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Wonderfully sweet with firm and creamy flesh, bananas come prepackaged in their own yellow jackets and are available for harvest throughout the year.
The banana plant grows 10 to 26 feet and belongs to the Musaceae family of plants along with plantains.
The cluster of fruits contain anywhere from 50 to 150 bananas with individual fruits grouped in bunches, known as hands, containing 10 to 25 bananas.
Creamy, rich, and sweet, bananas are a favorite food for everyone from infants to elders. They could not be more convenient to enjoy, and they are a good source of both vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber.
A first type of cardiovascular benefit from bananas is related to their potassium content. Bananas are a good source of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Since one medium-sized banana contains a whopping 400-plus mg of potassium, the inclusion of bananas in your routine meal plan may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis.
The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas in lowering blood pressure has been demonstrated by a number of studies. For example, researchers tracked over 40,000 American male health professionals over four years to determine the effects of diet on blood pressure. Men who ate diets higher in potassium-rich foods, as well as foods high in magnesium and cereal fiber, had a substantially reduced risk of stroke. Weve also seen numerous prospective clinical research trials showing substantial reductions of blood pressure in individuals eating the potassium-rich DASH Diet.
Bananas are a fascinating fruit in terms of their carbohydrate and sugar content. Even though bananas are a fruit that tastes quite sweet when ripe—containing 14-15 grams of total sugar—bananas receive a rating of low in their glycemic index (GI) value. GI measures the impact of a food on our blood sugar. This low GI value for bananas is most likely related to two of their carbohydrate-related qualities.
First, as mentioned previously, a medium-size banana contains about 3 grams of total fiber. Fiber is a nutrient that helps regulate the speed of digestion, and by keeping digestion well-regulated, conversion of carbohydrates to simple sugars and release of simple sugars from digesting foods also stays well-regulated.
Within their total fiber content, bananas also contain pectins. Pectins are unique and complicated types of fiber. Some of the components in pectins are water-soluble, and others are not. As bananas ripen, their water-soluble pectins increase, and this increase is one of the key reasons why bananas become softer in texture as they ripen. As their water-soluble pectins increase, so does their relative concentration of fructose in comparison to other sugars. This increase in water-soluble pectins and higher proportional fructose content helps normalize the rate of carbohydrate digestion and moderates the impact of banana consumption on our blood sugar. The bottom line here are some surprisingly digestion-friendly consequences for a fruit that might be casually dismissed as being too high in sugar to be digestion-friendly.
Bananas are thought to have originated in Malaysia around 4,000 years ago. From there, they spread throughout the Philippines and India, where in 327 B.C. Alexander the Greats army recorded them being grown.
Bananas were introduced to Africa by Arabian traders and discovered there in 1482 A.D. by Portuguese explorers who took them to the Americas, the place where the majority of bananas are now produced.
Bananas were not brought to the United States for sale in markets until the latter part of the 19th century and were initially only enjoyed by people in the seacoast towns where the banana schooners docked; because of the fruits fragility, they were unable to be transported far.
Since the development of refrigeration and rapid transport in the 20th century, bananas have become widely available. Today, bananas grow in most tropical and subtropical regions with the main commercial producers including Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil.
How to Enjoy
In addition to being eaten raw, bananas are a wonderful addition to a variety of recipes from salads to baked goods.
A few quick serving ideas:
• A peanut butter and banana sandwich drizzled with honey is an all-time favorite comfort food for children and adults alike.
• Add chopped bananas, walnuts and maple syrup to oatmeal or porridge.
• Try our Tropical Breakfast Risotto in the Recipe File.
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