Bananas have been consumed since 600 BC in India, and 300 BC in the Mediterranean area. Alexander the Great tasted this fruit for the first time in the Indian Valley, and introduced it to the western world upon his return.
When we think about super foods, most of the time bananas don’t come to mind. However, this fruit is full of potassium and several compounds with antioxidant activities including phytosterols, Vitamins B6, C, and D, magnesium, copper, and fiber. They also have a little bit of phosphorus and Vitamin A.
Bananas are very affordable and can be eaten raw, fried, boiled, roasted or baked – or even in your morning pancakes! They are delicious on their own or when added to a fruit salad, smoothie, or milkshake. It is easy to add bananas into your diet, as they make a convenient snack that you can carry anywhere. When picking out bananas at the store, choose ones with some green left on the stem and tip. They should be firm and without bruises - bananas ripen after harvest. Store unripe bananas at room temperature, and ripe bananas in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (the skin may turn black).
Among all their components, bananas are an excellent source of potassium. A large banana provides almost one quarter of the potassium required per day. It also has about 40% of the daily requirements of Vitamin B6, which aids your immune system and promotes brain and heart health.
The Health Benefits of Potassium
Potassium is found in fruits, vegetables, milk products and meats. It works hand in hand with sodium. While sodium helps the body retain water, potassium eliminates excess fluid which also helps maintain proper blood pressure and reduces your risk of stroke. In addition, potassium is needed for the proper function of muscles, for bone health, and to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, among other functions.
There are some health conditions that mean you need a higher potassium diet. One example is people who follow the DASH diet to control their blood pressure – they need about 4700 mg potassium every day in order to keep their blood pressure under control. On the other hand, excessive potassium consumption is dangerous in some health conditions and must be restricted, such as kidney disease. When the kidneys don’t work properly, the body can retain potassium. Excessive blood levels of potassium can then lead to arrhythmias and even heart attack.
The Recipe of the Week: Fluffy Banana Pancakes
1 1/2 cup milk (1% or skim)
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons oil
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups flour (all purpose)
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Powder sugar or maple syrup (Optional)
Beat eggs. Beat in milk, honey and oil. Add flours and baking powder. Smash the bananas and add to mixture. Add the chopped pecans. Prepare the pancakes using this batter. Place pancakes on a plate and decorate with mixed berries. You can add a little bit of powdered sugar or maple syrup, but the pancakes are sweet enough without it.
Karen Ambrosio, OWS