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.
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
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:
- The vitamin content makes bananas helpful for avoiding macular degeneration.
- 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%.
- 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.
- 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.
- A banana will help to protect against muscle cramps from working out and night time leg cramps.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
- Bananas are safe during pregnancy and help avoid morning sickness by keeping blood sugar levels steady.
Bananas and mental health
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?