Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bananas - You'd Think They Would Be Straightforward...

     This morning, as I ate my morning banana ( with more than a few brown spots on it but perfectly fine inside )my coworker shuddered and asked me how I could stand to eat a rotten banana. I scrunched my eyes at her - and she explained she could only eat ones that are completely starchy and green because when ripe they are too much like they are rotten to her. She also "heard" that green bananas are lower in calorie than ripe ones because they have less sugar, and are better for you anyway. I p'shawed her, and assured her my banana was perfect in every way, and I went back to work - and thought about bananas. Are ripe bananas better than green? Are green bananas lower calorie? So...I did some research.

     According to most websites where I could find credible information ( and not just the "my hairdresser told me so!" websites ), bananas are best eaten when ripe. Green bananas contain proteins that limit the digestion of complex carbohydrates - those are the good carbs. Ripe bananas have had those proteins converted into the amylase enzyme which is what gives bananas that "banana" smell. So - smell your banana! If it smells like a banana, eat it. it's ready. if it doesn't...wait a few days. Those brown spots are a-ok
There is a way to prolong the life of a ripe banana. By putting them in the fridge it will slow the ripening of the fruit by slowing the enzyme actions. This will darken the skin by releasing polyphenoloxide. This means that the skin may go brown but the fruit on the inside will still be great for eating.

Bananas can interfere with the effectiveness of some drugs; an antidepressant or antihypertensives known as MAO inhibitors (monoamine oxidase) is one such drug. MAO inhibitors work by inhibiting the action of Tyramine, an enzyme that constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.
The three natural types of sugars banana contain are:
  • sucrose
  • fructose
  • glucose
These sugars along with fiber are what provide you with an instant boost of sustained and substantial energy. In fact if you were to eat two bananas prior to a ninety minute workout you'll have enough energy to last through the entire workout. Perhaps this is the reason so many top athletes eat their bananas. There is more to this yummy fruit other than just the fitness benefit of the banana. It actually assists us in preventing a substantial number of physical ailments, conditions, and diseases.

Blood Pressure: High in potassium, this tropical fruit is extremely low in salt, making it the perfect way to beat blood pressure. In fact the USDA allows the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
Heartburn: If you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief because of the natural antacid effect in the body.
PMS: The Vitamin B6 in this fruit helps regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.
Depression: Because tryptophan is an substance found in the banana they are helpful for depression. Tryptophan helps the body by converting this protein in serotonin. This action helps with relaxation and can stimulate feelings of happiness. So another benefit of eating bananas is mood enhancement.
Anemia: Bananas help with the production of hemoglobin in your blood and are high in iron which helps with symptoms of anemia.
Brain Power: Research has identified that the potassium in bananas help brain power. A middle school actually had 200 of their students eat bananas to get through their exams this year. They ate bananas at breakfast, morning break, and at lunch which helped them stay alert and proved to help in test scores.
Constipation: Because fiber is good for our digestion, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action without resorting to laxatives.
Hangovers: Now this is a wonderful way to quickly cure a hangover. Just make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. This fruit calms the stomach and the honey helps builds up depleted blood sugar levels. The milk also soothes and re-hydrates your system.
Morning Sickness: Pregnant women often get morning sickness as their blood sugar bounces around. Snacking on bananas during the day between meals can help bring relief.
Mosquito bites: Yes, bananas have natural anti itch properties so try using the inside of the skin on mosquito bites to reduce irritation and swelling from these annoying insect bites.
Nerves: B vitamins are known to help calm the nervous system and Bananas are high in them.
SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder: The tryptophan in the banana is an natural mood enhancer, which can help reduce feelings associated with SAD.
Smoking: Because bananas contain B6, B12 along with magnesium and potassium they help the body recover from the symptoms associated with the withdrawal of nicotine.
Stress: Because the mineral potassium is a nutrient that helps balance the heartbeat, sends the brain oxygen it is useful for helping alleviate stress. When we are stressed out the body raises our metabolic rate which uses our potassium reserves. Eating a banana helps us rebalance.
Strokes: This is a stunning statistic, the The New England Journal of Medicine," reported that "eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!"

Bottom line? Eat ripe bananas. End of story. :-)