Bananas: The Super Food Within Everyone’s Grasp
By: Laurie Roth-Donnell
Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner
Bananas are a perennial herb and their fruit is considered a berry. A bunch of bananas is referred to as a hand. A single banana is a finger. This naturally encased yellow fruit is creamy, rich, and sweet, making it a favorite food of young and old alike. Sports enthusiasts value the potassium-power this yellow gem delivers and this astounding super food is readily available throughout the United States.
Bananas contain vitamins A, B, C, E, and G, potassium, aluminum, sodium chloride, natural salt, acetic acid, Dolomite (calcium and magnesium), phosphorus, and selenium. Potassium, an essential mineral, assists the body in maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. The average banana contains 467 mg of potassium and only 1 mg of sodium. A banana a day may help to stabilize high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis. Potassium also plays a vital role in balancing electrolytes that elevate mood and energy levels. Bananas contain tryptophan, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which have been shown to lift depression and elevate feelings of well-being and relaxation. The naturally occurring vitamin B6 relieves sleeplessness, mood swings, and irritability. Bananas support good vision and practitioners in Nigeria combine banana with Orinol (an African herb) to treat cataracts and macular degeneration with noted success. A study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology in 2004 found people who eat three servings of fruit per day are less likely to develop age-related vision problems. Other vision superstars are foods high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, cranberries, bilberries, grapes, and carrots.
The digestive tract and bones benefit from the bananas’ fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic that encourages the development of natural probiotics (friendly digestive bacteria). Fructooligosaccharides ferment in the digestive tract and enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium, resulting in the fortification of bone strength. Bananas can improve your overall digestion by suppressing acid production in the digestive tract and by relieving heartburn. Bananas contain protease inhibitors, which eliminate the bacteria in the stomach that have been pinpointed as the primary cause of stomach ulcers. The highly soluble fiber pectin assists in overall digestion and the elimination process; the hydrocolloid eases constipation. Bananas contain resistant starch (dependant on the degree of ripeness). Less ripe bananas score as low as 30 on the glycemic index (below 50 is considered low). In riper bananas, the score typically rises above 60. Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fully ripened fruit (almost to the point of spoilage), antioxidant levels actually increase.
A study of 57 males infants (5–12 months old) with persistent diarrhea was published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences. In this study, bananas had a positive impact on overall nutrient absorption. The boys where split into three test groups and were administered a week long treatment of a rice-based diet containing either green banana, apple pectin or the rice alone. Treatment with both green banana and apple pectin resulted in a 50% reduction in stool weights, indicating that the babies were absorbing significantly more nutrients before eliminating the food.
Banana is used as a natural remedy for many diseases including asthma, hypertension, ulcer, cancer, diarrhea, constipation, and cataracts, especially when combined with other herbs. Think twice about tossing out the peal. The inner peel applied topically will naturally dry skin blemishes and psoriasis by simply rubbing the peel on the affected area. Take the bite out of poison ivy by rubbing the inside peel on the affected area. The itching should stop and the inflammation should be reduced. The banana has been used to permanently remove warts. Simply tape a section of inner peel on the wart overnight for several weeks. The wart should disappear.
Be creative with this succulent berry. Try ending your next BBQ by tossing whole bananas on the grill until heated, slice open and garnish with slivered dark chocolate and chopped nuts. It is not only good, it is good for you!
Always consult your primary care physician before embarking on any new health regime.