An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but apples are imported and can be expensive. How about bananas? It's a domestic product, available in the market all-year-round and much cheaper than apples. I grew up in a place surrounded by banana trees [it's not a tree, though, but an herb] and coconut trees, among others; and my grandmother had concocted more banana dishes than you can imagine! All parts of a banana tree are edible and extremely useful---leaves, flowers, heart, fruit, trunk, bark. Admittedly, I took bananas for granted until I was an adult, living in the city and have to buy bananas by the kilo.
The humble banana, I discovered, is a wonder fruit. Bananas consist mainly of sugar and fiber, which make them an ideal source of energy. No wonder it's a staple in the diets of athletes. And as a trying-hard jogger, I eat a banana before a run, or when I skipped a meal. My mother has high blood pressure and high cholesterol level, and aside from prescribed meds, the cardiologist recommends a diet with Saba banana daily for its rich potassium content that can reduce the incidence of a stroke.
Here are the health benefits of bananas:
- Anemia - bananas are relatively high in iron, which helps the body's hemoglobin function. Regular consumption of bananas and oranges in children from ages 0 to 2 may reduce the risk of childhood leukemia (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2004).
- Heartburn - bananas have a natural antacid effect on the body. Studies show that bananas can protect our stomachs against aspirin-induced gastritis. And if you've been out partying and drinking alcohol, the best way in preventing a hangover is lots of water and a banana or two before going to bed.
- Morning sickness - snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood-sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness. And if you didn't follow #2, have a banana shake when you woke up with a hangover.
- Ulcers - this is the only fruit that can be eaten without distress. It also helps reduce acidity and reduces irritation. Bananas stimulate the cells on the internal stomach lining to produce a thicker mucus (which protects against acid). Additionally, bananas contain protease inhibitors that help eliminate bacteria in the stomach that have been pinpointed as a primary cause of ulcers.
- Blood pressure - bananas are extremely high in potassium, and very low in sodium---a perfect combination in preventing high blood pressure. The US FDA has even allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
- Healthy kidney - research published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, is highly protective to kidney health. Bananas and many root vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants phenolic compounds, necessary for effective detoxification of potential carcinogens.
- Healthy bones - bananas are an exceptionally rich source of fructooligosaccharide, a compound that nourishes probiotic (friendly) bacteria in the colon. This probiotic bacteria protects us from unhealthy bacterial infections and increases our body's ability to absorb calcium.
- Eyesight protection - research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology has proven that adults consuming at least 3 servings of bananas a day have a reduced risk (by 36%) of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
- Constipation and Diarrhea - due to banana's fiber content, it helps restore a normal bowel function. In addition, diarrhea usually depletes your body of important electrolytes (of which the most important is potassium). Bananas also contain pectin, a soluble fiber (hydrocolloid) that can help normalize movement through the digestive tract.
- Stress relief and Depression - banana's high potassium content helps normalize the hearthbeat and regulate the body’s water balance. During periods of high stress, our body’s potassium levels tend to be rapidly depleted---eating bananas is a healthy way to rebalance them without taking drugs. Bananas also contain tryptophan, an aminoacid that converts into serotonin, leading to improved mood. So when you're sad or stressed, feel better by eating a banana instead of going shopping, smoking or comfort-eating.
- Nerves - bananas are high in Vitamin B that have been shown to improve nerve function.
- Smoking - bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. They contain vitamins B6 and B12, as well as potassium and magnesium: these substances help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
- Mosquito bites - many people report that rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a mosquito bite is very effective in reducing itching and swelling.
And when you're bored with ripe bananas, try banana chips. I chipped a canine tooth a few weeks ago while munching on these banana chips [but it was serendipity---a visit to the dentist has been long overdue, anyway], so be careful. I love munching on banana chips while watching TV---excellent jaw exercise.:p
How about some Banana Turon for an afternoon snack? I added some brown sugar and slivers of ripe langka or jackfruit to slices of ripe saba before wrapping [and deep-frying]. Banana Turon ala mode (with vanilla ice cream) is perfect on this sizzling afternoon.