Today’s article details the many incredible properties of the banana. This grocery store staple is so readily available that it can be easy to take it for granted. Yet the humble banana is truly a wonder, packed full of nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and build strong bones.
Read on to learn more about the history of the banana, its general health benefits, and a study that links a mineral found in bananas to optimal bone health. You’ll also find a pH-balanced gluten-free recipe for banana loaf that’s sure to become your new favorite!
Bananas: A Brief History
Until the advent of refrigeration and rapid transportation, you couldn’t get a banana unless you lived very near the tropical climates where they grow best. They are thought to have originated in Malaysia about 4,000 years ago. Over the millennia they were spread by traders and travelers around the globe.
You’re probably accustomed to seeing bunches of 4 to 8 bananas at the grocery store, but those small groups were cut from bunches of up to 25, which in turn are cut from clusters of as many as 150. The sweet banana, sibling to the starchier plantain, has many varieties in different sizes and colors, but the most widely available bananas are the familiar yellow fruits with a soft sweet inner flesh.
Bananas are a favorite treat for children and adults alike, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals.
What’s In A Banana
Here’s a breakdown of the most prevalent vitamins and minerals in a fresh medium-sized banana:
- Vitamin B6 – .43mg – 25% DV
- Vitamin C – 10.27 mg – 14% DV
- Manganese – .32 mg – 14% DV
- Fiber – 3.07 g – 11% DV
- Copper – .09 mg – 10% DV
- Biotin (Vitamin B7) – 3.07 mcg – 10% DV
- Potassium – 422.44 mg – 9% DV
Digestive Benefits Of Bananas
The fiber content of bananas makes them highly beneficial to the digestive system. Even though bananas are quite sweet, containing around 14 grams of sugar, they have a low glycemic load. That means they don’t cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels, even though they’re high in carbohydrates. As bananas ripen, their concentration of water-soluble pectins increases along with their ratio of fructose to other sugars. This normalizes the rate of carbohydrate digestion, preventing rapid changes in blood sugar levels.
They also contain fructooligosaccharides, which are fructose-containing carbohydrates not broken down by the digestive process until they reach the lower intestine, where they are metabolized by bacteria. These bacteria promote healthy digestion, and studies have shown that you can increase the presence of these helpful microbiota by consuming bananas on a regular basis.1
Cardiovascular Benefits Of Bananas
Potassium is the compound most commonly linked to the benefits of bananas. The maintenance of potassium levels is important in reducing cramps, especially in athletes. Potassium is also a powerful normalizer of blood pressure, in part due to the plant sterols bananas contain. This type of fat helps balance cholesterol, which studies have shown prevents cardiovascular disease.2
Bananas are rich in potassium and vitamin B6, have a low glycemic load, are fibrous, regulate cholesterol, and promote healthy microbiota, making them a powerful tool for maintaining general health.
Bananas Protect Your Bones
Many of the already mentioned benefits of bananas support bone health. A strong digestive system is essential for absorbing the nutrients your body needs to build bone. Many of the most prevalent compounds present in bananas are Foundation Supplements:
- Vitamin B6 supports the production of glutathione, the Master Antioxidant,, which is essential to protecting bone cells from oxidative damage.
- Manganese is critical for the production of collagen, which makes up much of the bone matrix, as well as calcium absorption and the production of the antioxidant manganese Superoxide Dismutase (MnSOD).
- Copper helps construct connective tissue throughout the body, including in bones, and it works with manganese in the production of Superoxide Dismutase.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body and your bones from oxidative damage, is necessary for collagen synthesis, and is well known as an immune booster.
But it’s the banana’s most well-known mineral that proves the most powerful bone protector: potassium.
Potassium is an alkalizing mineral, which explains why bananas are an alkalizing food. When the body’s pH balance becomes too acidic, acidosis occurs, and the body responds by rapidly leaching alkalizing minerals from bone to rectify the imbalance. Potassium helps to prevent this by providing the means to balance the pH without eating away at the bone-matrix.
The interstitial fluid that surrounds crystalline bone contains high concentrations of potassium. Researchers have shown that the potassium levels in this fluid are directly linked to potassium consumption- and that this potassium reserve acts as a buffer against metabolic acid loads- directly protecting the mineral density of your bones.3
Bananas contain several Foundation Supplements that are essential for healthy bones. The potassium in bananas is their most significant benefit, creating a pH-balancing line of defense to protect your bones.
A Recipe For Strong Bones
This recipe pairs potassium-rich bananas with alkalizing alternatives to processed wheat flour for a gluten-free pH-balanced treat that’s sure to please.
- 2 ripe bananas
- ½ cup coconut flour
- ½ cup almond meal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- ¼ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, mash bananas with a fork and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix coconut flour, almond meal, chocolate chips, and baking soda.
- Add the eggs, coconut oil, and honey, and yogurt to the mashed bananas and mix well.
- In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and stir in the walnuts or pecans.
- Oil a bread pan with olive oil and pour the batter.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, until fork or toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before serving.
It’s amazing what a little ingenuity in the kitchen can do for your bones. Keep seeking out the healthiest ways to make the foods you love. Your bones- and your taste buds- will thank you for it!
Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!
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Till next time,
1 Mitsou EK, et al. “Effect of banana consumption on faecal microbiota: a randomised, controlled trial.” Anaerobe. 2011 Dec;17(6):384-7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21524710
2 Gylling H, et al. “Plant sterols and plant stanols in the management of dyslipidaemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease.” Atherosclerosis. 2014 Feb;232(2):346-60. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24468148
3 Frances A. Tylavsky, Lisa A. Spence, Laura Harkness. “The Importance of Calcium, Potassium, and Acid-Base Homeostasis in Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention.” The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 138, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 164S–165S. Web. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/138/1/164S/4665005