Bananas are famously high in potassium, and it is this mineral that makes the banana such a heart healthy fruit. Potassium has powerful vasodilating properties, meaning that it relieves the tension in blood vessels which is one of the main causes of high blood pressure. It also brings down blood pressure by balancing excess sodium in the body.
Much research has been conducted on the importance of potassium to the prevention and improvement of heart conditions. One study published in the “Journal of American College of Cardiology” reported that the higher the dietary potassium intake, the lower the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.1
Preventative cardiology dietician Michelle Routhenstein asserts that getting enough potassium is necessary to maintain a healthy heartbeat. She says, “When potassium is deficient, low levels can cause heart arrhythmias and potentially impair blood flow to the brain, muscles, and organs.”
The spongy texture of a ripe banana is partly due to the rich pectin content – a type of soluble fibre that is also found in apples. Pectin can help to prevent constipation by absorbing water in the digestive tract, bulking up and softening stools, allowing for a smoother passage out of the body.
Pectin also acts as a prebiotic – a type fibre that is undigested by the gut and intestines. Upon reaching the colon, it feeds the friendly gut bacteria, allowing their numbers to flourish. Consequently, the good bacteria overwhelm the bad bacteria which helps to create the optimum environment for good digestion and nutrient uptake. By promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and absorbing fluid in the intestines, pectin can also help prevent and relieve diarrhoea.
In the case of stomach ulcers, bananas have been found to contain an antibacterial compound that may inhibit the growth of H. pylori – a type of bacteria that commonly causes ulcers. The high pectin content helps to soothe and heal a damaged digestive system and aid in the building up of a mucosal layer of the stomach.
Bananas are such a handy snack – ready wrapped in a thick skin, they are the perfect fruit for a quick energy boost. The carbohydrates in bananas provide quick releasing sugars that can be used by the body for instant energy.
A fantastic addition to your pre or post workout smoothie, bananas provide carbohydrates that are used to repair and refuel muscle fibres. The sugar molecules contained in this fruit are able to reach the muscle tissues and restore glucose levels rapidly. This gives the body the necessary energy to gain muscle and strength.
Bananas are rich in the amino acid “tryptophan” which is used to produce the neurotransmitter “serotonin”. Also known as the “happy hormone”, serotonin plays a major role in the body, contributing to well-being, good mood, appetite, sleep and sexual desire.
Other nutrients in this sunny yellow fruit include potent antioxidants that stimulate the release of dopamine – another mood boosting hormone. Dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and reward and is also a part of our unique human ability to think and plan.
Folklore and history
Contrary to popular belief, bananas are actually giant herbs, not trees! There are around 50 species within the Musa genus and a whopping 1,000 plus different types of cultivars of bananas and plantains recognised today.
Archaeological evidence from the Kuk Swamp of the highlands of New Guinea indicates that bananas were deliberately planted at least as long ago as 5000 - 4490 BCE. Additional evidence indicates that bananas were dispersed out of New Guinea and introduced into eastern Africa by 3000 BCE and into South Asia by 2500 BCE.
Like coconuts, bananas were most widely spread as a result of the sea exploration of the Pacific by Lapita peoples, of extensive trade voyages throughout the Indian Ocean by Arab traders, and of exploration of the Americas by Europeans.
One of the world’s most popular fruits, the humble banana is thought to be one of the oldest cultivated fruits. Originating in Southeast Asia, bananas were brought to the west by Arab conquerors in 327 BCE, moving into Africa and then across to the New World by the missionaries to the Caribbean.
The banana is so popular that it even has a “National Banana Lovers Day”. This versatile fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fibre, electrolytes and antioxidants, all wrapped up in a handy bright yellow peel! Easy to carry and delicious to eat, the health benefits of bananas are many.
Organic Raw Banana Powder
This delicious powder can be added to a breakfast smoothie, or as a natural flavoring in muesli, flapjack, yogurts, biscuits, cakes, raw food cakes and fruit breads.
Organic Banana Chips
An excellent ingredient for cakes, cookies and many of your other favourite recipes. They can also be consumed straight as a fibre rich snack or added to trail mix.
Banana Nutrition: protein, carbohydrates, fibre (pectin, resistant starch), vitamins B1, B6, B9 and C, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, magnesium. Polyphenolic content includes: cyanidin-3-rutinoside and 3-rutinoside derivatives of delphinidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and malvidin.