We all know that a balanced diet is important to a healthy lifestyle. Working out and eating well go hand in hand. Even for those of us who have their workout schedule down to a perfect pattern, our diet plan is often the hardest part of a changing lifestyle. Whether you are working towards gaining weight, losing it, or just simply maintaining the status quo, eating right is the first step in reaching your goals. Unfortunately, when it comes to grabbing a quick snack or an accompanying side for a meal, our first choices are usually fatty chips, greasy French fries, or other unhealthy empty calories.
But there is a better option! If you are looking for a sweet afternoon snack or a filling side to your protein rich meal, you need to look no further than a banana. Perhaps a surprising suggestion, but the nutritional value of a banana and the other benefits of choosing a banana over other snacks makes it the perfect option for a snack or side dish.
On face value, bananas are easy to eat. Since the banana is self-contained in its peel, there are no preservatives to worry about. If you are on the go, bananas are portable and able to be taken along even without a cooler.
Though simple in appearance and physical content, bananas are extremely versatile. Of course, they can be eaten raw, but the possibilities are endless. Bananas can be baked into bread, cakes, or muffins. The freezer also offers many possibilities for bananas. Frozen bananas can be blended into a form of ice cream which is a great sweet substitute for sugar heavy ice cream or frozen yogurt. By adding some milk to a blended banana (fresh or frozen), you can make a simple milk shake with the added bonus of vitamins and healthier sugar than a milkshake made with ice cream. The creamy, yet firm, texture of the banana makes for the perfect base for frozen treats. One thing to note about bananas is that they do not make juice like other fruits. In order to use a banana in a liquid form, you need to add water or other fruit juices to create the right consistency.
The simple nature of a banana makes it a great food for people of all ages. Because it is a soft solid, a banana makes a great first solid food for infants. The nutrients included in the sweet, soft treat tend to make it a simple food to introduce into a milk-only diet. Young children can also enjoy bananas as an easy to eat and clean up snack. The ease of opening and serving a banana makes it ideal for preschoolers as a self-serve snack. Bananas make for the perfect lunch snack for school or work since the peel keeps it fresh in everyone’s lunch box. Grab a banana as a post workout snack to help replenish the nutrients lost during exercise. When hunger strikes late at night (whether right before bed or at midnight) grab a banana to feel full and satisfy your sweet tooth without the unnecessary calories and sugar of other snacks.
Adding bananas to your balanced diet can help with all stages of weight management. If you are trying to lose weight, add a few bananas in place of your morning yogurt throughout the week, or enjoy them as a dessert by themselves. The healthy carbohydrates in the banana will help you feel full longer than quick carbs from wheat (like breads or pasta). Be sure to pair your banana with a protein rich meal to balance your nutrient intake. For maintaining weight, balance your intake of bananas with other fruits, grains, and proteins to keep your diet consistent. When attempting to gain weight, add bananas to your breakfast and enjoy a few more bananas each week. If you add extra protein and carbs to your diet, the added bananas will help to bulk up your diet.
In addition to the simplicity, versatility, and weight management practicality, there are some basic nutritional facts to also note about bananas. Unlike packaged snacks (even the healthier ones) bananas are naturally fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free. Even with more calories than other fruits, bananas have less sugar, making them ideal for anyone watching sugar intake. This is especially important if you are keeping track of your food’s rating on the glycemic index. Since bananas rank low on the glycemic index, they only make a small to moderate impact on blood sugar.
In other matters of health, bananas can help to soothe an upset stomach or issues with diarrhea. Bananas also have some antacid properties, which can aid in indigestion or heartburn. Another important benefit to eating a banana is that it contains prebiotics to help health. Prebiotics increase the body’s production of vitamins and enzymes, which help the body absorb more nutrients and fight off germs and disease.
For the most part, there are no health risks associated with eating bananas in moderation. However, there have been reports of allergic reactions to bananas in those who are allergic to latex. The connection between the bananas and latex has not yet been scientifically proven or understood, but those with latex allergies should take care to seek medical help quickly if they have a reaction to a banana. Another warning comes from the amount of potassium available in bananas. While potassium is good for your body in moderation, an overdose of potassium can be very dangerous. Eating bananas in moderation (and keeping track of multivitamins you may be taking that contain potassium) will not cause you any harm. It would take an extreme amount of bananas each and every day to cause potassium overdose. Balance is key when adding bananas to your diet.
The specific nutritional values for bananas vary depending on the size of the banana. For an average medium banana (around 8 inches long) you can count about 105 calories, about 14 grams of sugar, around 28 grams of carbs, and about 1 gram of protein. For those trying to lower their cholesterol, it is good to note that there are about 3 grams of dietary fiber in a medium banana. Additionally, a healthy dose of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C are also included, along with about 14 percent of your daily value for potassium and 9 percent of your daily value for manganese. Bananas are also a good source of calcium which is good for your bones, and magnesium which helps as a quick and healthy way to fight fatigue.
Rethinking the awesome nutritional value of the banana could change your entire mindset about your diet. No longer do you have to give up all sweet treats (or even “ice cream”) to stick to your diet. Balancing your other food groups with the heart and body healthy banana can give you the extra boost to lose weight, gain weight, or even just maintain a healthy weight while managing your cholesterol. The ease of eating and self-contained nature of the banana makes it the perfect grab and go snack for everyone, from one to one hundred and one years old. Eat a banana today (in healthy and happy bliss) knowing that you are doing your body a favor while enjoying the soft, delicious treat.