Something to go bananas about....
Bananas are considered a sweet, conveniently portable snack but are perhaps overlooked as a healthy addition to the diet. Surprisingly, bananas have many health benefits and are packed full of beneficial nutrients.
Bananas contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that is converted to serotonin in the body. Sometimes known as the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin plays an important role in mood, memory and sleep.
There are a various rationales as to why bananas can play a significant role in cardiovascular health. Firstly, bananas are a good source of potassium which helps to maintain normal blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.
Although bananas are noticeably high in natural sugars, their high fibre content helps to reduce the speed at which the sugars are released into the bloodstream and fibre in the diet is considered to be critical for heart health. Pectin, a water-soluble fibre found in bananas, is believed to promote blood sugar regulation by reducing enzyme activity and the absorption of sugars.
Furthermore, naturally occurring substances known as sterols, found in bananas, are believed to block the absorption of dietary cholesterol consequently contributing to cardiovascular health and function.
Bananas are a valuable food for the digestive system. The special fructose containing carbohydrates called FOS (fructooligosaccharides) are able to travel through the gut to the lower intestines. Here they act as food to the ‘friendly’ bacteria, helping them to flourish; as a result supporting gut health and the immune system.
Top Tip; peel and chop ripe bananas and store in the freezer. This will add a sweet creamy texture to any smoothie, quick homemade ice cream or sorbet.
Ripe mashed bananas can be used in baking, as a natural sweet sugar replacement for healthy cakes, muffins, and brownies. Alternatively, bananas are simply delicious, teamed with cinnamon and seeds in your morning porridge.
Marcelle Rose is a registered nutritional therapist who runs clinics and workshops in North London. You can contact Marcelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.