Fruit Facts: Bananas

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on November 14, 2011

Bananas are one of the most readily available and versatile fruits on the market, and they contain some very important nutrients. This popular fruit can keep for up to several weeks, or you can peel and freeze ripe bananas for a healthy snack even months later. While bananas are often not the top choice for the carb-conscious, they're an excellent source of dietary fiber, and make for a filling and healthy snack. Experiment with different cooking styles by adding bananas into a wide variety of dishes, as a healthy source of starch. Bananas even provide some protein, which is especially important if you consume little or no animal protein, or if you need more lean protein in your diet.

Selecting your bananas. Choose your bananas based on what you wish to do with them, and how quickly they will be eaten. Green bananas generally work the best for cooking, while ripe yellow fruit is ready to eat raw. The riper a banana is, the sweeter it will be, making slightly freckled fruit the top choice for raw eating. Do not store bananas in the refrigerator. Bear in mind that the appearance of the peel isn't necessarily an indicator of the condition of the fruit. Even if the peel is entirely black, the fruit is probably still good and perfect for baking or dehydrating. Discard any portion of fruit that has begun to turn black when freshly peeled. Bananas that have been peeled for some time will darken due to oxidation, but often are still perfectly edible.

Health benefits. Bananas are especially noted for the vitamin B6 they contain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states, "Vitamin B6 in coenzyme forms performs a wide variety of functions in the body and is extremely versatile, with involvement in more than 100 enzyme reactions, mostly concerned with protein metabolism." It's hypothesized that this nutrient alone aids in cardiovascular health, cognitive function and even alleviating the symptoms of PMS. Potassium also appears in bananas, which is essential to heart function.