In recent years bananas have become one of the top choices for a fruit snack. Perhaps the banana's popularity has seen a huge increase because of the potassium contained in this delectable fruit. For busy individuals who want a "grab-and-go" snack for themselves for their children, bananas are the perfect choice.
This fruit is the second leading fruit crop in the world today. Hundreds of varieties of bananas are known to exist, but this fruit falls into two species: The plantain banana and the sweet banana. All forms of bananas are basically the same shape and firmness, with a peel which is inedible. While most bananas have a yellow peel or skin, some fully-ripened varieties feature skins which are pink, purple, red or even black.
Bananas grow on plants which look very similar to trees. The plants belong to the same family as the orchid and the lily and when mature reach heights of between 10 feet and 26 feet. The bananas grow in clusters containing anywhere from 10 to 25 bananas, with approximately 50 to 150 bananas being available to pick from any one plant.
The large, yellow bananas which is usually found in the grocery store are called the Gros Michel (Big Mike) or Manque, while the larger, green bananas are plantain and are most often cooked in a similar way to vegetables and re cooked or fried before being eaten.
Sweet bananas can be consumed in several ways aside from simply peeling and eating them. This type of banana is used in many desserts and can be used in sandwiches or as a topping for cereal.
Bananas are believed to have originated in Malaysia about 4,000 years ago and were then brought to Africa by Arabians during the early Middle Ages. This fruit was brought to the Americas by explorers from Portugal during the late 15th Century, where their popularity began to thrive. The majority of the world's supply of bananas now comes from the Americas.
Rapid transport methods and the means of appropriate refrigeration now make bananas available worldwide. Although bananas are capable of growing in nearly any tropical or subtropical area, most of today's commercial banana growers are found in Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and Costa Rica.
Health conscious people have good reason to choose bananas as a nutritional snack. This fruit is a great source of vitamin B6 and potassium and is a good source for vitamin C, magnesium, biotin, riboflavin, fiber and carbohydrates.
Because bananas have a much lower water content than some other fruits, the banana also has a higher calorie count than many other fruits. A typical serving of bananas (one small-to-medium banana) contains about 89 calories, 22.8 grams of carbohydrates, 1.1 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat, 12.2 grams of natural sugars, 358 milligrams of potassium, 27 milligrams of magnesium, 5 milligrams of calcium, and 2.6 grams of fiber.
Bananas are loaded with nutrients which can aid the body. Potassium is necessary in the body as an electrolyte helping to regulate heart function and fluid balance. Both of thesefunctions play a key factor in helping the body to regulate blood pressure. Much research is available to validate the worth of bananas as providing a substantially-reduced risk of stroke as well.
Some researchers believe that bananas aid in keeping blood pressure lower by preventing plaque from sticking to artery walls.
Due to their high pectin content, bananas can be very soothing to the digestive tract. This soluble fiber normalizes bowel function and also helps to lower cholesterol. Plantain bananas have also shown promise in treating individuals with peptic ulcers.
In regions of the world where bananas cannot be grown because of climate or soil conditions, there is a safety concern as bananas are imported and fumigated with pesticides at border crossings.
Some individuals have digestive systems which do not fare well with bananas.
Also, a few people are allergic to this fruit or become constipated from regularly consuming bananas. Bananas contain enzymes known as chitinases (which are also found in avocados) that cause allergic reactions in people with a sensitivity to latex. People who have a known latex sensitivity should not touch or eat bananas.
Selecting and Storing
Plantains and sweet bananas are ripe and taste best when they are yellow, with perhaps a few brown speckles. When green tips are found on both types of this fruit, one can assume the bananas are not quite ripe. However, bananas will continue to ripen when stored in a plastic bag at room temperature. Fully-ripened bananas should only be stored for a day or two before eating.
Ripened plantains and bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This fruit can also be frozen and will keep well for up to two months. Before freezing, peel the bananas and wrap them in plastic wrap. Lemon juice can also be added to avoid any discoloring.
Serving Ideas for Bananas
Bananas can be effortlessly introduced into the diet. A few easy ways are to:
- Put frozen bananas in a blender and puree for a tasty dessert.
- Blend together bananas, papayas, and apple juice. Use as a topping for vanilla yogurt.
- Cut unpeeled bananas lengthwise. Slice open the fruit and put a little chopped figs and peanut butter in the flesh. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and place on a grill.
- Add maple syrup, chopped bananas and walnut pieces to oatmeal.
- Holford, P.(2004). The optimum nutrition bible. London : Piatkus
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. (2008). Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health. London : Piatkus
- Murray, M.T. et al.(2005). Encyclopedia of healing foods. London : Piatkus
- Yeager, S. & Prevention Health Books. (1998). The doctors book of food remedies : the newest discoveries in the power of food to cure and prevent health problems from aging and diabetes to ulcers and yeast infections. [Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale
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