Bananas are a popular fruit

It’s amazing what a banana can do for you

Bananas are a popular fruit

Bananas are a popular fruit

I promise you’ll be shocked when you find out what a banana can do for you, but first some background information you might not know.

Although most people believe that bananas grow on trees, in fact the plant which produces this fruit is a (large) perennial herb. Bananas themselves are classified as berries!

There at least 50 different species of banana, but only one variety (the Cavendish) is usually sold commercially in the West. You might see other fruit that looks like bananas in ethnic markets, but these are almost all what we call “plantains”, not sweet and intended for cooking.

A boost for the ‘active man’

Bananas are a great energy boost often eaten by top athletes, as for example tennis players, which have been shown to improve mood, increase oxygen flow and improve performance. They also contain bromelain, particularly important for male sexual function, increasing both libido and stamina.

The reason athletes eat them is because they provide a consistent energy release before, during and after exercise. Two bananas have been shown to provide enough energy for a 90 minute workout – of whatever type you have in mind!

Bananas are also a source of fiber, high in magnesium and manganese (both minerals which many men are deficient in, but which are important for prostate function) as well as potassium, vitamin B6 and C. They are very low in sodium and saturated fat (less than 0.5g per banana!) and contain no trans fats or cholesterol.

The nutrients in bananas help regulate blood flow, resulting in a better and longer lasting erection.

Please note that excessive levels of potassium can be dangerous, so it’s best to obtain it from natural sources, rather than supplements. You should only consume bananas or other high potassium foods in moderation if you are taking beta blockers, as these medicines can cause potassium levels to rise.

Bananas in the garden

Bananas are a popular house plant in cool areas, and in tropical places make a wonderful garden plant. Banana skins are very useful as a compost material, and can be added directly around the base of flowering or fruiting plants or included in the compost heap.

If you’re going to eat the fruit, it’s important to use organic growing methods because they soak up whatever is sprayed on them. It goes right through the skin and into the fruit. This includes fertiliser, weed killer and any other chemicals used on them.  For the same reason, when you’re buying bananas, look out for organic ones.

Bananas and physical health

Nutritional profile
A ripe medium banana (about 118g) contains 105 calories and an estimated glycemic load of 10 (about 10% of the daily target), 0.29g/3% DV* protein, 27g/12% DV carbs, 0.39g fat, no trans fat, no cholesterol, 3g/12% DV fiber, 10g/17% DV vitamin C, 0.4mcg/22% DV vitamin B6, 3mcg/10% DV biotin, 0.3mg/16% manganese, less than 1% sodium, 422mg/12% DV potassium, 0.09mg/10% DV copper. Also contains useful amounts of riboflavin, folate and magnesium.
*DV = daily value. Source

There are many reasons bananas should be included as a regular part of your diet:

  1. The vitamin content makes bananas helpful for avoiding macular degeneration.
  2. They are rich in potassium, which is important for regulating blood pressure and healthy kidney and heart function. Bananas are well known for their high potassium content, which combined with negligible levels of sodium makes them ideal as part of a low sodium (low salt) diet.
    Sodium and potassium are held in balance within the body, so if you have high levels of sodium, you need to increase potassium intake to offset this. The best way to do this is by eating bananas or other natural sources.
    As well as offsetting sodium, potassium is also a vasodilator, which makes it useful for lowering blood pressure. High potassium intake protects against kidney stones, preserves bones and muscles and reduces calcium loss through urination. This means that eating bananas as a regular part of your diet can protect you from the risk of developing osteoporosis.
    The US FDA recognises bananas for their ability to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
    Studies have found that a high potassium intake reduces the risk of dying (from all causes) by 20%.
  3. Vitamins B6 and C, magnesium and fiber are beneficial for the health of your heart, and
    • The vitamin B6 content combined with a low GI helps protect against type II diabetes and aid weight loss.
    • Vitamin B6 also strengthens the nervous system and is helpful for anyone suffering from anemia. It’s vital for the production of red blood cells (hemoglobin) and important to the immune system.
    • Vitamin C is an antioxidant, helping fight free radicals which are known to cause cancer.
    • Magnesium is very important for the regulation of blood sugar levels and blood pressure, maintenance of muscles and nerves, helps regulate the heart, keeps bones strong and maintains a healthy immune system.
    • Fiber is an important part of the diet which reduces the risk of colo-rectal cancer. There are two types of fiber in a banana, the ratios varying according to how ripe the banana is. The water soluble fiber increases as the fruit ripens, and the insoluble fiber reduces. Because of the fiber content, bananas are easily digested and do not impact greatly on blood sugar levels.
    • Part of the fiber in bananas is pectin, which is also known for its ability to remove contaminants from the body including heavy metals, and as a drug detox.
    • Fiber is a natural way to avoid or treat constipation.
  4. Bananas are rich in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which help maintain the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, supporting digestive health and improving absorption of calcium.
  5. A banana will help to protect against muscle cramps from working out and night time leg cramps.
  6. Bananas are a good source of electrolytes after a bout of diarrhea, and also soothe the digestive tract, acting as a natural antacid and helping to prevent acid reflux (heartburn or GERD). They are one of the few fruits that can be eaten without distress by people who are suffering from stomach ulcers.
  7. For those trying to lose weight, bananas are a great low calorie snack to satisfy sweet cravings. If you replace candy or other snack foods with a banana, you’ll be getting lots of nutrition and fiber, a delicious and satisfying sweet treat, and all this for only 105 calories!
  8. Irritated skin, insect bites, psoriasis, acne and similar problems can be relieved by rubbing with the inside of a banana peel. You can also use it on warts: rub the inner skin onto the wart, then use a bandage or sticking plaster to hold it in place; replace daily until the wart has gone (about a week).
  9. Bananas are safe for pregnant women and help avoid morning sickness by keeping blood sugar levels steady.

