Bananas are the bright yellow fruits that you can find in your grocery store any time of the year. Americans love bananas. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, bananas are the most popular fresh fruit sold in the United States. They're not too expensive, they're easy to keep fresh, and they're also easy to serve - just peel one and eat it.
A banana is an excellent source of potassium, which your body needs to maintain proper fluid balance and for normal nerve and muscle function. A medium banana (about seven to eight inches in length) has over 400 milligrams potassium. It also has about three grams of fiber, provides some magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C and has about 100 calories.
Bananas may possibly act as prebiotics that help support the growth of probiotic bacteria, the helpful kinds of bacteria that live in your digestive tract.
Researchers of a small study published in 2010 found that participants who ate bananas every day had slightly more probiotic bacteria than those in the control and placebo groups. The subjects who ate the bananas also had a little less bloating throughout the study.
Types of Bananas
The Cavendish is the most common variety of banana. It's the typical yellow fruit you find in the fresh produce section. Small Finger Bananas and red bananas are also available at certain times of the year. You may also find plantains, which are similar in appearance to bananas, but they are starchy and not as sweet as Cavendish bananas. Frozen and dehydrated banana slices are also available.
Selecting and Storing Bananas
Choose bananas with yellow peels that are firm and not bruised. Avoid bananas that feel soft and have brown spots. You can buy bananas that are still green, but you'll probably want to give them a day or two to ripen. Bananas can be stored at room temperature, at least until they fully ripen, then you can keep them in the refrigerator if you wish. Refrigerated banana peels turn brown, but the flesh inside will be fine.
Keep Them Away From Your Apples
You may want to keep your bananas away from apples because the apples give off a gas that accelerates the ripening process and your bananas may become too soft too soon.
Bananas can be eaten just as they are or they can be sliced and added to oatmeal, cold cereal, or yogurt. Keep some chunks of bananas in the freezer for fruit smoothies - they add flavor and texture. Bananas are also featured in such decadent desserts as Bananas Foster and the Banana Split. Very ripe bananas can also be used to make, banana pudding, sweet breads and muffins.
Healthy Banana Recipes
Serving foods made with bananas may please your cravings for sweetness, but be sure to look for recipes that don't add too much sugar or fat. Here are some healthier banana treats:
- Low Fat Banana Bread (Vegan)
- Baked Bananas With Coconut
- Frozen Fruit Smoothie
- Sugar-Free Banana Nut Bread
- Low-Fat Banana Muffins
- Low-Fat Banana Bread Pudding
- Southern-Style Gluten-Free Banana Meringue Pudding
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fruit of the Month: Banana." Accessed April 27, 2012. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/banana.html
Mitsou EK, Kougia E, Nomikos T, Yannakoulia M, Mountzouris KC, Kyriacou A. "Effect of banana consumption on faecal microbiota: a randomised, controlled trial." Anaerobe. 2011 Dec;17(6):384-7.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24. "Nutrient data for 09040, Bananas, raw." Accessed April 27, 2012.http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2260