Just to the north of me here in Tel Aviv, near Haifa on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the worst wildfire in Israels history has finally been extinguished with the help of fire fighting forces from around the globe. The fire destroyed many of Israel’s banana trees.
That means bananas may be disappearing from my breakfast table for awhile. I eat a banana almost every morning, and I think that just about everyone ought to find a way to sneak a banana or two into their daily diet.
In the Gheranda Samhita, the ancient gurus recommended the same. They may have meant plantains, the forerunner of the modern banana cultivar, but they’re the essentially the same when it comes to healthy food. The health benefits of bananas are many.
Bananas are one of our best natural sources of potassium, a mineral that helps to maintain a normal blood pressure and normal heart function. In a meta-analysis of existing trials published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the authors concluded that it’s clear from the existing scientific literature that a low potassium intake may play an important role in the development of high blood pressure, and they recommend increasing potassium intake for its prevention and treatment.
The high potassium levels found in bananas may also help to keep bones healthy and to prevent osteoporosis. Potassium can counteract the loss of the body’s calcium through the urine which is caused by a high salt diet, thus preventing the bones from becoming too thin.
High intake of fruits and vegetables, particularly root vegetables, can prevent the development of cancer. A study out of the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden followed 61,000 women aged 40-76 for 13 years. They found that women eating bananas four to six times a week halved their risk of developing kidney cancer compared to those who didn’t eat any.
Bananas are high in vitamin C, with one medium banana a day providing 17% of the recommended intake of this important nutrient. That same banana, packed with nutrition, only carries 105 calories.
Bananas are also high in vitamin B6. One medium sized banana (7 to 8 inches long) provides 22% of the recommended daily allowance of this important nutrient. Pyridoxal phosphate, the metabolically active form of the vitamin, is involved of many aspects of health and metabolism. It is needed for the transformation of tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter crucial to mood. Most modern anti-depressant medicines aim to increase serotonin, but one way to treat depression naturally is to be sure to get plenty of vitamin B6 daily so the body can make serotonin naturally and efficiently.
Bananas are a great Yoga detox food. They aid detox in three main ways:
- The high levels of vitamin B6 enhance oxygen binding capacity of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, aiding in the delivery of oxygen to all cells.
- Vitamin B6 is an essential component of two enzymes that convert methionine to cysteine. Cysteine is the limiting substrate incorporated into the compound glutathione, necessary to efficiently fight free radicals through its antioxidant effects.
- The high fiber content of bananas helps to keep the bowels moving and the bulk from the fiber cleanses the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Bananas are easy to eat on the go in their peel, or you can add them to other fruit as a blended shake in the morning, or put them on top of your regular cereal.
Another way E. and I enjoy our bananas is in an easy and delicious whole grain, home-made banana bread. Here’s our recipe:
In a bowl, mix 1¼ cups of whole wheat flour, 2 tsp of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 cup of oats and ½ cup of finely chopped walnuts. In another larger bowl, mix 4 small, very ripe mashed bananas, ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce, ½ cup of honey, and 1 tsp of vanilla. Fold the dry goods from the first bowl into the mixed contents of the second bowl. Then pour the batter into a lightly greased 8 x 4 x 2½ inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.
Mmmm…. we love it!
Whelton PK, et al. Effects of Oral Potassium on Blood Pressure: Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. JAMA. 1997;277(20):1624-1632.
Rashidkhani B, Lindblad P, Wolk A. Fruits, vegetables and risk of renal cell carcinoma: A prospective study of Swedish women. Int J Cancer. 2005 Jan 20; 113 (3) :451-5.