Bananas and mental health

  1. A recent survey by the charity MIND found that many people suffering from depression felt better after eating a banana. This is thought to be because of the tryptophan content. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin by the body, increasing relaxation and improving both mood and memory. It also helps to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and PMS.
  2. Bananas also contain dopamine, but this does not cross the blood/brain barrier, acting instead as an antioxidant. Although the dopamine in bananas does not work directly to improve mood, recent research has shown a link between inflammation and depression, so the antioxidant action of dopamine and other constituents which act to reduce inflammation may indirectly help to improve mood.
  3. A banana and berry smoothie is apparently great as a hangover cure (if you can stand the noise of the blender while hung over).

I truly think it’s amazing what a banana can do for you. Didn’t I tell you you’d be shocked?

Is clean eating right for you?

Ideal meal by volume

An ideal meal for clean eating would comprise 60% fruit and vegetables, 20% protein and 20% complex carbohydrate, estimating roughly by volume.

Clean eating is a fairly new idea which seems to have spread across the world like wildfire. But what does it mean? In fact, although the term clean eating may be new, much of the thinking behind it has been advocated by health experts for many years – since the 1960s at the very least.

Conventional nutrition science espoused since the 1950s is turned on its head in some ways, but people in the alternative sector mostly realised these were wrong-headed long ago. It’s good to see this brought out into the open, though.

Clean eating defined

Most aspects of clean eating are fairly normal parts of a healthy diet. The biggest major innovation is the recommendation to eat five or six small meals a day, instead of the usual three larger ones. Some people may find this difficult to fit in with their working lives, but you shouldn’t let this put you off the whole concept. If you can’t split your eating times up like this, it’s not a roadblock, you can still eat the right foods.

The main idea that should guide you is eliminating highly processed foods like ready meals and junk food including take out burgers and pizza. There’s nothing to stop you from making clean versions of these products at home, of course.

What’s on the menu

Aside from changing the number of meals you have a day, the focus is on following a diet of unprocessed or minimally processed foods: fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, nuts, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), whole grains and pasta, organic wherever possible and free range eggs. This means, for example, that butter is preferred over factory-produced substitutes and margarine.

Unlike some diets, both red and white meat is included if you wish, but try to avoid factory produced meat – go for organic if you can afford it, and definitely avoid meat from animals raised with hormones. Wild is best, but unless you live in Alaska you probably can’t get this most of the time; pastured/outdoor-reared is an acceptable substitute.

Use healthy fats and oils like coconut oil, olive oil, butter or ghee for frying; avocado oil, olive oil, sesame oil or walnut oil for dressings (mixed with apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon, lime or orange juice). Avoid soya oil, rapeseed (canola) oil and generic vegetable oil.

If you eat dairy products, choose full fat, organic milk, cheese, yoghurt etc. preferably from grass fed cows. If you prefer, unsweetened dairy milk like plain almond, rice or coconut milks without additives are OK, too. Soy milk is all right occasionally, but not in large quantities due to its effects on hormone levels.

Try to eat about 60% fruit and veg, 20% protein and 20% carbs by volume (see image top right).

Clean eating isn’t rocket science, but it might give you a boost just the same. You’ll find a wide range of clean foods in my online store.

Why you should eat organic foods

Vegetable garden at Ham House Estate

Vegetable garden at Ham House Estate

Someone asked me why you should eat organic food. Quick answer: it’s chemical, additive and GMO-free. Read on for more information.

Organic food is grown entirely without chemicals and is generally agreed to taste far superior to conventionally grown crops.

Organic food is good for you! It’s official. Recent studies have shown that food produced organically contains more nutrients and almost no chemical residues. Eat as much organic produce as you can afford, for the sake of your health.

Organic meat and fish

It’s becoming easier to find suppliers of organically produced meat. Some supermarkets stock it, and there are specialised butchers in most larger towns. Freshly caught fish may be more difficult to find in the shops, but it’s pretty much as organic as it gets, since until it is pulled on board, it is swimming wild. With both meat and fish, the fresher, the better, of course.

Organic fruit and vegetables

Much of the food you get in the shops is not very good, even though it’s beautifully presented and the fresh produce is probably all the same colour, shape and size, maybe even polished. It looks wonderful on the outside, but on the inside it’s really not that good. The fruit and vegetables you find in supermarkets (which is where most of us do our shopping) are often not just short on flavour, but also on many of the minerals that used to be in food, which the human body needs to survive in a healthy state.

You can buy organic food in some supermarkets. The range tends to be a bit limited compared to the standard produce, and the prices are usually quite a bit higher. At least they have some taste, though. It’s amazing, eating a carrot with some flavour after the cardboard imitations we’ve all got used to, and the same goes for the other fruit and veg, as well.

Get gardening

If you can’t afford to buy enough organic food to get your five portions of fruit and veg a day, you could consider growing some of your own. Non-gardeners may find this idea a bit daunting, but you can start off with the easier things like french beans, herbs and salads. It really isn’t that difficult, and you will find the taste of freshly-picked produce which you have cooked straight away, is ten times better than anything you can get in the shops. It’s so convenient to walk out of your kitchen door to pick a few veg for dinner, and really satisfying to think that they are ‘all your own work’.

A good site about organic gardening for beginners is GardenZone.