By Dr. Willie T. Ong (Internist-Cardiologist)
1. Eat a banana if you have heartburn. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemisty (February, 2001) attests to the anti-ulcer properties of the banana. Bananas act like a natural antacid to the stomach. In this article, they identified the secret component in the banana, the flavonoid leucocyanidin. Studies show that bananas can protect against aspirin-induced gastritis and can significantly increase the mucous membrane lining of the stomach.
2. Bananas are high in fiber and vitamins. A single banana contains 16% of the dietary fiber, 15% of the vitamin C, 11% of the potassium and 20% of the vitamin B6 recommended each day.
3. Bananas are good for the heart. Potassium is an essential mineral needed to regulate water balance, acidity level and blood pressure of the body. A lack of potassium may cause muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat. For patients taking a diuretic medicine, they should take 2 bananas a day to keep the potassium level up. Take note also that bananas have zero sodium (good for high blood pressure) and zero fat and cholesterol (good for those with high cholesterol).
4. Bananas may reduce strokes. Numerous studies have shown that low potassium levels can cause heart palpitations, which can then lead to a stroke.
5. Bananas help counter stress and insomnia. Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that is known to make you feel happy and improve your mood.
6. Diabetics may take bananas in moderation. Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep the blood sugar level up. The glycemic index rating for a ripe, yellow banana is 51 which is fairly good. This means that the carbohydrates in a banana have a medium to slow effect in raising your blood sugar levels. However, as bananas ripen, the starch in the fruit turns to sugar and may cause your blood sugar to rise more. The lesson is: it’s okay to eat a banana, but not the overripe one.
7. Bananas for fatigue and anemia. Have you seen Roger Federer eat a banana between games? The high potassium content prevents cramps and gives ready energy with its easily digestible starch. Bananas are also a rich source of iron, thus it is helpful in patients with anemia.
8. Bananas may prevent leukemia. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Kwan et al. (Dec 2004, pp. 1098-107) shows an association between regular consumption of bananas and oranges in children from ages 0-2 and a reduction in childhood leukemia.
9. Bananas may prevent childhood asthma. A European study of 2,640 primary school children in South London concludes that eating bananas at least once a day reduces episodes of wheezing and asthma attacks in children (European Respiratory Journal, Feb. 14, 2007). Eating apples and other fruits were not as beneficial.
10. It’s cheap! The best news about the lowly banana is that it’s cheap. And it comes in a great package. A banana can fit cleanly in your bag. Just cut it high up in the stem. When you feel hungry and stressed, reach for a banana.
The only downside with bananas is that some people may get constipation. If this is the case, then maybe you can mix your bananas with other fruits like papayas and watermelon to loosen your bowels. Taking in lots of water also helps.
I hope you can discover the wonders of the banana and add it to your daily diet. It just might cure you of your medical problems. Remember: Two bananas a day can keep the doctor away.