Dr Libby on bananas
Bananas went through a phase of being touted as something to avoid due to their carbohydrate content but thankfully people are recognising their many health benefits and are turning back to them.
Bananas are higher in energy than most fruits; they’re a good source of complex carbohydrate, yet tend to be one of the most easily digested fruits making them suitable for people who can’t tolerate other fruits as well. What is unique about the banana is that it also provides resistant starch, which is a starch that resists digestion and goes all the way through the small intestine, passing into the large intestine to act much like fibre. Resistant starch offers many benefits including being used as a food for the friendly bacteria in the bowel, which in turn helps to protect the bowel. Resistant starch also has a satiating effect meaning it will help you to feel fuller for longer.
Slow release or complex carbohydrate snacks can be useful for healthy blood glucose management. They are great eaten with breakfast or for morning tea, perhaps with a handful of nuts. Bananas are the best fruit source of vitamin B6. One medium-sized banana provides approximately 25 per cent of daily needs. Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin and GABA, critical to happiness and sleep cycles. Bananas are also a good source of vitamin C, known for its antioxidant and anti-aging effects. Less well known however is that vitamin C is needed to make collagen, an important connective tissue structure, which helps make bones, teeth and connective tissues in the body. It’s also important for the maintenance of healthy skin and the prevention of wrinkles.
Bananas also contain potassium, an essential mineral and a major electrolyte found in the human body. It plays an important role in electrolyte regulation, nerve function, muscle control, and blood pressure regulation. Potassium is found within all cells of the body. It functions to regulate water and mineral balance. It also works with sodium to maintain blood pressure. Research suggests that dietary potassium may provide a protective effect against hypertension (high blood pressure) and it is essential for a healthy heart rhythm. A good potassium intake has also been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Bananas are a truly nourishing snack. They’re great for athletes and easy to transport. They are also easily incorporated into desserts, as a substitute for icecream and in baking. Try peeling a ripe banana, wrapping it and freezing it. It can then be mashed or pushed through a juicer for a delicious icecream. Next week I will share a recipe for a salted caramel thickshake that uses bananas as a base.