A global favorite and one of the world’s largest fruit crop, right up there with grapes, citrus and apples.
There are hundreds of species, but the large, yellow eating type you find in your supermarket is likely to be the Cavendish.
Other varieties include the short, chunky red, the baby (also known as a dwarf or ladyfinger) and the Manzano, which has berry and apple flavors.
No matter what variety you choose, this super fruit is a healthy choice for lunchboxes and between-meal snacks.
A Bunch of Potassium
Decrease risk of stroke
Lower high blood pressure Relieve heartburn
Speed recovery from diarrhea
Something about these super fruits makes people laugh.
You'd think that these yellow-skinned beauties were made for the comedy club.
But here's something that you'll want to take seriously.
Studies have shown that the fruit beneath that slippery skin can do wonders for our health.
These super fruits may help prevent conditions ranging from heart attack and stroke to high blood pressure and infection.
They can even help heal ulcers.
Indeed, despite our lack of reverence, we can eat bananas by the bunches, with every man, woman, and child tossing down about 27 pounds of them each year.
After learning more about the remarkable health benefits, you may want to make that 28.
Bananas for the Heart
If the needle on the blood pressure cuff has been inching up in recent years, it may be time for a tropical vacation.
If the sun and surf don't bring your pressure down, these super fruits sure will.
Bananas are one of nature's best sources of potassium, with each fruit providing about 396 milligrams, 11 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of this essential mineral.
Study after study shows that people who eat foods rich in potassium have a significantly lower risk of high blood pressure and related diseases like heart attack and stroke.
Even if you already have high blood pressure, eating plenty of these yellow super fruits may significantly reduce or even eliminate your need for blood pressure medication, according to scientists.
Researchers believe that one of the ways that these super fruits keep blood pressure down is by helping to prevent plaque from sticking to artery walls.
They do this by keeping the "bad" low density lipo-protein cholesterol from oxidizing, a chemical process that makes it more likely to accumulate.
That's why these super fruits may be a good defense against atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, another contributor to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
And the best part is that you don't have to eat a boatload to get these benefits.
Just three to six servings can do the trick.
Studies show that you can get a significant impact from relatively small changes.
Our advice would be to think of potassium-rich foods like love and money: You can never get too much of either.
Though more research needs to be done, bananas may replace antacids in your medicine cabinet as an effective way to quell the inner flames of heartburn and indigestion.
Although experts don't know why they work, these yellow super fruits seem to act as a natural antacid.
In addition, they may be helpful for preventing and treating ulcers.
There have been a few studies showing that these fruits may have a protective effect in ulcer treatment.
But we need more research before we can know for sure.
Scientists suspect that they may guard against stomach damage in two ways.
First, a chemical in this super fruit called "protease inhibitor" appears to be able to kill off harmful, ulcer-causing bacteria before they do their dirty work.
Second, they seem to stimulate the production of protective mucus, the layer that helps prevent harsh acids from coming into contact with the tender stomach lining.
When you've been run ragged by a case of the runs, it's important that you replenish all the vital fluids and nutrients that diarrhea depletes.
And this super fruit is just the food to do it.
They're a very good source of electrolytes, like potassium, which you lose when you become dehydrated.
Electrolytes are minerals that turn into electrically charged particles in the body, helping to control almost everything that happens inside, from muscle contractions and fluid balance to the beating of the heart.
In addition, these super fruits contain some pectin, a soluble fiber that acts like a sponge in the digestive tract, absorbing fluids and helping to keep diarrhea in check.
Getting the Most
Broaden your horizons.
Even if you're not all that fond of bananas as a snack, there are many other ways to get their healing goodness.
In Caribbean countries and Central and South America, for example, people frequently add them to everyday recipes, everything from meat loaf to casseroles.
Because of their mild, slightly sweet taste, they work well in almost any recipe.
Buy a bunch.
One reason that people don't eat a lot of these, is that they tend to get soft and mushy before you get around to eating them.
Here's a trick for keeping them fresh.
When these super fruits are getting soft too quickly, put them in your refrigerator.
This will quickly stop the ripening process.
(Don't be alarmed when the cold turns the skin black as the fruit inside will still be fresh and tasty.)
On the other hand, when you're waiting for that bunch of green to ripen, it's easy to speed up the process.
Put them in a brown paper bag at room temperature.
The ethylene gas that's produced naturally will speed up the ripening.
A Buyer’s Guide
Bananas have been popular in the United States ever since they were wrapped in foil and priced at a dime apiece at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876.
At the turn of the century, the advent of refrigerated cargo holds made it easy for the giant United Fruit Company to import them by the boatload from the Caribbean, Central and South America.
What especially helped in the import process is the fact that, unlike most fruits, these super fruits develop a better flavor when allowed to ripen after picking.
All the varieties listed here are packed with nutrition and are a sweet, healthy treat.
Nutrition: At 105 calories, a medium (7 1/2-inch) banana is a nutrient powerhouse, providing vitamin-B6 (22% Daily Value), vitamin-C (15% DV), potassium (12% DV), magnesium (8% DV), folate (6% DV) and 3 grams fiber.
It also has virtually no fat, sodium or cholesterol.
Now appearing in many supermarkets, this variety is also known as the ladyfinger, bananito or murapo.
The sweetest of the commercial varieties, it tastes of cinnamon, guava and pineapple.
When to eat: Its thick skin turns yellow with black spots when ripe.
This smallish mahogany-colored fruit, also called Indio, Cuban Red, Jamaican Red, Macaboo and Morado, hails from Ecuador and Central America.
Its creamy white to pink flesh has a slight raspberry flavor and floral aroma.
Higher in vitamin-C than yellow varieties, it's also rich in carotene: the redder the color, the more carotene it contains.
When to eat: The skin should be bronze-black and yield to gentle pressure.
Also known as the "apple banana," the stubby Manzano has a sweet taste reminiscent of apples and strawberries.
When to eat: Its thick skin will be heavily mottled with black, but color isn’t always the best indicator: it should yield to gentle pressure before eating (when unripe, Manzanos can be very tannic).
The most common variety in North American supermarkets is cultivated by the majority of large-scale growers for worldwide distribution.
When to eat: Allow to ripen at room temperature and consume after its skin fully changes from green to yellow.
Now that you're wondering what to have for a yummy snack today ...
One small banana dipped into 2 Tbs. melted semisweet chocolate chips
8 g. fat,
5 g. saturated fat,
3 g. protein,
41 g. carbohydrates,
5 g. fiber,
5 mg. calcium,
1 mg. sodiumTweet
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