The banana easily makes it into our top 5 favorite foods. Not only because it is a quick and also very tasty way to replenish your energy reserves, but also because the fiber-rich banana has such a positive effect on your digestion. Bananas also have even more, less well-known, health benefits.
When we say ‘banana’ we usually mean the fruit, but it is also the name of the six to seven meter high plant that produces it. Due to its height, the plant is sometimes mistaken for a tree, which is a misconception. Bananas grow in bunches, which can hold up to 20 bananas. Those trusses hang back together in groups of 3-20 trusses, which can weigh up to 50 kg.
Bananas are native to Southeast Asia, but are now grown in Central and South America as well. There are many edible and non-edible banana varieties. For convenience, they are often classified by method of consumption: raw or baked. In the west, banana is actually synonymous with the soft, sweet banana varieties that are eaten raw.
The banana not only provides you with fast carbohydrates, but also a lot of valuable micronutrients. We go through the five most important.
Bananas are a rich source of vitamin B6. An average banana easily provides a third of your daily requirement for this B-spectrum vitamin. Vitamin B6 is also found in meat and vegetables, but by cooking and baking these values are more than halved.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in your metabolism and helps, among other things, to convert stored glycogen into glucose. The vitamin also plays a role in protein synthesis and hemoglobin synthesis , making it an important vitamin for both strength and endurance athletes.
Vitamin B6 also plays a role in the central nervous system and is said to help with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and menopausal symptoms, among other things.
Bananas contain more than 400 mg of the metal potassium, which has a function in regulating blood pressure. Eating two bananas a day in combination with a portion of potatoes, another major source of potassium, would help lower blood pressure.
In case of diarrhoea, bananas in combination with sufficient fluid intake help to restore the natural fluid balance.
Finally, potassium also helps to improve concentration and is said to help reduce stress.
Other sources of potassium include tomato paste, orange juice and white beans.
Bananas also contain folic acid, or vitamin B9, which plays a role in fat metabolism and in the fight against obesity. In combination with vitamin B6, it plays a role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Folic acid aids in the production of healthy red blood cells and thus prevents anemia. The substance also helps prevent birth defects, such as spina bifida and congenital heart defects.
Folic acid is also said to help fight depression, although the evidence for this is paper thin.
Bananas are rich in magnesium, which aids in the absorption of calcium necessary for strong bones. However, that coin has a downside, since an excess of magnesium actually blocks this absorption.
Too low doses of magnesium in the blood cause cardiac arrhythmias.
Bananas also contain melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland that plays a role in the 24-hour rhythm. Melatonin is said to help prevent sleep disorders. Bananas are said to promote sleep, especially in combination with (warm) milk.
The banana is sometimes referred to as a sugar bomb. And yes, a medium banana (~136 g) contains about 19 g of sugars. That’s not so much less than there is in a glass of cola (~25 g sugar). And eating a lot of sugar isn’t exactly good for your health.
The difference is that the sugars in a banana are naturally present, while soft drinks, sweets and pastries are added sugars. Added sugars and sugars from honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates are also called free sugars. And according to the World Health Organization’s otherwise controversial guideline, you should limit your consumption of those free sugars to a maximum of 10 percent of the total number of calories you consume each day.
But what about the sugars in fruit, vegetables and dairy products? Can you eat them unlimited? Not that either. Your body actually makes no difference between free and natural sugars. The Nutrition Center therefore uses a reference intake of 90 g sugar per day – free and natural sugars.
This does not alter the fact that fruit contains many valuable nutrients, so you certainly do not have to hold back. In fact, if you minimize the consumption of free sugars, you can eat as many bananas as you want.
PUT A BANANA IN YOUR…
You can of course just eat a banana on the fist. But you can do a lot more with bananas. One of our favorites is a banana and peanut butter sandwich .
With a banana you can also make many other healthy foods even healthier. Add some banana slices to your bowl of oatmeal, muesli or yogurt. Otherwise, try a banana with some (cold) milk and some ice cubes in your blender for a delicious smoothie.
You see: there are plenty of ways to consume our recommended daily amount of two bananas!