This post is part of a series highlighting the benefits of some of the superfoods that I use in Stylish Spoon’s baked goods. It can be hard to pack all the nutrition you need into your daily diet, which is why I started making superfoods super delicious by adding them to baked goods. Visit Stylish Spoon’s Shop for a full list of the current selection of offerings you can have delivered right to your door (more coming soon!).
Did you know that the scientific name for banana is musa sapientum, which translates to fruit of the wise men? I’d agree that you’d be wise to eat bananas. Despite being delicious, easy to eat, affordable and accessible (you can buy bananas at pretty much any street corner, deli, supermarket or cafe), bananas are packed with nutrients. Bananas are one of those everyday superfoods that may be very beneficial to add to your diet. Let’s discuss some of the many benefits of bananas…
Just one medium banana contains only 105 calories and contains all of the following valuable nutrients:
- Vit B6
- Vitamin C
As you can see, in just about 100 calories, you’re getting quite a load of nutrients. Bananas are comprised of mainly water and carbs (including fiber) and very little protein and fat, making them great for a pre-workout snack; which brings me too….
IMPROVE EXERCISE PERFORMANCE
Most long distance runners and high-intensity athletes are best friends with bananas. They’re high potassium content and mixture of other beneficial nutrients help reduce post-exercise muscle cramps and soreness. This is likely because the nutrients in bananas help balance electrolytes and ward off dehydration. After an intense workout I’ll sometimes mix a banana into greek yogurt to get the potassium, carbs and sugar from the banana and protein from the yogurt; all nutrients that are needed in order to help my muscles recover.
They’re also an effective pre-workout snack. Bananas are easily digestible and their fiber content help you stay full longer. Eating a banana before a workout will give you the fuel you need to power through, without leaving your stomach feeling heavy and too full; or causing digestive issues. A lot of marathon and other long-distance races give out bananas along the course for racers because they’re so easily digestible and the mix of sugar, fiber and carbs gives long-distance athletes the lasting energy burst that’s needed for intense/extended exercise. I witnessed this first hand, when Etienne did the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon in the Adirondacks. I volunteered to hand out snacks on the course while Etienne was doing the tri and guess what my job was… handing out bananas to cyclists. This was not the easiest task. After the first few failed attempts to pass a banana to a moving cyclist I learned to pre-peel half the banana with enough of the peel intact to make the handoff easier, and to run backwards with partially peeled bananas in hand for the cyclists to grab to refuel without stopping. I kind of got a workout in too!
Bananas have a few features that should make them helpful in weight loss too. While bananas only have about 100 calories (in one medium sized banana), they are quite filling. Bananas may help you feel full longer, and therefore help you eat less. Bananas are also sweet, which make them a good substitute for processed sugary snacks when you have a sweet craving. You can also use bananas as a natural sugar substitute and a binder in muffins/breads/pancakes. I use bananas to add natural sweetness to the OatMEAL Chia Cups and Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins. Using bananas instead of sugar is a great way to cut back on added sugars and add additional nutrients to your baked goods.
Green bananas are also high in resistant starch. Resistant starch is a special type of starch that has been getting a lot of press lately. Resistant starch is NOT digested in your small intestine. Instead, it is processed in the gut and creates a good bacteria in your gut. Resistant starches promote a healthy gut flora (kind of like a pretty blossoming garden in your gut vs. one with dying flowers) which improves metabolism, blood sugar and ultimately can promote weight loss. Resistant starches also have less calories than regular starches and may help you feel fuller longer. Keep in mind that the greener the banana, the higher the content of resistant starch. Greener bananas, however, hold less overall nutrients. If you’re going to add resistant starch to your diet through green bananas, make sure to still add in a mix of ripened bananas to get the full nutritional benefits of bananas.
Bananas contain many antioxidants including beta-carotene, lutein, selenium, dopamine, catechins and Vitamins A,C & E. Dopamine and catechins specifically have been linked to lower risk of heart disease. The antioxidants in bananas can also provide protection of free radicals, which we come into contact through the sun, lotions and many other products. Selenium has also been linked to improved cognitive function as we age and vitamin E has a range of benefits from reducing the risk of heart disease to preventing eye disorders. It’s also important to keep in mind that antioxidants are more effective when acquired through eating whole foods vs. taking a supplement. Not everything can be obtained with a pill, but at least your dose of antioxidants will taste good with bananas.
PREVENTING KIDNEY DISEASE
This may sound crazy, but eating a banana a few times a week may reduce your chance of kidney disease by 50%. Let me explain…
Bananas contain a high amount of potassium, as we discussed above. Potassium plays an essential part in controlling blood pressure and maintaining healthy kidney functions. Studies have correlated that the potassium in bananas may be linked to maintaining healthy kidneys. The same Studies have found that those who eat bananas 4–6 times a week are almost 50% less likely to develop kidney disease, compared to people who don’t eat bananas. It’s amazing that something as simple as a banana may have such an impact on our our overall health!
How to Add Bananas to Your Diet: We’ve discussed why you should be eating bananas, but now the fun part: How to add them to your weekly diet. Obviously there’s the easy way of grabbing banana to have with your breakfast or a midday snack, but there are a million more fun ways to add bananas into your life. Here are a few of my favorite tasty and healthy banana recipes:
- Moist Banana Bread (+ chocolate chips!)
- Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Banana Cake (recipe in Monkey Cake post)
- 2 Ingredient Banana Pancakes
- Healthy Banana Bread
- Banana Oatmeal Cookies
- …And of course OatMEAL Chia Cups!
I also like to mix in a banana with my morning oatmeal sometimes to add a little sweetness and I’ll stop it with some almond butter as well to get a dose of healthy fats. I also use frozen bananas in a many of my smoothie recipes. Here’s a Spinach and Banana Oatmeal Smoothie that we make often in our house: 1/2 cup oats, 1 frozen banana, 1 handful raw baby spinach and 1 cup almond milk; blend until smooth and drink immediately. I also make a banana version of “ants on a log” for the girls after school, where I’ll slice a banana down the middle, add some nut butter onto the cut halves and top with raisins. It’s really cute and they love it.
ORGANIC VS. CONVENTIONAL BANANAS
Conventional (non-organic) bananas have been found to be less likely to expose you to pesticide residue, unlike blueberries and peaches, which are often listed on the “dirty dozen” lists for having the most pesticide residue. According to the Environmental Working Group 2017 report, bananas were listed as #31 out of 48 in terms of pesticide residue (lower numbers indicate more pesticides). While buying organic bananas isn’t essential if you are picking and choosing based on your budget, organic bananas are relatively inexpensive in terms of the cost difference so I always buy organic unless I am out and about and need to pick up a quick banana for a snack. There are plenty of reasons to buy organic bananas even if they aren’t part of EWG’s “dirty dozen” list (basically better for your, and better for the environment).
However you decide to add bananas into your diet, I hope you’ll now at least look at bananas a little differently.
Now it’s your turn: please share any of your favorite banana recipes in the comments. I know some of you have made banana “nice” cream, which is definitely on my list of recipes to try this summer.
Please note: I am not a doctor and do not play one on the “inter web” so please consult your doctor regarding any specific nutritional needs that you may have. The information on this site is meant solely as informational.