Bananas are the most commonly purchased supermarket fruit, but their bad reputation for delivering a deluge of sugary carbs keeps them off the shopping lists of many a fitness enthusiast. You might be surprised to learn that underneath that yellow peel is a fruit that contains nutritional heft that promotes a healthier body inside and out. And who doesn't love the power of a banana to add a sweet, thickening touch to any muscle-making protein shake? At an average of about 56 cents per pound, they'll help your wallet stay trim, too.

Bananas Before and After Your Workout

If there was ever a time to eat a deliciously ripe banana, it would be after a spirited workout. As bananas ripen, their starch is converted into simple sugars, making the flesh sweeter and gooier. A single medium-sized banana has about 14 grams of naturally occurring sugars. That may sound like a bad thing, but you can use it to your advantage when you're in recovery mode.



After a workout, these fast-digesting natural sugars help replenish your spent glycogen, a storage form of carbs that is your main source of energy during high-intensity exercise. The sugars also stimulate insulin release to help drive amino acids into your weary muscles.

Before a workout, chomping down on a ripe banana can provide you with a burst of energy to help power you through your latest sufferfest. And don't forget that ripe bananas can be used as a more "natural" way to tame a sweet tooth compared to packaged foods full of added sugars. This makes ripe bananas a great addition to desserts, post-gym smoothies, or a bowl of oatmeal.

More Than Just Potassium

When people think of bananas, they often think "potassium"—and that's a good thing. Potassium governs muscle and nerve functioning as well as supporting healthy blood flow throughout the body.[1] But wait, there's more! Bananas also contain vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B-6. In fact, bananas are one of the few fruits to provide useful amounts of vitamin B-6, an important vitamin involved in multiple enzyme reactions in the body. B-6 may also support brain functioning and healthy neurotransmitter levels.[2]

Bananas

Choose Green Bananas for Resistant Starches

While most people eat ripe bananas, there's a lot to be said for finding a place in your diet for greener, less-ripe ones. Unlike in ripe bananas, the carbohydrate in green bananas is not sugar, but starch—and not just any starch. Resistant starch is a unique type of carbohydrate that resists processing in our small intestines, the site of digestion of most food.

Instead, our bodies digest this starch in our large intestines, where the starch acts as a "prebiotic," In the large intestine, these starches serve as a fuel source for bacteria that release beneficial compounds, such as short-chain fatty acids, and improve the health of our gut microbes.[3] This lower-glycemic form of carbs can help promote healthy blood sugar levels and help you feel less hungry.[4]

What's more, some research suggests that adding resistant starch to meals can raise post-meal fat-burning rates.[5] And since resistant starch isn't properly digested, it doesn't contribute calories to foods that contain it.

Note: If your current diet is low in resistant starch, don't suddenly start blending green bananas into your protein shakes. You want to gradually up your intake to limit uncomfortable digestive woes like gas.



1. Chocolate Banana Cocoa Pucks

Ideally, a dessert should do more than satisfy your sweet tooth, it should also provide your diet with a nutritional boost. Full of good-for-you fats and natural sweetness, these frosty cocoa pucks fit the bill and are a perfect substitute for ice cream. Blending in the cayenne provides a surprising kick. Before serving, let the pucks sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften.

Chocolate Banana Cocoa Pucks

View Recipe Here

2. Curry Chicken Banana Stir-Fry

The next time you find yourself with a bunch of green bananas, don't wait for them all to ripen. Instead, make them the backbone of this stir-fry, which will put some spark into your weeknight dinner routine.

Chicken Curry Banana Stir-Fry

View Recipe Here

3. Banana Cream Pie Smoothie Bowl

This extra-thick smoothie has what it takes to help you recover after a hard workout. Crunchy options for toppings include walnuts, coconut chips, cacao nibs, and/or chopped banana chips. To freeze bananas for all your smoothie needs, peel ripe fruit, chop into 2-inch chunks, and spread out on a baking sheet. Place sheet in the freezer until bananas are frozen, then store in a zip-close bag.

Here is another tip: To keep your thick smoothie from turning into smoothie soup, serve in a frosty bowl.

Banana Cream Pie Smoothie Bowl

View Recipe Here



References
  1. Binia, A., Jaeger, J., Hu, Y., Singh, A., & Zimmermann, D. (2015). Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension, 33(8), 1509-1520.
  2. Moorthy, D., Peter, I., Scott, T. M., Parnell, L. D., Lai, C. Q., Crott, J. W., ... & Tucker, K. L. (2012). Status of Vitamins B-12 and B-6 but Not of Folate, Homocysteine, and the Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase C677T Polymorphism Are Associated with Impaired Cognition and Depression in Adults–3. The Journal of Nutrition, 142(8), 1554-1560.
  3. Birt, D. F., Boylston, T., Hendrich, S., Jane, J. L., Hollis, J., Li, L., ... & Schalinske, K. (2013). Resistant starch: promise for improving human health. Advances in Nutrition, 4(6), 587-601.
  4. So, P. W., Yu, W. S., Kuo, Y. T., Wasserfall, C., Goldstone, A. P., Bell, J. D., & Frost, G. (2007). Impact of resistant starch on body fat patterning and central appetite regulation. PLoS One, 2(12), e1309.
  5. Gentile, C. L., Ward, E., Holst, J. J., Astrup, A., Ormsbee, M. J., Connelly, S., & Arciero, P. J. (2015). Resistant starch and protein intake enhances fat oxidation and feelings of fullness in lean and overweight/obese women. Nutrition Journal, 14(1), 113.

About the Author

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MSc., is a registered dietitian based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He works full-time as a freelance nutrition writer...

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