I SIMPLY love bananas for its taste and nutrition. It’s no wonder that it’s a staple in my kitchen and an on-the-go snack when I’m running around for work.
I did some fact-finding and learnt that food historians say that the word “banana” originates from the Arabic word “banan”, which literally means finger. Originating from Southeast Asia, it eventually spread to the Middle East, West Africa, Europe and the Americas via Portuguese and Spanish explorers.
Nutritionally, the humble banana is quite the powerhouse! Here is what it provides to your healthy diet:
• A medium size banana has an average of 105 calories. It has a dietary fibre content of 3 grammes — that’s 12 per cent of your recommended daily intake for dietary fibre.
Countless studies reaffirm the importance of dietary fibre for your digestive system. The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommends that we consume 25g of dietary fibre daily through various fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.
Dietary fibre promotes regularity in your bowel movement. A diet high in fibre but low in fat keeps your cholesterol level in check as well. For those who are watching your waistline, fibre-rich foods help you stay full longer, so you are less likely to overeat.
• Bananas contain a type of carbohydrate called fructooligosaccharide that play a role as a prebiotic compound to nourish the good bacteria in your gut. A healthy gut helps with improved digestion. Research also shows that a healthy gut may help to strengthen our immune system, to better fend off health problems.
•Bananas provide 10 per cent of your recommended intake for potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps to regulate high blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium and relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure puts you at risk for a stroke. Athletes and active people tend to lose potassium when they sweat heavily. For this reason, a banana is perfect for such people.
• A medium-sized banana also gives you 25 per cent of your daily requirement for Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 plays a role in our metabolic processes and helps to strengthen our immune system. For pregnant mums, Vitamin B6 is needed for the baby’s brain and immune system development.
• Banana also gives you 11 per cent of your daily requirement of Vitamin C. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that help counter the damaging effects of cell damage caused by free radicals. Apart from that, Vitamin C is important for better wound healing.
In the kitchen, banana is a versatile food that can be enjoyed by all in the family. Here are some nifty tricks to inspire your next scrumptious healthy recipe:
• Mashed ripe banana can be a substitute to reduce the fat content in your baking and batters. In fact, you can use mashed ripe bananas for up to half the amount of butter or oil used in your recipes for muffins, pancakes, waffle or cakes. So for example, if your original cake recipe requires 200g butter, just use 100g butter and 100g mashed ripe banana.
To prevent drying out the cake, since you’re using less fat, just reduce the baking temperature slightly and be mindful to check on the cake earlier than the original recipe time for doneness.
• Mashed ripe banana can also be used to replace a quarter to one third of the caster sugar required in your original pancake, muffin or cake recipe.
• Make a healthier soft serve ice-cream by blending together two frozen bananas and two tablespoons of low fat milk to a smooth puree. Serve immediately in chilled dessert bowls. You can make a version of this as a weaning treat for baby once they start on solids by using two tablespoons of expressed breast milk instead of low fat milk.
• You can place a banana peel on top of a skinless piece of marinated boneless chicken breast while grilling, to make it tender and moist. Remove the banana peel from the chicken breast before serving.
Sometimes when you buy a comb of bananas, you may notice that it’s not quite ripe for eating yet. To hasten the ripening process, place the bananas in a paper bag and roll the top close. The closed paper bag will trap the ethylene gas released naturally and help it to ripen faster.
Then you may have days where the comb of bananas is ripening and you can’t finish it all. To slow down the process, put the bananas in the refrigerator. The cool temperature will turn the banana peel blackish, but the flesh is fine to eat.
* Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org