Okay okay, they were never really out, but sometimes going back to the basics is necessary – food included.
If you have been into a supermarket lately, you are probably aware of how many new foods and food products are popping up all the time. Take a stroll down the health food aisle and you’ll see an ever-expanding array of goodies claiming to solve all of your problems in one bite (read: superfoods). Many of these foods have been around for thousands of years but have only recently gained attention, such as quinoa and maca powder. Fast forward to the present day of social media and it is hard to keep up with the latest seed/tea/probiotic/supplement that supposedly holds the key to lifelong health.
The truth is, there are many trendy health products that owe their popularity to an influx of Instagram posts and have little scientific evidence to support their claims. For many people, it can be challenging to chose which of these health foods are worth including in their diet. The amount of conflicting advice and misinformation circulating the web can be quite overwhelming.Ladher N. Nutrition science in the media: You are what you read. BMJ [Internet]. 2016 Apr [cited 2017 April 29];353.1-2 Available from: http://dx.doi.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.1136/bmj.i1879 Research shows that the media is the primary source of nutritional information for consumers; with television, magazines, and the rapid rise of social media, it is no wonder there is confusion about what to believe. Even more, these buzz-worthy foods can be downright expensive! In fact, a recent study found an association between socioeconomic position and consumption of five popular superfoods. This leads to the idea that there may be cultural and social norms underpinning the obsession with these high-priced products. I can assure you that forking out $8 for a mustard-hued turmeric latte is not necessary to optimise your nutritional status.
Now, that is not to minimise the positive aspects of the expanding health food market. Taking an interest in health-conscious and mindful eating can be both beneficial and incredibly interesting. There are endless things to learn about in the fascinating world of foods. We do not need to turn away from trying new and exciting products, however, it is important to remember that good nutrition does not have to be difficult or expensive. Rather, one valuable approach to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is to keep it simple.
In hopes of shining a light on something living in the shadows of all the sparkly new fads, we can look to a reliant lunchbox fruit: the good ‘ol banana. Here we will discuss the nutritional profile, health benefits, and the versatile roles bananas can have in your diet.
Apart from being both accessible and budget friendly, bananas are full of important nutrients that help keep our bodies running smoothly. One medium-sized banana provides 385 kilojoules or 92 kilocalories, 1.4 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat, 19.6 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.4 grams of fiber.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium which is a micronutrient that is vital to many physiological processes. Potassium plays a key role in electrolyte balance and many aspects of homeostasis, such as heart rate Whitney, E., Rolfes, S., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D., Walsh, A. Understanding nutrition. 3rd ed. Australia: Cengage Learning; 2016. 96-114.. Research shows that a high potassium intake is associated with a lowered rate of strokes and may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Additionally, increasing potassium intake has demonstrated to lower blood pressure in both normotensive and hypotensive people He, FJ, Macgregor, GA. Beneficial effects of potassium. BMJ [Internet]. 2001 Sept [cited 2017 April 28];323(7311):497-501. Available from: http://www.bmj.com.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/content/bmj/323/7311/497.full.pdf. Thus, consuming potassium-rich fruits and vegetables such as bananas can have important health benefits.
Bananas are also a good source of soluble fibre which has many beneficial functions such as slowing digestion and increasing satiety after eating. As well, a high intake of dietary fibre has shown to be protective against heart disease and is associated with lowering cholesterol Whitney, E., Rolfes, S., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D., Walsh, A. Understanding nutrition. 3rd ed. Australia: Cengage Learning; 2016. 96-114.. Of the total carbohydrate content of a banana, 6.8 grams of the 19.6 grams is starch while the remaining 12.8 grams comes from fructose and glucose. Containing both simple and complex carbohydrates, bananas are an excellent choice to refuel and replenish your muscle glycogen stores after physical activity. Despite sugar content, a medium-sized yellow banana is categorised as a low Glycaemic Index (GI) foodAtkinson, FS, Foster-Powell, K, Brand-Miller, JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care [Internet]. 2008 Dec [cited 2017 Apr 29];31(12):2281-2283. Available from http://care.diabetesjournals.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/content/diacare/31/12/2281.full.pdf. The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends regular consumption of low GI foods as they may help to keep energy stabilized between meals and reduce insulin levels.
In addition to being both cheap and available year round, bananas are extremely versatile in the ways they can be prepared. You need not be a Master Chef contestant, but this is where you can get creative in the kitchen.
If you’re like many people with a jam-packed schedule, making a hearty breakfast before racing off to work or school in the morning can be a challenge. Aside from grabbing a plain banana on the go, it’s easy to incorporate this versatile fruit into a morning meal. Blending up a banana smoothie with some milk or yogurt for protein is a quick way to get out the door. You can add pretty much anything you like and if you’re feeling extra eager, throw in some spinach or kale for an extra serve of veg! If liquid breakfast is not your thing, try preparing overnight oats with mashed banana the night before and wake up to a tasty bowl of wholesome grains.
Fan of ice cream? Me too! You may have heard of “nice cream,” which is essentially a dairy-free alternative to the real stuff and requires little effort to make. All you need to do is to freeze up a couple of ripe bananas and throw ‘em in a food processor until smooth and creamy. This concept is a win-win because it has no added sugar, satisfies a sweet craving, and provides two serves of fruit all in one go. Maybe that would make it a win-win-win? There are countless recipes on the web and a variety of flavour combinations to try out, too. Check out this easy step-by-step recipe to start.
In addition to frozen treats, the natural sweetness and moisture content of bananas can be used to replace added sugar and fat in several baked goods. Sports Dietitians Australia and Dietitians Association of Australia have posted some delicious recipes that illustrate this. You can easily whip up a loaf of banana bread on the weekend, take a slice to work or school, and you’ll have a hearty snack on hand when the mid-afternoon munchies strike.
There are countless ways to add bananas to your diet and have fun experimenting with recipes. Exploring common, everyday foods such as fruits and vegetables can be a valuable way to gain a new perspective on what “health food” can mean. Many foods provide a diverse range and quantity of nutrients and beneficial qualities; it is detrimental to limit yourself to the ones labelled “super.” A balanced diet has room for all categories of food, whether you choose to include those popular health foods or not.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Ladher N. Nutrition science in the media: You are what you read. BMJ [Internet]. 2016 Apr [cited 2017 April 29];353.1-2 Available from: http://dx.doi.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/10.1136/bmj.i1879|
|2.||⇪ab||Whitney, E., Rolfes, S., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D., Walsh, A. Understanding nutrition. 3rd ed. Australia: Cengage Learning; 2016. 96-114.|
|3.||⇪||He, FJ, Macgregor, GA. Beneficial effects of potassium. BMJ [Internet]. 2001 Sept [cited 2017 April 28];323(7311):497-501. Available from: http://www.bmj.com.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/content/bmj/323/7311/497.full.pdf|
|4.||⇪||Atkinson, FS, Foster-Powell, K, Brand-Miller, JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care [Internet]. 2008 Dec [cited 2017 Apr 29];31(12):2281-2283. Available from http://care.diabetesjournals.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/content/diacare/31/12/2281.full.pdf|