Banana bonanzaDon’t overlook nutritional value of the ripe ones.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
I’m not one to turn up my nose at ripe bananas. Never have been, never will be.
That’s unlike my brothers — when we were growing — who couldn’t stand bananas that had even a hint of brown on them; or like it is in our house now, where hardly anyone but me will touch a ripe banana.
On Tuesday, when I returned to work after a week’s vacation, I found a ripe banana sitting on my desk. I assumed it was from colleague Kim Deats, who often gives me some of her extra bananas. A later check with her confirmed my suspicions. Kim said she was tired of making banana bread and knew I wouldn’t turn down her offering, even though it was a bit on the brown side.
Before I could gobble it up, Matt Purpur from our Circulation Department came by and gave me a piece of banana bread, which he had made. And I hadn’t even taken a bite when administrative assistant Janelle Stadstad’s e-mail announced that there was some homemade banana bread at her desk for the taking. It was almost like I had been abducted by the banana aliens.
I took those three banana encounters of a fourth kind as a sign to write something about this member of the family Musaceae, which is one of the best food sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. (The average banana contains a whopping 467 milligrams of potassium and only 1 milligram of sodium as well as well as being low in fat and high in B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and manganese.)
A banana a day also may help to prevent high blood pressure and protect against atherosclerosis. (Potassium-rich foods such as bananas have been shown effective in lowering blood pressure in number of studies. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine also confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as bananas, helps prevent heart disease.
In addition to these cardiovascular benefits, the potassium found in bananas also may help to promote bone health.
Despite the mocking I take from some of my peers at work about my penchant for eating ripe (overripe in their eyes) bananas, they appear to be even more nutritious than they are when in their yellow state. That’s because when fruit ripens and the skins darken, the antioxidant polyphenoloxide is released. Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. (Oxidative damage contributes to health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer, etc.)
Another reason to make sure your usually yellow fruit is fully ripe when you eat it is that apart from being unpleasant to eat, green bananas also can be quite harmful. They contain proteins that limit the digestion of complex carbohydrates.
Ripe bananas are good in all kinds of easy-to-make foods. You can use them in smoothies, pancakes, waffles, pudding, cream pie and cake. And then, there’s the famous dessert — Bananas Foster — created by the late New Orleans chef Paul Blagé.
And lest we forget, there’s the aforementioned banana bread, which is not all that difficult to make, either.
Asked how hard it was on a scale of 1 to 10, Matt Purpur said, “I’ve made it so many times it’s easy. But the first time, it didn’t turn out so good.”
You couldn’t prove that by me.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.