Tips and techniques

The real health benefits of eating bananas

They're the naturally sweet yellow fruits we've been snacking on since we were little, but there are lots of mixed opinions on the health benefits, and risks, of eating bananas.
gluten free pancakes recipe

Whether you’re popping them in your breakfast smoothie, slicing them up over porridge or just eating whole as an on-the-go energy hit, there’s no question bananas are delicious. But in recent years, there have been many claims that bananas are too high in sugar and carbohydrates.

We sat down with nutritionist and dietitian Susie Burrell to find out whether these natural fruits are as good for us as we once thought.

The health benefits

For starters, bananas are very low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium, three things that have been shown to having a negative impact on our health.

They also provide an array of vitamins and nutrients like potassium, a mineral that helps nerves and muscles function properly and magnanese, an essential nutrient responsible for bone health.

You’ll also get a generous dose of immune-boosting vitamin C and gut-loving fibre.

AVOCADO AND BANANA Smoothie

Try including your bananas in this healthy greek yoghurt and avocado smoothie.

But what about all that sugar?

“There is a big difference between naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and dairy and added sugars,” says Susie. “Natural sugars are a lot less concentrated and also generally consumed with other important nutrients such as fibre, which makes them a complete food and as such a lot more filling.”

Similarly, naturally occurring sugars are not as sweet than processed sugars, making you less likely to go on a family-sized-chocolate-block binge.

Is there such thing as too many?

“You can eat too much of anything,” says Susie. “As bananas have a [high] calorie and carbohydrate load you could potentially eat too many.”

With the average medium-sized banana coming in at 105 calories a pop, you’d only need around 20 of them to reach the daily recommended energy intake for adults.

However, Susie says the average active person can very safely include one banana a day as part of their every day diet.

Add your ‘nanas to these gluten, sugar and dairy-free banana loaves.

Pre-workout or post-workout?

There are many people who swear by a piece of peanut butter and banana toast before hitting the gym, while others will pop their ‘nanas into the blender along with their protein smoothie. But what’s best for our health?

Well, Susie reckons there are benefits to both. “A banana 30-60 minutes before a workout will help fuel you; offering a quickly digested form of carbohydrates.”

“Similarly, eating a banana as a recovery food consumed within 30 minutes of finishing a high-intensity workout will help to replace muscle glycogen,” she says. “Even better, if teamed with a protein rich food, [it will] help aid muscle cell recovery.”

Green, yellow or spotty?

This has been the question dividing fruit-lovers all over the world for decades, but Susie says there isn’t really a ‘correct’ answer.

“Less-ripe bananas are richer in resistant starch, which is great for gut health but really it does not make that big a difference,” she says.

“Enjoy your bananas the way you like to eat them!”

bruschetta with strawberry, banana and ricotta

For a pre-workout snack, try this bruschetta with banana, strawberry and ricotta.

Organic or regular?

If you’ve ever considered picking up a bunch of red-tipped, certified organic bananas over the regular ones, Susie says it’s purely personal preference, and the health benefits themselves aren’t as great as once thought.

“In foods with tough skins, like a banana, the chances of exposure to chemicals and pesticides is much smaller than in fruit such as tomatoes where the skin is consumed,” she says.

However, there are some environmental benefits associated with eating organic (less pesticides causing risk of air pollution) that may influence your choice.

For more information visit australianbananas.com.au.

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