,000 calories, and you would probably gain weight. That is the beauty of the banana, it slows down your eating and stops you from over-eating.
Glenn Cardwell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with 30 years in clinical and public health nutrition, including 10 years as consultant dietitian to the National Heart Foundation, five years at the Children’s Hospital in Sydney and was a major player in establishing the WA School Canteen Association in 1994. He began his nutrition consultancy company, Nutrition Impact P/L, in 1996.