Going Bananas

September 3, 2010

Bananas are among the most widely consumed foods in the world. Bananas are botanically classified as berries of large herbaceous flowering plants native to tropical southeast Asia and Australia. First domesticated in Papua New Guinea, bananas are now grown in 107 countries around the world and are a staple starch for many populations. The top ten banana growing countries in the world are: India, Uganda, China, Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia, Cameroon, and Tanzania – with the top exporters being Ecuador, Costa Rica, Columbia, Philippines, and Guatemala.

The expression “going bananas” come from the effects that eating fermented bananas can have on the body, brain, and behavior – of both monkeys and men.

Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive (due to their potassium content). In addition to being eaten raw or cooked, bananas are made into wine and beer.

Bananas contain three natural sugars: sucrose, fructose, and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained, and substantial boost of energy. Two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. The banana is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes.

Energy isn’t the only benefit bananas can provide; regular consumption can also help prevent or overcome a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. Eating just one banana a day can increase immunity – and reduce the risks for cancer.

banana facts

According to the latest Japanese scientific research, a fully ripe banana with dark patches on yellow skin produces a substance called TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells. The more darker patches it has, the higher its immunity enhancement and anti-cancer quality. A yellow skin banana with dark spots on it is 8 times more effective in enhancing white blood cells than a green skin version.

banana shades

Anemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Bones: Bananas do not contain high amounts of calcium, but they do supply the body with an abundance of fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic substance (one which encourages probiotics, the friendly bacteria in the digestive system). As fructooligosaccharides ferment in the digestive tract, they enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium.

Brain power: Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Cramps: The absence of potassium and magnesium trigger cramps. Bananas contain high levels of both – and thus may prevent and/or help relieve cramps.

Depression: Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood, and generally make you feel happier.

Digestion: Rich in pectin, bananas aid digestion and gently chelate toxins and heavy metals from the body. Bananas also contain a substance called fructooligosaccharide that make stomach-friendly bacteria live much longer lives.

Eyesight: An 18-year study of more than 100,000 men and women found that increased fruit intake like that of bananas trumped vegetables when it came to certain vision improvements. Bananas contain vitamin A, which plays a role in protecting eye membranes and providing light to the cornea. In Nigeria, practitioners have been known to combine banana and an African herb called “Orinol” to treat cataracts and macular degeneration. The results have been successful.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Heart Health: Bananas are among the richest sources of potassium and they barely contain sodium.

HIV: Researchers found that BanLec, a lectin protein in bananas, binds to sugars and can also bind to HIV-infected cells, enveloping them and preventing their replication and transmission.

Morning sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Mood: Another benefit to bananas high potassium content derives from that mineral’s role as an energy-supplying electrolyte. Since bananas also contain tryptophan, serotonin and norepinephrine, they help prevent depression while encouraging feelings of well-being and relaxation. In addition, the vitamin B6 in bananas helps protect against sleeplessness, mood swings and irritability.

Mosquito bites: Try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins, which help calm the nervous system.

Overweight? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

PMS: The vitamin B6 bananas contain regulates blood glucose levels – affecting your mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain high amounts of the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

bananas in bed (2)
Sex: Bananas contain an abundance of libido-boosting nutrients that can help increase and sustain sexual enthusiasm (and performance).

Sleep: Tryptophan in bananas is more than capable of raising serotonin levels and could thus help people who find it very difficult to go to sleep.

Smoking and tobacco use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6 and B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain, and regulates your body’s water balance. Our metabolic rate rises when we are stressed, reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

Temperature control: Many cultures use bananas as a “cooling” fruit to lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers (and their babies). In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Ulcers: Bananas neutralize acidity and reduce irritation by coating the lining of the stomach. Bananas are the only fruit that can be eaten raw without distress.

Warts: To kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape.

When compared to an apple, a banana has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. Also rich in potassium, bananas are one of the best value foods around. Maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, “A banana a day may keep the need for a doctor away!”

Bananas may be the reason monkeys seem so happy all the time!

© 2010 – 2015, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

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