Are Bananas A Part of Your Diet? Discover Their Connection to Health & Vitality!
I love food – not only does it provide us with energy, nutrients, and life; it also brings us joy and comfort. So many foods are inextricably linked to memories, celebrations, and good times.
What about bananas? I have fond memories of warm, sweet banana bread fresh out of the oven and not so fond memories of my dad forcing us to eat bananas in our Cheerio’s when they were the last thing we wanted. We got one slice for each year of our life. When I got seven slices because I was seven years old, I would stick my tongue out at my eight-year-old brother, because he got more. We didn’t care for them back then… but bananas are one of the most beautiful fruits! They’re perfectly packaged in their own wrapper, they ripen quickly, and they provide a quick burst of energy whenever you need it.
So, when my friend asked me to tell him more about bananas, I took it as an opportunity to find lots of information and then share it. He wondered how many should he consume in a day? Was there a challenge or problem with the potassium – sodium ratio if he consumed a lot? Here’s what I’ve found.
Electrolytes for Dummies
I can geek out about chemistry and nutrition, but that's not my intention here. Some of this stuff is complicated (and that's what makes our bodies such miraculous wonders)! Below you'll find a brief summary of electrolytes and why they're so important!
Regarding my friend’s questions, it’s important to recognize the value and function of electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes are mineral salts (potassium, sodium, chloride) and they conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They have enormous responsibilities, such as balancing water and distributing it, aiding in the function of adrenals and kidneys, balancing acids and bases, controlling muscle and nerve cell function, as well as the function of the heart.
These electrolytes are always found in pairs: a positive and a negative. Potassium and sodium are positive and chloride is negative. Potassium is found (usually) inside cells, while sodium is found outside of cells due to the “sodium-potassium pump”, which pumps potassium in and sodium out. Sodium must be pumped out or the cells will expand with water accumulation and burst. The kidneys help control the amount of sodium that is available to the body. If the body needs sodium, the kidneys will release it and if there’s too much sodium, the kidneys will retain it. (This is often why kidneys are involved in blood pressure and other sodium-potassium related disorders.)
Interestingly enough, potassium exits the cell while sodium enters the cell when there is a nerve transmission. This results in an electric charge, allowing a nerve impulse or a muscle to contract. Potassium deficiency is often associated with muscle and nerve disorders.
Nutrition, Health Benefits, & Warnings
Nutritionally, bananas contain not only potassium (approx. 440 mg), but vitamins B6 and C, fiber (approx. 2.6 grams), riboflavin, magnesium, and biotin. They have more calories and sugar than most fruits because of their low water content.
What are they good for? Well, potassium, being a very important electrolyte in the body, helps regulate heart function and fluid balance. This directly effects blood pressure and protects against heart disease and strokes. Asian Traditions cite bananas as fruit that removes arterial residues of fat and cholesterol as well as treats hypertension. Also, the fiber content is soluble (pectin) and helps lower cholesterol as well as normalize bowel function. Bananas are the first choice when implementing the B.R.A.T. diet for stomach upsets (bananas, rice, apples, and toast).
Warnings: Bananas contain an enzyme called chitinases. This enzyme, also found in avocados, can cause allergic reactions in people who have a sensitivity to latex. Also, when purchasing dried bananas, choose unsulfured products. According to Asian Traditions, bananas fall into the starchy and oily category (along with avocados and coconut) and should be consumed sparingly during dietary transitions. They can encourage the body to hold on to weight that it may be trying to shed.
So... can you eat too many bananas?
Needless to say, these electrolytes are extremely important and their balance must be maintained. This balance is often referred to as the K:Na ration (Potassium to Sodium Ratio). Americans on the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) tend to have a ration of 1:2, which is twice as much sodium coming in than potassium. Ideally, the ratio would be 5:1 and in a fruits and vegetables based diet, the ratio would be 100:1. The ratio for a banana is 440:1, putting it up there with tomatoes, flounder, peaches, and lima beans. The RDA (recommended daily allowances) for potassium are 1.9 to 5.6 grams of potassium.
So, back to the question: can you eat too many bananas? And can you consume too much potassium? Anything can be overdone, however, most people can handle such an excess, unless there is kidney disease. So if kidney disease is not an issue, then eat those potassium-rich bananas and remember, consuming foods in their natural form is the best way to maintain our healthy, energy, and vitality.
Murray, Michael (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books, NY.
Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, CA.
One More Thing...
May we never forget our footprint on the earth. Please consider the cost of obtaining a banana from far, far away, who picked it, if they were paid, and what the working conditions are. Here’s a great article to read: Fair Trade Planet
For more free resources, articles, and even a free report, go to http://www.freedomfromdiets.com !
In peace & health,
Theresa Singleton, MA
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