Bananas (Musa Spp)

The wondrous zipped up carbohydrate-rich food; bananas provide us with an instant and sustained boost of energy. But these guys get a bad rep from time to time. Here’s a heap of facts about bananas for you to take away and make your own decision on them!

One medium bananas contains about 27g carbohydrates (14.4g sugar: glucose (5.9g), fructose (5.7g) and sucrose (2.8g); 3.1g dietary fibre; 6.4g starch).

One banana yields about 105 kilocalories.

They are a really good source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6. Plus they have some vitamin A, C and D (helping us absorb calcium).

ORAC (antioxidant) units is 1, 037 (similar to that of oranges and kiwi fruit).

Traditionally, bananas have been used for medicinal applications, namely digestive disorders (such as diarrhoea, colitis, ulcers, dyspepsia and protein allergies) and as an anti-biotic (truly-ripe bananas + their peel).

The energy we source from bananas is fantastic before a workout to help us go harder, for longer. And alternatively post workout, they are great to replenish those glycogen stores. Half-half, before and after?

The potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6 are all really crucial micronutrients for athletes as well! Great to consume these around your training sessions.

Studies exerted on cyclists show the increased antioxidant capacity (due to enhanced glutathione production) and increase in dopamine levels when ingesting bananas (please note the affect of dopamine does not enhance mood in this case, as it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, though it may be responsible for the added antioxidant affects). Anti-inflammatory affects were also notable for pre and post exercise ingestion of nanas.

Why is this important?

When we push our body to extreme exertion during exercise, we leave it open to a window of decreased immunity. Antioxidants help decrease oxidative stress and also boost our immune function. Ever trained around someone who is sick and you catch it straight away? It’s because when you exercise, your body is more susceptible to catching other’s bugs. Be mindful when you are sick to stay away from your gym!

Moving on to our gut health, because I am so passionate about the gut microbiome! It is suggested that bananas are great for your microbiota and again, here it is also noting how they may help stimulate the immune system (in relation to positively affecting gut bacteria). Super cool!

Because bananas contain a heap of prebiotic goodness, they help feed the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which is what helps promote a healthy microbiome. This is really interesting because research is saying that bananas actually help weight management by assisting with our gut function. Go figure! It’s also been shown that bananas can help to reduce bloating and do not have a negative effect on bowel movements. Win-win, ladies!

Apparently, bananas are also great for when you have a hangover! The combo of electrolytes and sugar helps to rehydrate the body, provide energy and, because of their digestive benefits, they help to calm the stomach. Like one big hangover-hug!

And, drum roll please, chowing down on bananas could help depression. Depleted tryptophan levels (precursor to serotonin – our feel good hormone) are related to low mood and psychological behaviour (see here). Consuming foods high in tryptophan, like bananas, is one step in the right direction for nutrition tweaks to support healthy mood.

The only negative I can think of about bananas is that they are mucous-producing. I actually couldn’t find any research to support this (I didn’t look very hard, just did a general search and nothing came up – in comparison to all the other supported info!). So maybe just be mindful if you have, say, a sinus infection or a cold to cut down the nana intake.

Bananas are up there for containing the most sugar out of all of our fruits, yes. And they may cause more snot in your nose. But, really, all the positives I found about this delicious, satisfying food, way outweighs to negatives.

My personal account: If consumed around exercise when we need this form of fuel, it can be a beneficial food for daily consumption. If you’re nutritional intake is that of wholesome foods, with healthy preparation, then I don’t see why the nana would be bad for you! Particularly, if you are craving something sweet and whipping up some banana nice-cream keeps you from the Ben & Jerrys, I say go all-in there.

How to include bananas in your diet

▵ By themselves
▵ Smothered in nut butter
▵ In a smoothie
▵ Baked, in banana bread
▵ Lightly fried with butter & cinnamon
▵ In pancakes, as the sweetener
▵ In raw baking, like banofee pies!

Claire Hargreaves