Bananas: Fruit of the Zoom
Endurance athletes have long known about the power of the banana. Unlike certain other snacks that dump high levels of sugar into the bloodstream right away, bananas give a steady supply of sugar as it is needed, and are a great source of potassium which is essential in the prevention of cramps. Competitive cyclists are therefore often seen with the ubiquitous yellow fruit poking out of their back pockets as they set off on long haul training rides.
However hard core athletes are not the only people who can benefit from the humble banana, and its health benefits are legion.
As well as containing fiber, bananas are a source of sucrose, fructose, and glucose which are natural sugars. Therefore the sugar goes into the bloodstream immediately but does not dump all of it in at once, giving a sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout.
As well has helping us power our engine as we keep fit, bananas can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions.
According to a recent survey undertaken among people suffering from depression by MIND, a British mental health charity, many felt much better after eating a banana. It is known that the fruit contains tryptophan, a type of amino acid that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
The yellow wonder is a source of vitamin B6 which regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood and alleviate stress. Because they are rich in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia. This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. Indeed the FDA allows the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
In a study in a school in England, two-hundred students ate bananas for breakfast, at break time and lunchtime in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.
Because they are high in fiber, a diet that includes bananas can help restore normal bowel action and alleviate the need for laxatives.One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, while the honey builds up depleted blood sugar levels, and the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.
Bananas have a natural antacid effect, and can help to relieve the pain of heartburn. Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
Many people bitten by mosquitos have reported that rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin, rather than using an insect bite cream, reduces swelling and irritation.
Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system. Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found that work-related stress leads to gorging on unhealthy snacks and processed “comfort food.” In a survey of 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found a correlation between obesity and high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours can help to keep blood sugar levels steady.
The banana’s soft texture and smoothness means that it lends itself to the treatment of intestinal disorders such as ulcers. The only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in cases of chronic ulcers, it neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
In many cultures the banana is seen as a ‘cooling’ fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. Pregnant women in Thailand eat bananas to ensure that their babies are born with a cool temperature.
When compared to an apple, the banana has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around.
To cap it all off, it comes in easy-to-open, biodegradable packaging in a cool yellow color which is also smart enough to indicate the state of the fruit inside. The skin indicates that it is not ripe enough yet with a green signal, the optimum time to eat it is signaled with a pattern of brown speckles on yellow, and a banana out of date turns a solid brown. What’s not to like?
Eamonn Gormley is a Silicon Valley-based freelance writer and marketing consultant, and contributing editor of Forásach.com, a news and analysis website. He is also the author of Waiting to Launch – The Untapped Global Potential of Gaelic Games. He enjoys road biking, Salsa dancing and Zouk dancing.