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?


Men’s Health: How men can stay stronger longer

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The reason for men’s shorter life expectancy is that they often don’t look after their health

In many ways, the term men’s health is almost an oxymoron. Most men ignore their health completely until something goes wrong – but staying healthy is much easier if you start when you’re in reasonably good shape.

Though billed as the stronger sex, men have a lower life expectancy than women. Married men tend to live longer than single ones, possibly because they get so caught up in doing other things they forget to look after themselves.

You can buck the trend

Some of the causes of early death in men are heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease and chronic liver disease or cirrhosis. Of these, all except diabetes and some types of kidney disease are completely preventable, and even some forms of diabetes are self-inflicted!

If you want to buck the trend and avoid an early grave, you need to do something about it. Make health a priority so that you will live longer and improve your quality of life.

Just do it!

Most men enjoy sport – at least, they enjoy watching it. But sitting in front of the television with a 6-pack and a selection of snacks is not going to help you ‘live long and prosper’. You’ve gotta get out there and do it, as Nike says.

Life’s changed a lot since we left our caves; from the health point of view, not all for the better. Nowadays, instead of chasing after a wild boar for a couple of hours to get dinner, you can just ring up for a pizza. Your average cave man got plenty of regular exercise. You need to get some, too.

There are lots of ways of going about this. Working out in the gym, football, cycling or jogging are all possible options. If you have access to the countryside, especially a hilly area, walking or trekking is another idea. There are plenty of other possibilities to choose from, though, so if none of these appeal, think of something you will enjoy – what about kayaking? swimming? golf? – so that you are more likely to succeed.

Sweet tooth

One of the other problems for men’s health is the amount of sugar in our diet. Alcohol, chocolate and snacks (even crisps and similar products) all contain sugar, the main cause of late-onset diabetes. Diabetes can bring on many other problems, including blindness and gangrene, not something any of us would like to experience.

Refined sugar is one of the worst things you can eat. Whenever you eat it, your blood sugar level soars, then a short time later, plummets. That’s why it is so dangerous – it can easily lead to hypoglycaemia, and finally diabetes. Trust me, you do not want to give yourself diabetes!

In nature, sugar is part of a whole complex of different vitamins and minerals and it is never found in its pure state. So, if you want something sweet, think about fresh fruit, or if you prefer it, you can get dried fruit – anything from raisins to apricots – or tinned fruit in fruit juice (but avoid fruit in syrup). This way, even if you are still satisfying your craving for something sweet, it’s in a healthier form.

There are other possibilities, as well. For example, there are lots of really nice cereal bars, especially the organic ones, some of them chocolate coated. And you can also get low-fat desserts, though these are not so good, as they either contain refined sugar or nasty chemicals like aspartame, or both.

Slowly does it

Do you like fast food? Or do you feel obliged to eat on the run, so you go for the quickest option? A recent study has found that people who take time over their food and allow some time for it to digest – even if it’s junk food – are healthier than people who just eat and run. Maybe the old saw about chewing every mouthful 25 times had something going for it after all!

Of course, it’s not just the speed factor that makes junk food unhealthy. Almost without exception, real food has better nutritional value and lower fat content than its fast food equivalent. I know you’re busy – but try to take just a little more time, and consider what you eat more carefully. This is probably the most important change you can make to improve your health.

Smoke gets in more than your eyes

Many health problems are directly related to smoking. I know it’s hard, but if you can possibly manage it, do your level best to give up the ‘evil weed’. When you do, within a couple of months you will notice an improvement in your health, even without any other changes to your lifestyle. It will also make it a lot easier to take part in your chosen sport – and think of all the money you’ll save!

Another little known fact about smoking is that it lowers your ability to absorb some of the essential nutrients in your food. Levels of certain vitamins and minerals in smokers are much lower than in non-smokers. This means that, as well as directly causing blockages in lungs and the blood vessels, it stops you getting all that you need from your food as well, so it’s a double whammy.

Spice up your sex life

Sexual health is another area which can be a worry for some men. Excess weight makes you less attractive to women, as well as reducing your sexual appetite and ability. Smoking reduces fertility and causes erectile dysfunction.

Make sure you’re getting enough

Finally, if you aren’t sure you are getting all the nutrients you need, it can’t hurt to take a supplement, especially if you are a smoker.

You may not have the energy you had when you were a teenager, but you will certainly have a lot more if you follow these simple tips.

I offer a selection of products for men in my online shop.