It is perhaps the king of all fruits, and an item that over 90% of Americans eat on a regular basis. Delicious, nutritious, and gluten-free, bananas are a great staple in any diet. But especially for those living a gluten-free lifestyle, the banana really shines because it contains nutrients that are often lacking in a diet free of gluten.
Let’s begin the discussion of why the banana is a nutritional super food by talking about fiber. One banana contains about 3g of fiber, some of which is pectin, a soluble fiber. Soluble fiber plays a big role in keeping a person full for longer, slowing down digestion (good for long-term energy and overall health), and even binds cholesterol in the gut and excretes it. And of course fiber is implicated in intestinal health, often a major problem area for Celiac patients and those living gluten-free. Many gluten-free diets are lacking in fiber, and let’s just say that making bananas a normal part of your gluten-free diet will help keep your normal.
Bananas also contain B-vitamins, which are implicated in many biological functions, one of the most important of which is turning food into energy. Especially high in vitamin B-6, bananas have long had a reputation for being a good source of energy. They do contain some sugar to fuel you, but the fiber in them also slows down digestion, so their impact on your blood sugar is considered to be healthy and will not lead to a yo-yoing of blood sugar. Many people with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance often suffer from malabsorption due to gluten damage in the small intestine. This can lead to lower than necessary levels of the very same B-vitamins that bananas provide.
Bananas are also famous for being a good source of potassium. Potassium is another micronutrient with many health benefits, including keeping the body’s sodium/potassium relationship balanced. Americans typically eat enough, if not way too much sodium. Eating ample amounts of potassium will help keep the sodium/potassium system, implicated in high blood pressure, diabetes, and overall cardiovascular health, in check. Bananas also contain compounds called fructooligosaccharides, which promote healthy bacterial growth in the gut and lead to better nutrient absorption and overall increased gastrointestinal health (again, exactly what Celiac and gluten-free patients need). Bananas also contain antacid chemicals, and should help with heartburn. Bananas may even improve mood, as they contain the chemical precursors to serotonin production, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter.
If all of this hasn’t yet convinced you to make bananas a part of your diet, or perhaps a larger part of your diet, then maybe a few fun facts will. Who doesn’t like fun facts, right? Nearly all commercially available bananas today are clones that come from one strain of the banana plant that originated in Southeast Asia, known as the Cavendish. But this particular banana hasn’t always been the big kid on the block. The Cavendish’s predecessor, the Gros Michel banana, was extremely popular and supposedly better tasting, but was wiped out by a fungus years ago and hasn’t been commercially available for the last 50 years. Such is the downside of a lack of genetic variation. Bananas are also available either grown organically or non-organically. Only a true banana connoisseur could tell the difference, but apes and chimpanzees seem to have no difficulty. They will eat the entire fruit, peel and all, of an organic banana but will only eat the flesh of an inorganically grown banana.
As we can see, bananas are loaded with nutritional benefits, and often contain many nutrients normally lacking in a gluten-free diet. They are low in calories, high in fiber, high in potassium, high in vitamin B-6, and also contain vitamin C. And we know that apes and chimpanzees are big banana fans, and as we’ve discussed before, any food that has been eaten by humans and human ancestors for tens of thousands of years is bound to be pretty healthy. So take a look over at your fruit bowl and if you don’t see any bananas, it might be time for a trip to the store. Your health will improve and your body will thank you.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube