Bananas are one of the best natural sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Since the average banana contains 467 mg of potassium and only 1 mg of sodium, a banana a day may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis. In addition to these cardiovascular benefits, the potassium found in bananas may also help to promote bone health. Potassium can counteract the increased urinary calcium loss caused by a high-salt diet thus helping to prevent bones from thinning out at a fast rate.
Bananas have an antacid effects that protect against stomach ulcers and ulcer damage. This is because certain substances in bananas help activate the cells that compose the stomach lining, so they produce a thicker protective mucus barrier against stomach acids. Other compounds in bananas, called protease inhibitors, help eliminate the Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the stomach that are the primary cause of stomach ulcers.
Japanese scientists have found that a fully ripe banana produces a substance called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells and protect against cancer. They have pointed out that as the banana ripens it develops dark spots and patches on the banana skin and the more patches it has the higher will be its immunity enhancement quality. They say that the degree of anti-cancer effect corresponds to the degree of ripeness of the fruit so it is important to allow bananas to ripen well before consuming them to gain this beneficial effect.
Bananas are good for excretory system disorders. A bout of diarrhoea can quickly deplete the body of important electrolytes. Bananas can replenish stores of potassium, one of the most important electrolytes, which helps regulate heart function as well as fluid balance. In addition, bananas contain pectin, a soluble fibre (hydrocolloid) that can help normalise movement through the digestive tract and ease constipation.
Green bananas contain resistant starch, but this amount varies depending on their degree of ripeness. Green unripe bananas contain more resistant starch and lose it as they ripen and turn yellow.
Green bananas are an exceptionally rich source of fructo-oligosaccharide, a compound called a prebiotic because it nourishes probiotic (friendly) bacteria in the colon. These beneficial bacteria produce vitamins and digestive enzymes that improve the body's ability to absorb nutrients, plus compounds that protect against unfriendly microorganisms. When fructo-oligosaccharides are fermented by these friendly bacteria, not only do numbers of probiotic bacteria increase, but so does the body's ability to absorb calcium. In addition, gastrointestinal transit time is lessened, decreasing the risk of colon cancer. Green bananas contain indigestible (to humans) short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that
are a favourite food of the cells that make up the lining of the intestines. When these cells are well-nourished and healthy, the body's ability to absorb nutrients such as calcium can increase dramatically.
NOTE: Some individuals can become intolerant to carbohydrates such as fructo-oligosaccharide and this can cause excessive gas and abdominal discomfort.
The bacteria in the intestine (the gut flora) outnumber the body's cells 10 to 1 which makes us only only 10% human. When resistant starch is consumed, it enters the large intestine, where these bacteria digest it and turn it into short-chain fatty acids. The most important of these short-chain fatty acids is butyrate as it is the preferred fuel of the cells that line the colon. Resistant starch reduces the pH level in the colon and thus can reduce inflammation and lead to a lower the risk of colorectal cancer, which is the 4th most common cause of cancer death worldwide/. The short-chain fatty acids that aren't used by the cells in the colon travel to the bloodstream, liver and
to the rest of the body and this is thought to have various beneficial effects.
Resistant starch can also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce hunger and is very effective at lowering blood sugar levels after meals and therefore green bananas may be helpful for individuals with diabetes. It also has a ;second meal effect' that means if it is consumed with breakfast, it will also lower the blood sugar spike at lunch.
For anti-cancer benefits choose to consume very ripe bananas with brown spots and for digestive, colon or diabetic issues consume green bananas before they turn completely yellow or brown. Diabetics should avoid very ripe bananas as the resistant starch turns into sugar.
In some parts of the world, the banana skin is also consumed as it is a rich source of fibre, lutein, magnesium, potassium, tryptophan and vitamins B6 and B12. The banana skin contains much more soluble and insoluble fibre than the flesh. Dietary fibre promotes digestion and bowel movements and can reduce blood cholesterol levels. The skin also contains tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the body and this can ease depression because serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for balancing mood and emotions. The skin also contains lutein, a powerful antioxidant that protects the eye from
free radicals and harmful frequencies of UV radiation from the sun. Lutein has been proven to reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration. The best way to consume banana skin is to blend it.
This easy pancake recipe is very nutritious and ideal for individuals with a gluten intolerance.
One banana, mashed
Two eggs, beaten
Two tablespoons coconut oil
Two tablespoons ground flax or hemp seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Mix banana and eggs in a bowl until smooth.
Add ground seeds, spices and vanilla extract; and mix the batter well.
Heat coconut oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium-low heat.
Place large tablespoons of the batter into the pan or skillet and cook for about 30 seconds until the centre starts to bubble.
Flip pancakes and cook until bottoms are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Any toppings of choice can be added. The freshly squeezed juice of a lemon plus the rind of half the lemon is a healthy choice.
NOTE: Coconut oil can be substituted for any nut, seed or vegetable oil if desired.
Energy and immune system boosting banana skin smoothie
This is a highly nutritious green 'smoothie' is very rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, fibre, carotenoids, minerals and vitamins including all of the B complex and the eight amino acids required to build the body's muscles and cells. This tonic will provide an energy boost and is useful for everyone, especially those recovering from any illness, injury or surgery or suffering from any nutrient deficiencies, in which case it should be consumed daily
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