The word banana was derived from the Arabic word “banan”, meaning fingers, because it looks like hanging fingers clustered together to form a hand. Believed to originally be cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, horticulturists consider it as one of the oldest fruits on earth.
Unknown to many, the banana is not a tree but a giant herb that belongs to the same family as the orchid and lily. Bananas have more than 1000 varieties, subdivided in 50 groups. The most commonly known variety of banana is the Cavendish, which is primarily produced for export markets.
Delicious and sweet bananas are available all year round, making it one of the most popular fruits in the world.
- An average banana contains 400 mg potassium, 4 g fiber, and 110 calories. It is also a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamins.
- A medium-sized banana has less than 1 mg of sodium.
- And the best part, bananas contain very little sodium, no fat and no cholesterol.
Bananas are rich in potassium that helps keep the heart healthy, reducing the risk of stroke. The high potassium content found in bananas is also good for the kidneys and bones. All the while controlling calcium excretion in urine to avoid loss of calcium from the body, thereby decreasing the possibility of osteoporosis.
The tryptophan found in bananas assists in the production of serotonin, an amino acid which gives a calming effect to the brain and helps create a stable mood. Furthermore, tryptophan is a natural mood enhancer that is used to aid patients with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Studies show that bananas also contain Vitamin B6 which is necessary to produce antibodies and hemoglobin in the blood to strengthen the immune system. Vitamin B6 also aids in converting carbohydrates to glucose therefore maintaining a normal blood sugar level.
Bananas and the Heart
Researchers have revealed that regularly eating potassium-rich bananas reduces the risk of stroke by 40%. Based on a survey involving more than 40,000 American males, it was found found that those who consumed foods high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber have less possibility of experiencing stroke and other cardiovascular-related diseases.
Studies also show that potassium cuts down the possibility of a blood clot on the brain by 21%, hence lowering the probability of sudden death caused by stroke. According to their study, researchers recommend eating three bananas a day to lessen the risk of stroke — one during breakfast, one at lunchtime, and another in the evening.
Potassium in bananas is necessary for normal muscular function. It helps muscles to contract so that the heart will beat properly and helps the heart to squeeze and pump blood throughout the body. Similarly, increasing potassium intake reduces muscle spasms and cramps during exercise, workouts, and other strenuous activities.
Moreover, bananas are highly recommended for patients on a low sodium diet because of its low salt content. Low in sodium but with a high potassium content, bananas not only aid in regulating blood pressure but also seem to prevent certain types of cancer.
Bananas are also known as a good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which helps minimize constipation, improve bowel movements, fight cancer, and lower the risk of coronary heart disease by regulating blood cholesterol level and reducing blood glucose.
Rich in iron, bananas help stimulate the production of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and other enzymes that are needed for the development and production of red blood cells, to reduce the possibility of anemia.
Bananas are high in B-vitamins that calm the nervous system and reduce sleeping problems. Vitamin B6 is also important for the creation of good mood neurotransmitter, production of antibodies, and function as an anti-inflammatory agent to fight off cardiovascular diseases.