Bananas have surely come a long way from being tropical fruits to the most widely consumed fruits globally. Packed neatly in their yellow jackets; bananas are economical, versatile and a healthy snack and dessert choice for kids and adults alike.
We already know that our favorite fruit is a storehouse of nutrients, essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But did you know that bananas along with cousin plantains can help lower our risk to asthma, heartburn, hypertension, and even stroke and cancer? Or were you aware that this creamy delicious fruit is not only a natural energy booster and stress buster but can also help to bestow a healthy glow to your hair and skin? Curious? Read on.
Banana vs Plantain Nutrition
Although both bananas and plantains belong to the same Musaceae family, they are quite unique in their appearance, taste and nutritional profiles. The thicker skinned and larger plantains are often considered to be a vegetable (and not a fruit) as they cannot be eaten raw and need prior cooking. Nutritionally, plantains are higher in starch and lower in sugar content than bananas. Native to South East Asia and Africa, plantains (or kachha kela in hindi) are more calorie dense (100g of plantain provides approx 125 calories as compared to 85 cal from 100g of banana) and richer source of potassium and vitamin A and C.
While bananas can be enjoyed in myriad recipes or just eaten raw; plantains are typically peeled, sliced and served baked, fried or roasted. Including both bananas and plantains as a part of healthy balanced diet is suggested to ensure better nutritional value and disease fighting attributes.
Here are the top 8 reasons for you to ‘go bananas’ over bananas:
- Potassium- When it comes to providing potassium, bananas are natural leaders. One medium sized banana contains approx 410mg of potassium, a mineral essential for maintaining optimum blood pressure levels and cardiovascular activity. The effectiveness of potassium containing foods such as bananas and plantains in preventing hypertension and atherosclerosis has been demonstrated by innumerable studies.
Being low in fat content and high in soluble fiber adds to the cardiovascular advantage of bananas. They also contain a specific type of sterols that help to mimic the cholesterol in the system and thus help to lower the absorption of dietary cholesterol and keep total lipid content in check.
- Fiber– Bananas contain a good amount of dietary fiber and pectin that work together to impart a low glycemic index to them. Consuming fiber helps to lower cholesterol and improve satiety.
- Vitamins and Minerals– Both bananas and plantains supply an impressive array of vitamins and minerals. Adding them to our diet can provide us with beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B complex and a range of minerals such as manganese, iron, calcium and copper. Vitamin A and C play a crucial role in improving immunity, and maintaining healthy eyes and heart function. Bananas are very good source of vitamin B6 and thiamine that help in hemoglobin production and manufacture of genetic material. Manganese and copper are needed for nerve transmission, carbohydrate metabolism and enzymatic activity.
- Peak performance– We often see athletes and sportspersons grabbing a banana during breaks and there is a good reason for that. The combination of slow releasing natural sugar and high potassium content (important for replenishing lost electrolytes) helps to keep the energy stores high and steady. Bananas might not be the best weight loss food but are certainly a great snack choice when consumed half an hour before your gym sessions or at work when you feel the energy levels lagging. The magnesium and potassium combo in bananas further aids in preventing muscle cramps, an added bonus for runners and fitness enthusiasts.
- Good for Digestion– Ayurveda recommends consuming ripe bananas to relieve symptoms of heart burn and treat stomach ulcers. They aid in creating a protective barrier on the stomach lining that helps to lower the damaging effects of elevated stomach acids. Consuming bananas also help to regularize the bowel movements and alleviate constipation and flatulence.
- Cancer Fighter– As a good source of antioxidant vitamin C and A and dietary fiber; bananas help to lower the free radical damage and provide protection against cancer.
- Mood Enhancer– Bananas are rich in amino acid tryptophan that are known to stimulate release of ‘happy mood’ inducing chemicals called serotonin.
- Skin Healer– Besides being a healthy addition to our diets, bananas also offer natural solutions to skin problems such as acne and psoriasis. Experts say rubbing mashed bananas over affected areas aid in reducing inflammation and itching. Banana peel treatment masks remove dirt and excess oil from the skin and impart a youthful and radiant skin.
Written by Panchali Moitra, originally published in B Positive Magazine