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June 27, 2011 at 12:41 PMComments: 19 Faves: 3

6 Good Reasons to Love Bananas - And 9 Amazing Ways to Enjoy Them!

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

The other morning as I was enjoying my morning banana, a co-worker stopped me. In a state of apparent disbelief, she asked why I, a registered dietitian, was eating such a sugar filled fruit – one that was apparently bad for me. While it is true that bananas contain natural sugars, they also come packed with nutrients offering more health benefits than you may be aware of.

#1 Your Heart

A study of 10,000 American adults and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a diet high in fiber-rich foods, such as bananas, helps prevent heart disease. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium providing around 400 mg! According to the National Academy of Sciences, diets rich in potassium and low in sodium may help to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

#2 Your Kidneys

As high blood pressure can increase your risk of kidney disease, bananas may be a great addition to your diet if you are at risk. A study from the International Journal of Cancer indicates that diets rich in whole fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, can help protect against this disease. 

#3 Your Bones

The very mineral found to help lower blood pressure may also aid bone health. High salt diets can increase calcium loss, yet because potassium and sodium tend to balance one another out in our bodies, potassium helps counteract this loss thereby reducing bone loss.

#4 Your Digestive Health

Bananas aid our digestive system in several ways, making them a sure go-to when you feel indigestion coming on.

  • Bananas contain around 3 grams of fiber, great for boosting satiety and maintaining regularity. In fact, bananas are a classic recommendation for those experiencing diarrhea as the soluble fiber aids in bulking up the stool and it is fairly easy to digest if you have an upset stomach.
  • I must also mention that digestive woes are a quick way to create electrolyte imbalance, yet another reason bananas are a great choice as they contain an electrolyte commonly lacking in the American diet: potassium.
  • Bananas are able to help our bodies boost its defenses against stomach acid, reducing our risk of ulcers. Rather than popping an antacid every time you feel heartburn erupting, grab a banana – Mother Nature’s own antacid – and protect your digestive tract from the damaging and painful effects of ulcers.

#5 Your Mood

Much like the more famous source of tryptophan, bananas contain the very protein found in turkey. Our bodies are able to convert tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to help us relax and perhaps even lift our mood. In addition, this yellow fruit provides roughly one-third of your daily Vitamin B6 needs, a nutrient found to help calm our nerves.

#6 Your Waistline

Although my co-worker previously feared the effect of bananas on her waistline, I can reassure you that this fruit is a great addition to a healthy diet. In fact, bananas can even be used to help trim the fat from your diet!

  • Banana puree is a great substitute for shortening when you are baking, as is puree from zucchinis, beans, or avocado.
  • You may have tried banana bread, a peanut butter and banana sandwich, or even banana slices drizzled with chocolate syrup, but what about banana ice-cream? This frozen novelty is made from a single ingredient: banana. Rather than tossing your aging bananas, toss them into the freezer and once frozen you simply whip it up in the blender and enjoy. It is absolutely delicious! For those of you hoping for a bit more flavor, try adding a tablespoon of peanut butter, honey, or cocoa powder. I promise you will enjoy experimenting with Mother Nature’s own fat-free nutrient-rich ice-cream.

For those of you who have eliminated bananas from your diet for fear of gaining weight, have no fear. This fat-free treat is rich in natural energy, minerals, vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients.

Healthy Banana Recipes 

Naturally Ella: Baked Banana Chips 

"I realized the ridiculous amount of sugar (and sometimes high fructose corn syrup) they had in them.  So, I gave up eating banana chips and move onto other things.  That is until I saw a recipe from A Sweet Road. I was so excited that I made them the very same day." RECIPE

Lovin' From the Oven: Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

"This… is the most amazing banana bread. It’s very flavorful and moist with a bit of a slight crunch from the topping. If you’re a fan of cinnamon sugar, I’d highly recommend it! I already made it twice in a week." RECIPE

The Healthy Family and Home: Raw, Vegan Banana Hemp Seed "Sushi Slices"

" These Raw Vegan Banana Hemp Seed Sushi Slices are going to be one of the easiest snacks you’ll probably ever make. It’s also one of my boys favorite snacks. They are just so darn cute too! You can make them in a matter of minutes and they provide lots of nutrition and energy in a bite-sized snack. They contain 11 g of raw vegan protein, 25% DV of zinc, 50% DV of magnesium, 50% DV of phosphorus and 15% DV of iron." RECIPE

84th and 3rd: Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free Macadamia & Coconut Banana Cream Pie

"This creamy pie is entirely dairy, soy, gluten and refined sugar free, but stunningly delicious. It is banana cream in its simplest form but you could certainly add chocolate, berries or even passionfruit for a fun twist." RECIPE

Inspired Taste; Simple Banana Smoothie

"All you need is five minutes and five ingredients to make our silky smooth and simple banana smoothie recipe. This is just perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack or for serving kids. You can even make this ahead of time, freeze it and save for later. So easy! We add half of an orange, a little yogurt, water (or milk) and a touch of honey. Just add everything to a blender, blend until smooth and enjoy." RECIPE

Laylita: Eucadoran- Style "Chifles" 

"Either way chifles are delicious when made fresh, it is very typical to have people selling them in small paper bags right outside of schools and different events, the chips are usually drizzled with a salsa rosada...Chifles are also a great side dish for ceviches, as well as an appetizer that goes very well with tomato and onion curtido o r aji criollo hot sauce and cold beer....green bananas are very sticky and not as easy to handle, so overall chifles or chips made with green plantains are easier to find and make, but if you do ever find some very green bananas try it and you will taste the difference. If you become a chifle fan and want to try different variations, you can add hot peppers or garlic to the oil to infuse that flavor into the chips." RECIPE

