Have you found yourself so busy that you forget to eat? Or like me, it’s trying to decide what to eat and the preparation that’s a bother. Especially in the mornings, there is so much to plan and organize that the last thing I want to think about is what to eat. The end result is that I grab anything easy without any regard for nutritional value and it sets the tone for a day of mindless choices that aren’t healthy. Cravings also kick in as my body tries to let me know that it needs real food. Unfortunately, I tend to misinterpret those cravings and rather than eat real food, I indulge myself with doughnuts, pasta, salty chips and loads of coffee. Yep, I do. Then I complain indignantly about how my body isn’t playing fair! I feel sluggish, tired, out of sorts and blame it on my body. What’s that old saying ….. “a bad workman always blames his tools.” Well that’s me, my body is to blame when really it’s me who is in charge of what I put in it.
It’s not an easy task to change bad habits. It doesn’t happen over night and it takes a lot of effort. It has to be a sustained effort and that’s where I fall short. I start out well, but things slowly slide back to how they were before. It’s a comfort zone that’s hard to shift. What I need are some concrete, easy tools to help me in my pursuit of health. Now don’t laugh, but I think I’ve found something that will help me a lot: Bananas!
Bananas are the easiest thing in the world to eat. They come in their own packaging, are easy to store, need no preparation and can be transported anywhere. Besides that, they are packed with soooo many nutrients and benefits, they are truly a super food. So that’s it, bananas are my new secret weapon. Of course, in moderation.
Here are some fascinating facts about bananas from www.livescience.com.
Bananas are good for your heart. They are packed with potassium, a mineral electrolyte that keeps electricity flowing throughout your body, which is required to keep your heart beating. Bananas’ high potassium and low sodium content may also help protect your cardiovascular system against high blood pressure, according to the FDA.
Depression and mood
Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression “due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter,” Flores said. Plus, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles.
Digestion and weight loss
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss, according to Flores. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings. They also help sustain blood sugar levels during workouts.
Carrots may get all the glory for helping your eyes, but bananas do their share as well. The fruits contain a small but significant amount of vitamin A, which is essential for protecting your eyes, maintaining normal vision and improving vision at night, according to the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A contains compounds that preserve the membranes around your eyes and are an element in the proteins that bring light to your corneas. Like other fruits, bananas can help prevent macular degeneration, an incurable condition, which blurs central vision.
Bananas may not be overflowing with calcium, but they are still helpful in keeping bones strong. According to a 2009 article in the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, bananas contain an abundance of fructooligosaccharides. These are nondigestive carbohydrates that encourage digestive-friendly priobotics and enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Some evidence suggests that moderate consumption of bananas may be protective against kidney cancer. A 2005 Swedish study found that women who ate more than 75 servings of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of kidney cancer by 40 percent, and that bananas were especially effective. Women eating four to six bananas a week halved their risk of developing kidney cancer.
Bananas may be helpful in preventing kidney cancer because of their high levels of antioxidant phenolic compounds.
Eaten in moderation, there are no significant side effects associated with eating bananas. However, eating the fruits in excess may trigger headaches and sleepiness, Flores said. She said that such headaches are caused by “the amino acids in bananas that dilate blood vessels.” Overripe bananas contain more of these amino acids than other bananas. “Bananas can also contribute to sleepiness when eaten in excess due to the high amount of tryptophan found in them,” she said. Magnesium also relaxes the muscles — another sometimes-benefit, sometimes-risk.
Bananas are a sugary fruit, so eating too many and not maintaining proper dental hygiene practices can lead to tooth decay. They also do not contain enough fat or protein to be a healthy meal on their own, or an effective post-workout snack.
Eating bananas becomes significantly risky only if you eat too many. The USDA recommends that adults eat about two cups of fruit a day, or about two bananas. If you eat dozens of bananas every day, there may be a risk of excessively high vitamin and mineral levels.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reported that potassium overconsumption can lead to hyperkalemia, which is characterized by muscle weakness, temporary paralysis and an irregular heartbeat. It can have serious consequences, but you would have to eat about 43 bananas in a short time for any symptoms of hyperkalemia to occur.
According to the NIH, consuming more than 500 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily can possibly lead to nerve damage in the arms and legs. You would have to eat thousands of bananas to reach that level of vitamin B6.
Banana peels: edible or poisonous?
It turns out that the biggest risk from a banana peel might really be slipping on it. Banana peels are not poisonous. In fact, they’re edible, and packed with nutrients. “Banana peel is eaten in many parts of the world, though [it’s] not very common in the west,” Flores said. “It contains high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium. It also contains some fiber and protein.” According to a 2011 article in the journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, banana peels also have “various bioactive compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and others.”
It is important to carefully wash a banana peel before eating it due to the pesticides that may be sprayed in banana groves.
Banana peels are usually served cooked, boiled or fried in some capacity, though they can be eaten raw or put in a blender with other fruits. They are not as sweet as banana flesh. Riper peels will be sweeter than unripe ones.
- Bananas may have been the world’s first cultivated fruit. Archaeologists have found evidence of banana cultivation in New Guinea as far back as 8000 B.C.
- Bananas are produced mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as the Canary Islands and Australia.
- Bananas do not grow on trees. The banana plant is classified as an arborescent (tree-like) perennial herb, and the banana itself is considered a berry.
So what’s your secret weapon for eating healthy? How do you manage those busy times and naughty cravings?