Hand of Bananas - © bimbingan.org

A Banana A Day Keeps The Doctor Away?

Recent findings have confirmed that the common banana is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Some folks – my ancient and venerable mom among them – have been told by their doctors to eat a banana a day. But there remain detractors, mainly online…

GEO Bananas - © geneticliteracyproject.org

I love bananas. But I must confess, I’d have trouble eating one every day. It has more to do with the large to X-large size of the most common type of banana these days. I get about 3/4 of the way through one and I’m full. Heavy-full. But I find ways to compensate. For instance, I’ve learned to eat slower, and add dips and accompaniments to my inter-meal banana nosh-ups. My fave is peanut butter. But I also love the gentle curry contrast that Butter Chicken sauce brings to the banana’s sweetness…

Enough of this! If I go on, it may well devolve into food porn. And I’ll forget what I wanted to post about in the fist place!

The ‘common’ banana

The one we’re al used to seeing at the supermarket is the Cavendish Banana. It’s the world’s single most-cultivated banana variety. But it’s also in peril. A deadly virus has been threatening to drive the Cavendish to extinction for almost a decade. And efforts to find a cure or breed another variety of banana that could step into its peels, so to speak, are not progressing very quickly.

But even with recent price increases, the banana remains the most economical fruit you can buy, at any time of the year. And it’s available virtually everywhere fresh fruit is sold.

What about the detractors?

The online world has been peppered with apocalyptic posts about how it’s dangerous to eat banana regularly. The medical and dietary authorities reassure us that those alarmist stories are a load of… Bunk.

So, I was delighted to come across a post earlier this week on Delish, which clearly and decisively addresses the health myths surrounding bananas.

What you need to know

Reporter Alison Arnold consulted registered dietician Lauren Manaker, to ‘fill us in everything we need to know’ about eating bananas.

First, she says, you have to appreciate the wealth of nutritious components a banana delivers: “One medium banana, according to the USDA, has about 105 calories, 27 grams carbs, 14 grams sugar, 5 grams fiber, and 422 mg of potassium. It’s also a good source of other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and electrolytes, including magnesium, sodium, and of course, potassium.”

“It is estimated that 90 percent of Americans are not eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day,” says Manaker. “So, if someone wants to eat a banana every day, that can be a great habit to get into to get some fruit servings in.”

Wow! But it’s that last element – potassium – that has some folks up in arms and others snarled in a web of misinformation.

The potassium problem

Turns out it’s not really a problem at all, for the vast majority of us. According to the Cleveland Clinic medical information database, “In the general U.S. population, hyperkalemia [high potassium] is rare. Medical experts estimate 2 percent to 3 percent of people have high potassium levels.”

If you have it, you probably already know. The symptoms are pretty clear:

Dangerously high potassium levels may trigger extreme symptoms including:

You’re up to three times more likely to have hyperkalemia if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). And that’s a serious condition all on its own, with major symptoms of its own.

Moderation in all things!

– As the late, great Julia Child used to say. Manaker stresses that a banana a day is okay. But we should diversify our fresh fruit intake, making sure we also get, for instance, the anti-inflammatory benefits of blue fruits such as blueberries and dark plums.

The bottom line…

Go bananas! Have one a day without guilt or trepidation. But enjoy a good variety of other fresh fruits and veggies through the week, too!

~ Maggie J.