When I think of banana trees I think of the pictures I've seen with 'bunches' of them hanging ready to pick. Well, there is a little more to it than that. This may be a bit long but I feel it's well worth reading. After doing my research I actually went out and bought more bananas.
First a little history.
The banana as we know it today is a specifically-grown species of the wild banana. Now get this. The plant originated from seed bearing relatives in the Pacific and the South-East of Asia. The wild banana was not edible but it was discovered that if you crossed two inedible wild species, you could grow a sterile plant that actually bore bananas as we know them today. Because of its sterility, once the new edible fruit was discovered, it was spread using offshoots form the base of the plant.
Another interesting note is that the banana doesn't grow on a 'tree' but a giant herb plant that is part of the same family as lilies and orchids.
Americans consume 11 billion bananas annually. The majority of the bananas being exported to the United States today are form Latin America. Uganda is the leading producer of bananas in the world. Plus, bananas are also grown in Iceland due to the soil being heated by volcanic steam vents.
Banana consists mainly of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and fiber, which makes them ideal for an immediate and slightly prolonged source of energy. They also have health benefits such as:
1. They help reduce depression. Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted to serotonin leading to improved mood.
2. They are relative high in iron which helps the body's hemoglobin function and prevent anemia.
3. They can help with both constipation and diarrhea. Due to their fiber content, they help restore a normal bowel function. In addition, diarrhea usually depletes your body of important electrolytes (of which the most important is potassium, contained in high amounts in bananas). They also contain pectin, a soluble fiber (hydrocolloid) that can help normalize movement through the digestive tract.
4. Can you believe it can even help protect your eyesight. Research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology has proved that adults consuming at least 3 servings of fruit per day have a reduced risk (by 36%) of developing age-related macular degenerative, the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
5. Bananas are an exceptionally rich source of a compound that nourishes probiotic (friendly) bacteria in the colon. These beneficial bacteria produce enzymes that increase our digestive ability and protect us from unhealthy bacterial infections. This increases our body's ability to absorb calcium. In addition, green bananas contain indigestible short chain fatty acids that are very nutrient to the cells that make up the mucosa of the stomach. These cells, when healthy, absorb calcium much more efficiently.
6. About 190,000 cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed each year. Research published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, is highly protective to kidney health. The results show that, over a long timeframe (13.4 years) women eating more than 2.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day cut their risk of kidney cancer by 40%. Among the fruits, bananas were especially protective. Women eating bananas 4 to 6 times a week halved their risk of developing the disease compared to those who did not eat this fruit.
7. Bananas are extremely high in potassium (about 4673 mg), yet very low in sodium (1 mg), thus having a perfect ratio of preventing high blood pressure. So much so, the US Food & Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
8. Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.
9. It has been found that snacking on bananas between meals help to keep blood-sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
10. And when it comes to ulcers, the banana helps reduce acidity and reduces irritation. Bananas stimulate the cells on the internal stomach lining to produce a thicker mucus (which protects against acid). It contains protease inhibitors that help eliminate bacteria in the stomach that have been pinpointed as a primary cause of ulcers.
So now that we know how good the banana is for our body I'll give you a few tips on purchasing. They can be found in just about any stage of ripeness. You want to look for plump undamaged fruit, but don't be too concerned about slight bruises, the skin is tough enough to absorb most bumps. You can actually peel them, cut them into halves and store them in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator where they will keep at least 2 1/2 weeks. If stored outside the refrigerator keep in mind that they will continue to ripen after picking so store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight until they reach your preferred color.