August is coming to a close and with that comes our final featured fruit Friday post. This week I’m happy to share my all-time favorite fruit: bananas.
On average, Americans eat >25 pounds of bananas per year (with some, myself included, exceeding that amount). With its popularity, it’s surprising how many misconceptions and little-known facts there are about them.
For example, did you know:
- Bananas do not grow on trees. The banana plant is actually the world’s largest herb
- Bananas are truly berries (if we’re being technical, and going by the botanical definition)
- The “stringy things” have a name: phloem. If you want to avoid them, peel the banana from the bottom up (the way monkeys do)
The Skinny on Bananas, Weight, and Overall Health
Here’s a question that I’ve heard before: Do bananas make you fat? Eating excessive amounts of bananas, therefore surpassing your calorie allowance (and not getting enough physical activity) can “make you fat”. But trust me, it’s far easier to do that with a candy bar than bananas. The fruit is fat-free and ~75% water. Therefore, to answer the question: eating one, or even two, bananas a day as part of a healthy eating plan will not make you fat.
Bananas naturally contain fiber, with green bananas possibly having an additional benefit. Bananas have varying stages of ripeness (see “Selection” section). In each stage, the banana has a unique carbohydrate composition. As the fruit ripens, starch breaks down into simple sugars. Therefore, green bananas have the most starch. Some of this starch is referred to as resistant starch, due to the fact that it resists digestion and absorption, similar to fiber.
These components may promote:
- Decreased postprandial rise in blood glucose
- Lower plasma triglyceride levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Increased satiety
A Powerful Performance Fruit
One study found that bananas might be better fuel during endurance exercise compared to traditional sports drinks. Ripe bananas are an ideal source of easily digestible carbohydrates. Additionally, bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. Specifically, 1 Medium banana (7” to 7-7/8” long) provides:
|Fiber (gm)||~ 3|
|Potassium (mg)||> 10% Daily Value|
|Vitamin C (mg)||> 10% Daily Value|
|Vitamin B6 (mg)||> 25% Daily Value|
Selection and Storage
Bananas ripen post-harvest; their color depicts their ripeness.
- Unripe bananas are green, and are not typically eaten because they are hard and not sweet.
- Bananas become yellow as they ripen (with the yellow peel becoming increasingly brown). These bananas are sweeter and creamier.
- If you want your bananas to ripen quickly, place them in a closed bag. They produce ethylene gas, which speeds ripening.
- If you want to save already-ripe bananas, place them in the refrigerator. (The peel will continue to brown, but the inside will remain ideal for eating)
- Grilled or broiled – the natural sugars will caramelize
- Peel, coat in dark chocolate, and freeze – yum!
- Peel and eat – Bananas are a great portable snack
- Dice ½ a banana and add to cereal, yogurt, waffles or pancakes.
- Spread 1 Tbsp peanut butter on 1 side of a banana and roll in crushed walnuts for a crunchy sweet snack.
- Make “ice cream” – Freeze bananas, place in a blender, and blend until creamy
- Make a banana smoothie
- Bake! Pureed/mashed bananas are a great substitute for fat in baked goods