Lavendilly: Raw, Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

"To make this recipe raw the cookies are ‘cooked’ in the dehydrator. They were done after one day and one night, at 70 degrees C, turning them halfway. They can also be baked in the oven for more immediate consumption! The benefits to dehydrating them means they preserve more nutrients and are more evenly dried out, whereas when you bake them they are still a little squishy in the middle, but equally yummy. " RECIPE

Ambitious Kitchen: Banana "Ice Cream" with Toasted Coconut, Almonds, & Dark Chocolate

"Almond joys are great examples: coconut, almonds, and dark chocolate. I mean, it’s kind of just simple perfection. Or perfect enough for me to want to put the ingredients on top of my ice cream anyway... All you need is a couple of frozen bananas and a food processor (or a blender). Once the frozen banana are processed, they turn into a creamy treat that mimicks your favorite soft serve! Make sure you use ripe bananas to ensure sweetness and an irresistable texture. You’ll be surprised by this one." RECIPE


And of course, the classic - Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich!

Enjoy and live well!

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19 Comments

  • This is great - I was actually already planning on trying the banana "ice cream" tonight! Now I have all the more reason to do so :)

  • I totally always have like that 1 banana that i don't eat and then it just sits...and sits...i thnk i might try makin it into banana ice cream!!!

  • I eat a banana almost every day, and they do SO much good! I only recently learned how much sugar they contain (a bummer for my Candida dieting pal), but the nutrition bananas offer balances it out, I feel.

    I can't wait to try the banana 'ice cream' - thanks for the idea!

  • LATEX ALLERGY SUFFERERS BEWARE: If you are one of the growing number of people developing a type I hypersensitivity to latex, you should AVOID eating bananas. The antigens in latex that trigger the anaphylactic response are also found in bananas. As a health care professional, my occasional reaction of stinging lips from blowing up latex balloons developed into asthma over the course of using countless pairs of latex gloves at my workplace. When I found out that bananas were triggering my asthma, I was sad. I love bananas! But not breathing is a bit inconvenient, so not worth the risk.

  • @Laura, Dayton, & Katie - I am thrilled to hear this inspired some creativity in the kitchen! How did those creamy fruit treats turn out? Did you try it plain or did you mix in other toppings?

    @Michelle - That is a great point re: the latex allergy. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians those with a history of latex allergies should also use caution with banana, avocado, passion fruit, chestnut, kiwi fruit, melon, tomato, and celery.

  • It turned out pretty well for a first try! (I'm not always the greatest in the kitchen, so I celebrate any success, haha!) I think I froze the bananas too long and my blender isn't very high-powered, so it was having some trouble blending them. I threw in some almond milk to fix this, but I think I may have put in too much - it was really hard to scoop. However, if I let it sit out for ten minutes or so, it got a pretty nice texture and it was delicious!

    I tried one small batch with just bananas and blueberries, and one with peanut butter, chocolate, and nuts. The second one definitely turned out the best - I didn't really have enough blueberries to give the first a real blueberry flavor. Regardless, though, both were delicious! I'm planning on trying out several different combinations: some with less almond milk, some with no almond milk, different fruits and nuts, etc. When I hit on some really good combinations, I plan to document it with photos and blog about it :)

  • Nice work! Looking forward to your pics :)

  • A banana is always a great snack. Ties you over and it's good for you! I like to slice them up in my breakfast cereal too. My son loves bananas so if we have some in the house I always try to sway him to eat one for a snack instead of raiding the "junk food" drawer.

  • Jim, I am thrilled to hear that you are already instilling healthy habits in your son! Keep it up :)

  • Jessica,
    Great article.
    I love bananas (Potassium) before and after workouts! Two bananas will supply enough energy for a 90 minute rigorous workout. Bananas are amongst the most versatile and most widely eaten fruits by athletes. Bananas are easily digestible, the natural sugars in bananas provide instant and sustained energy to your body. Athletes world over find them useful to include in their diet. The reason is that it is quite filling, gets quickly released into the bloodstream, in the form of energy, and does not contain fats.

  • I absolutely agree, Cornelius. When I was training for a half-marathon a banana was my favorite pre-run snack for those 5:30am runs to provide a quick energy boost with very minimal digestion needed. Afterward, I opted for a yogurt to provide a healthy balance of carbs and protein to replenish my energy while still helping to rebuild muscle.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • I hadn't heard that there was much sugar in bananas. I love bananas and need to eat more of them. They are a good way to get a boost in the middle of the day, when you are dragging a bit. It is definitely an unusual fruit that is both delicious and very good for you.

  • I recently started buying organic bananas, it solves my problem of green bananas, I enjoy buying my bananas and eating them the next day, with non organic ones it seems they take a week to ripen enough to become edible.

  • I love adding bananas in my protein shakes.

  • I put bananas in most of my smoothies:) Love them also in oatmeal and most cereals instead of adding sugar.

  • Silver, you should add banana "ice cream" to your arsenal next - delicious! and free of saturated fat.

  • After reading this, you'll never look at a banana in the same way again.
    http://youcure.me/en/news/who-said-bananas-are-not-good-for-you-124

  • Can't beat a sliced banana on cold cereal - sounds bland, but if you are eating a healthy cereal, the banana only makes it better.

  • I love banana pudding and all the lady's in my family know how to make it. Know when all the ladies I mean my mom and my aunts. I think I will get my mother to give me her recipe and share it here.

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