Fruit of the Month: Bananas
Bananas are healthy, convenient, delicious and one of the most affordable fresh fruits you can buy. This everyday fruit also known as the “first superfood” is packed with fiber and vitamins to supply your body with nutrients and make you feel satiated. They contain a variety of essential nutrients and may benefit weight loss, digestion, and heart health. On average, each American consumes around 90 bananas or 27 pounds a year.
You Make Me Peel Good
A large banana is around 8- to 9-inches long and is equal to one serving of fruit. There are about 120 calories and 490 milligrams of potassium per banana. That’s 19% of a woman’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and 15% of a man’s. Potassium can remove sodium from the body and relax blood vessel walls to assist in maintaining blood pressure. Also, bananas are a good plant source of vitamin B6, which is essential for the body’s nervous system, brain, and immune system.
Peel the Burn!
Bananas are a great food for athletes. This is mainly due to their content of easily digested carbs, along with the minerals potassium and magnesium, both of which act as electrolytes. Electrolytes are lost through sweat during vigorous exercise. Resupplying your body with potassium and magnesium after sweating may decrease exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness. *Specific research on the effects of bananas on cramping, exercise recovery, and exercise performance is insufficient.
I Find You Appeeling
Bananas are a breakfast staple. Their natural sweetness pairs well with the tartness of yogurt and adds a nice texture and flavor to hot oatmeal. Bananas by themselves or a part of a creamy smoothie is a great portable option for breakfast on the go.
Banana vs. Plantain
While similar in looks, their tastes vary greatly. The more common bananas in grocery stores are called “desert bananas,” and have a sweet flavor. Plantains, a staple in diets of various tropical regions, are not as sweet. Plantains are a starchy fruit that are too firm to eat raw. They are typically eaten steamed, boiled, or fried and served more like potatoes.
A Bunch of Bananas
Many people refer to a typical grouping of bananas as a “bunch of bananas.” However, this is incorrect. A single banana is called a finger and a grouping of fingers is referred to as a hand. Multiple hands grow together to form a bunch, and a single bunch of bananas can contain as many as 20 hands!
Not all bananas are curved. Bananas come in many different shapes and sizes besides curved. Some bananas are long and straight, and others are rounder and ball shaped. Bananas do not grow on trees. Bananas actually grow from a giant herb and the fruit produced is referred to as “berries.” The current leading grower and exporter of bananas in the world is Ecuador with the Philippines coming in second. Hawaii is the sole U.S. state that grows bananas commercially.
Besides the fiber and nutrient dense fruit portion of a banana, the banana peels contain protective chemicals called antioxidants. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay certain types of cell damage. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The peels can be used in home remedies to aid in skin irritations and to reduce swelling.
Storage Dos and Don’ts
Bananas should be stored in a cool dry place. They will not ripen inside the fridge and will turn brown quickly after slicing without the aid of pineapple or lemon juice to keep them fresh. If they are stored too close to other fruits such as apples, they will ripen too fast. Also, do not put them in plastic bags because the bananas will rot fast and must be discarded.