Ever wondered where this came from? According to Wiki, we can trace it back to monkeys becoming somewhat intoxicated after feasting on fermented bananas that had fallen onto the forest floor and going crazy … You could call it a natural banana daiquiri! But, it’s not just monkeys who love bananas, fermented or otherwise. They are one of the world’s most popular fruits and a lunchbox favourite for kids, provided they aren’t too ripe and squishy, in which case they are perfect for cooking. Talking about going bananas, here in Australia we certainly did after Cyclone Yasi destroyed most of the crop in 2011 and bananas climbed as high as $15 a kilogram (about $3 or $4 per banana).
The banana growers of Australia are one the biggest produce grower groups and are one of only a few to advertise their product on prime time TV up against the usual fast food, confectionery and the like. I’m rather fond of their tag line “make those bodies sing” talking up the benefits to kids, and more recently “nature’s energy snack” where they contrast the ugly side of snacking on “no-nos” with the great nutrition story of “na-nas”. And they really do compete nicely, thank you, with an economical price, ready-made packaging, portability and great eating.
Many people believe bananas are fattening – probably because they taste so good! They aren’t. A medium sized banana only has around 420 kilojoules (100 calories) and really satisfies the appetite. And that creamy, mouth-filling texture is thanks to their low water content and starch-sugar combination. They are fat free. Because bananas taste sweet people often assume they are high GI but in fact they have a low GI (52). Even when they’re over-ripe and much of the starch has converted to sugar, they still fall into the low GI category.
Na-nas are a nutrition powerhouse with a bundle of nutrients along with their sustained energy. That’s why you’ll see professional cyclists (and weekend warriors) with bananas strapped to their handlebars for on-the-run refuelling. Bananas are the go-to source of potassium (my grandma tells me that), and more potassium in the diet is a good thing for helping maintain ideal blood pressure. While bananas may hide in the shadows of more trendy super-fruits, they contain antioxidants too. But they really shine for being a rich source of vitamin B6, providing a third to half the recommended daily amount. The list of good stuff in bananas also includes with B-vitamins, vitamin C and fibre.
When buying bananas, select both ripe and under-ripe fruit: bananas ripen in your fruit bowl so this ensures you have a steady supply. Because bananas emit ethylene gas as they ripen, a good trick is to place fruits you want to ripen – such as hard avocadoes – in a brown paper bag with bananas to bring them along. Keep them cool but not in the fridge which will cause their skin to go brown. Don’t be put off by dark patches on the skin as the fruit is usually still firm underneath. And if by chance they hang around long enough to become over-ripe, pop them in the freezer as they are (in their skin) and take them out as you need them for baking. Alternatively, mash them and freeze in the ice cube tray ready to pop out into a smoothie. Another idea to freeze them on a stick as natural, delicious popsicles – the kids will love ’em. Whatever the time of day, bung in a banana!
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist, author, speaker, consultant, and commentator with an interest in how we can learn to love good food that’s good for us.