I’ve been receiving questions about bananas: are they healthy; aren’t they fattening; how many shall I eat per day?
Many people tend to avoid bananas as they think that they are fattening. Bananas are indeed high in carbs and natural sugars, and in that sense a powerful source of energy. In fact a study of the Appalachian State University from the 2012 compares bananas to sports drink during intense cycling. For the study, trained cyclists consumed either a cup of a carb-rich sports drink or half a banana every 15 minutes during a two and a half to three hour intense road race. The scientists measured metabolite shifts in the blood before and after the participants exercised and for one day of recovery. Bananas had some undisputable advantages.
The blood samples of the study revealed that the cyclists who ate bananas experienced better performance effects, improved energy and rate of recovery. In addition to providing antioxidants not found in sports drinks, bananas pack more nutrients and a healthier blend of natural sugars. Yet, they give the same amount of energy, only natural and healthier than the one that the chemical sports drink offer.
In addition to their favorable sugar profile, bananas also have a great phenolic profile. They contain dopamine: a powerful phenolic that helps reduce free oxygen radicals produced during high intensity exercise. Bananas enhance recovery time by reducing inflammation and improving an athlete’s ability to handle oxidative stress during cycling.
Yet, you don’t have to be an athlete to consume bananas. If your diet is balanced and healthy enough, and it is not too high in the slower digesting macronutrients of animal fats and proteins, as well as non-natural sugars, bananas can be a powerful ace to your health, and never an enemy.
While it’s true that bananas pack more carbs per bite than other fruit as they contain lower levels of water, there’s no need to cut them out of your diet. Bananas are a rich source of potassium (about 600 mg per medium banana), which in addition to reducing blood pressure, supports muscle maintenance. Bananas contain natural oils and enzymes that make them natural diuretics that alleviate water retention and bloating.
Their vitamin B6 helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and their fiber (3 grams in a medium-sized one) content boosts satiety and improves digestive health. Eating more bananas will even help you control your sugar-cravings as they give your body enough sugar, yet all natural and healthy, and in that way they control your blood levels. Bananas also contain vitamins A, B, E, K and C as well as 6 mcg of folic acid, which is essential for the red blood cell formation. And last but not least: one banana has 105 calories with 0 grams of fat. With all that being said it turns out that bananas not only don’t prevent you from loosing weight, but in fact they stimulate the process.
Here is a simple rule that you could follow in order to be able to thrive on bananas and eat as many as you fancy. Just make sure that your overall diet is mainly plant based and it doesn’t involve so many heavy and slow digesting foods- unhealthy fats and sugars, animal products and heavy carbs high in gluten. It is also important that you don’t overdo it on the portion size. 3-4 middle-sized bananas per day is a reasonable amount. However, depending on the intensity of your physical activity as well as on the rest of the foods that you consume in a day (for instance a raw-vegan diet gives you more freedom), you could eat ever more bananas.
Consuming, buying and storing bananas.
Bananas are one of those foods that it is important to be consumed organic. If you can’t find organic bananas, or you simply can’t afford them, try to select bananas that are locally produced, or at least firm and un-bruised.
Store bananas at room temperature. Never refrigerate them, or they will stop ripening.
And remember: the more spotted they are, the better! Research shows that the brown spots on the bananas are closely related to how they benefit our bodies. The spotted bananas are not only sweeter and more delicious, but they also have higher levels of antioxidants, potassium, vitamins, minerals and enzymes than unripe bananas.
Japanese researchers have proven that ripe bananas contain a crucial cancer-fighting phytonutrients. The dark spots on ripe yellow bananas signal that your banana contains high levels of a substance called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), which destroys cancerous tumors.
But be careful: there is a big difference between ripe, spotted bananas and overripe dark bananas. The skin can be spotted, but the fruit itself has to be yellow, not brown.
Here are a few great simple recipes that will help you consume more bananas and in a healthy, guilt-free way:
Vegan Pistachio Ice Cream
(per 4 servings)
3 bananas, cut and frozen
100 gr pistachio nuts
4 Tbs. maple syrup
Place the pistachio nuts into the kitchen robot and blend until smooth. Add the avocado, banana and maple syrup and blend for 3-5 min until you reach a creamy, homogeneous mixture. Pour the ice cream base into a container/box and freeze it for at least an hour (in every 15 min energetically mix the ice-cream). To prevent the finished ice cream from getting freezer burned, put a piece of parchment over the sorbet in the container so that it isn’t exposed to air.
(per 1 serving)
1 large gluten-free crispbread
½ banana, cut
½ tsp. raw honey
½ tsp. bee pollen
½ tsp. chia seeds
Top the crispbread with the banana, honey, chia and bee pollen, and enjoy.
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