We all love bananas, so much that the average American consume more bananas than many other popular fruits combined – around 27 pounds per person each year.
I’m sure by now you know that bananas are a great source of potassium, but what if there was more to a banana than just potassium?
Compelling research shows that bananas have an amazing range of little-known health benefits and what’s even more fascinating is that an overripe banana may be better for you than an under ripe one.
Let’s take a closer look at one of nature’s most common yet powerful fruits and how the ripeness of a banana affects its overall nutritional content.
Why You Should Eat a Banana a Day
A typical banana contains about 110 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of protein. Bananas are loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and Potassium.
Here’s what eating a banana a day can do for your health:
- Dietary fiber found in bananas assists in digestion
- A dose of vitamin B6 that can help your body produce white blood cells and boosts your immune system
- Vitamin C essential for warding off cancer-causing free radicals.
- Potassium found in bananas can help to lower blood pressure and even decrease your overall chance of dying from all causes by 20%
- Bananas can lower your risk of heart attack or stroke
- Bananas contain an amino acid that helps your body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and euphoria
- A banana a day lowers a child’s risk of developing asthma by 34%
- Bananas can replenish your electrolytes after being dehydrated
- Tryptophan, another neurotransmitter found in bananas, may improve memory and enhance mood
Under Ripe or Overripe Bananas – Which Should You Eat?
What you may not know about bananas is that the ripeness affects the nutritional content. As a banana ripens, its skin develops dark, brown spots that grow with time and the banana also becomes softer.
What’s really happening is this: the starchy carbohydrates are changing into free sugars making them easier to digest.
Green bananas are full of hard-to-digest starches that can upset your stomach and cause indigestion, bloating, inflammation and gas. This is also why an overripe banana tastes sweeter than an under ripe banana. The sweetness can even help curb your appetite!
A study done at Aarhus University in Denmark in 1992 measured the effects of overripe and under ripe bananas on the glycemic index of individuals with type-II diabetes.
Participants were divided into groups and given overripe bananas, under ripe bananas, or plain white bread at standard intervals.
The study found that the group receiving only the overripe bananas saw a greater glycemic response that could be attributed to the increased sugar content in the overripe bananas.
Overripe bananas aren’t the best snack if you’re suffering from type-II diabetes. Instead, you could give an underripe banana or just barely yellow banana a try, as they elicit a much milder glycemic response.
If you want your bananas to ripen at a slower pace, store them in the fridge. Heat will help to speed up the ripening process, so stick them near a warm area or by indirect sunlight on your countertop to enjoy that sweetness a little bit sooner.
Bananas Better Than A Sports Drink?
Researchers at Appalachian State University in 2012 compared the effects that popular sports drinks and bananas have on the bodies of athletes during intense training sessions.
Cyclists were given either half a banana or a cup of sports drink every 15 minutes during a long race. While the performances of both groups of cyclists were comparable, the blood tests revealed a different story. Blood samples were taken before and after the race and were later analyzed. The cyclists who consumed bananas during the race received a more healthful, efficient mix of nutrients than those who were given sports drinks.
The mix of antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6 in bananas translated to “healthier carbohydrate sources … that support athletic performance just as well as a sports drink,” according to chief researcher David C. Nieman.
While the study does not specify as to the ripeness of the bananas used, it’s plain to see that a banana, regardless of ripeness, is a better alternative to sugary sports drinks.
While an all-banana diet (yes, such a thing exists) won’t turn you into superman, they are an integral part of any healthful diet.
Listen to your body and take care of its needs. Sometimes, a banana may be just what you need.