Don’t monkey around with your health

by Karen Bowen

If your sweet tooth has you rummaging around your cab for a sweet snack, choose a banana and help your health a bunch. They are easy to take on trips and their protective skin, which retains the integrity of the fruit, makes them very appealing.

Bananas are grown in more than 107 countries and are popular around the world. In North America, people eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined. But, are they good for you? 

Bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals to help maintain your health. One medium banana offers 110 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates and one gram of protein with no fat, cholesterol or sodium. In addition, a banana delivers 0.5 mgs of Vitamin B6, 0.3 mgs of manganese, nine mgs of Vitamin C, 450 mgs of potassium, three grams of fibre, 34 mgs of magnesium, and many more nutrients.

Bananas can help lower your risk of asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, constipation and macular degeneration. By increasing calcium absorption, bananas also help build strong bones. If you are trying to quit smoking, bananas’ high levels of B-vitamins along with potassium and magnesium can reduce withdrawal symptoms.

However, if you are taking Beta-blockers for heart disease or your kidneys are not functioning well, limit the number of bananas you eat since bananas’ high potassium content may exacerbate these conditions.

Bananas are good for circulation. The iron, fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and B6 content in bananas all support a healthy heart and blood supply. According to the director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee, an increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In a recent study, people who consumed 4,069 mgs of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease than people who only consumed about 1,000 mgs per day. Unfortunately, fewer than 2% of North Americans reach the adult daily requirement of 4,700 mgs of potassium per day. Do you?

Bananas also help respiration. According to the Imperial College of London, children who eat one banana per day have a 34% lower chance of developing asthma.

Bananas also aid digestion. Their fibre promotes regularity, yet they also help the body recover from diarrhea.

As a good source of Vitamin C with high fibre content, bananas fight free radicals and reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Because bananas are rich in pectin, they aid digestion and may gently chelate toxins and heavy metals from your body. The digestive enzymes they produce help your bowels absorb nutrients.

As a natural antacid, bananas can sooth a stressed digestive tract, relieving acid reflux, GERD and heartburn. As the only fruit which can be eaten raw to relieve stomach ulcers, bananas coat the stomach lining to protect against corrosive acids.

Bananas are also useful for fighting depression. Their high levels of tryptophan, which your body converts into serotonin, can help boost your memory and mood, and fight SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

The high levels of Vitamin B6 protect you against Type II diabetes, help maintain a healthy weight, help your body produce healthy white blood cells, strengthen your nervous system, and help reduce fluid retention.

Bananas are beneficial before and after a workout.

Two bananas can provide the energy you need for a strenuous workout. As well, their potassium will protect against muscle cramps during and after the workout.

Fortunately, bananas are available everywhere and are easy to store. Unlike other fruits, bananas continue to ripen after they are picked.

Ideally, bananas should be stored at room temperature.

However, you can speed their ripening process naturally by storing them in warmer temperatures in a brown paper bag.

To slow their ripening process, put them in the fridge. Although the outer peel will darken, the inner fruit will retain its integrity longer.

It has been recently discovered that as bananas ripen, their nutritional properties change. Enzymes break down starches into sugars, making the fruit sweeter and easier to digest. These riper bananas contain more antioxidants than less ripe ones.

A banana having a peel with dark spots produces tumor necrosis factors (TNF), a substance that combats cancer and other abnormal cells and the darker the banana peel, the stronger the TNF.

Therefore, a fully ripened banana is eight times more effective in boosting your immune system than a green one.

Eat bananas fresh. Use them mashed to replace oil when baking cookies, cakes and/or muffins. Freeze them now for future baking or smoothies. Instead of sugar, top off your morning cereal/oatmeal with banana slices. Adding ripe bananas to your diet is easy. No need to monkey around with your health.


Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at

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