Are bananas healthy? Short answer: Yes.
Some Banana History
Humans have been cultivating bananas for thousands of years – there is evidence bananas were an agricultural crops as far back as 5000 – 8000 BCE.
Bananas are indigenous to east Asia but were pretty much unknown in the United States prior to 1873 when Jules Verne gushed about bananas in his novel Around the World in Eighty Days. In the book bananas are praised as being “as healthy as bread and as succulent as cream.” The novel was a great success and descriptions of the banana therein are credited with creating a curiosity and demand for bananas in the U.S.
Bananas are now the most consumed fresh fruit in America (about 27 pounds per person annually on average) and are a consistent number-one selling item at Walmart superstores. Wow. Over 100 billion bananas are consumed annually worldwide. Bananas are the 4th largest agricultural product in the world (behind wheat, rice and corn).
Bananas Are Healthy
In addition to being sweet, creamy and delicious, bananas are quite healthy. They are high in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, vitamins B6 and C, and fiber.
What about all the sugar and carbs? Doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t eat bananas? No!
As with all fruits, the naturally occurring sugar in bananas has not been shown to lead to weight gain or spikes in blood sugar. Bananas, while having more naturally-occurring sugar than most fruits, still has a relatively low glycemic index (which varies depending on how ripe the banana is). In my research pretty much every article I ready by a nutritionist said “bananas will not make you gain weight” and that they have a lot of health benefits.
A Few Very Interesting Facts About Bananas:
- Bananas are botanically considered berries. They don’t grow on trees but rather the banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowing plant.
- There are over 1,000 species of bananas and not all of them are yellow!
- The species of banana we consume in the U.S. is called the Cavandish. The prior primary species of banana, the Gros Michel, were larger, sweeter and creamier than the Cavandish but were wiped out due to a fungus in the 1950s. Here’s a great article where the author goes on a quest to find and eat a Gros Michel banana: A Quest for the Gros Michel.
- Bananas ripen at different speeds depending on whether they are separated or kept connected as a bunch. Separating bananas causes them to ripen more slowly. Source. To slow the ripening even more wrap the stem in plastic wrap. Explanation behind why separating and wrapping the stems works here.
- Bananas are slightly radioactive. This is because they have high amounts of potassium, including Potassium-40 – a radioactive isotope.
- Bananas contain tryptophan and Vitamin B6 which together have been shown to assist the body in the production of serotonin which is a chemical produced in the brain which improves mood and battles depression.
- Placing bananas in the refrigerator causes their skins to turn brown, but greatly slows the ripening of the fruit. Even though the skin will look gross, the inside will remain delicious. So – if you have some bananas that have reached your preferred stage of ripeness – put them in the refrigerator.
Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit
I get the newspaper off the driveway, make a cup of coffee and pick up a banana. Take all three to the kitchen table and spend about a hour each morning consuming the Paper, the coffee and the banana. Ben my routine 5 days a week for about 10 years now. The other two days I play golf so I do away with reading the newspaper.
Also, fun fact #16….banana bunches grow with the loose tips pointing skywards.
I read somewhere that bananas were going extinct. True?
So – it’s interesting – the Cavendish banana we all eat has no genetic diversity. They are all clones. They look and taste the same no matter where you buy them. But, that lack of diversity leaves them exposed to being wiped out by a single fungus or disease -like what happened to the Gros Michel banana in the 1950s and 1960s. So – history may repeat itself. We’ll see . . .