The banana is Mother Nature’s gift. It is one of the most popular fruits among people from all walks of life because bananas are available fresh all year-round, and much cheaper compared to other tropical fruits.

By Julio P. Yap, Jr.

For the ordinary consumer, ‘banana’ is just a simple name for the yellow or green elongated fruit which is usually served as a dessert.

But according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), the word ‘banana’ is a general term embracing a number of species or hybrids of the genus Musa of the family of Musaceae, closely related to plantains.

Bananas are classified either as dessert bananas or as green cooking bananas. It can be a delicious addition to fruit salads or peeled and eaten as is. Overripe bananas can be used to make excellent breads, cookies, muffins, and cakes. The unripe or green bananas are used for cooking; these can be fried, boiled, baked, or made into chips.

The FNRI said bananas are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Potassium is a mineral which is important for controlling the body’s fluid balance. It is also needed for muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, and the proper functioning of the heart and kidneys. Potassium helps regulate water balance and blood pressure in cells, together with other minerals like sodium, calcium, and magnesium.

Besides being a good source of vitamins and minerals, banana is also a natural remedy for a number of illnesses and conditions.The FNRI said a ripe banana relieves diarrhea, whereas the unripe banana relieves constipation.

Bananas are also highly recommended for patients suffering from high blood pressure because of their potassium content. A banana each day helps restore the balance of potassium. So it is highly advisable to include banana with one of your daily meals.

The FNRI explained that the banana is the most unique fruit because it does not come from trees, but from large plants that are giant herbs related to the lily and orchid families. Bananas in general, such as the saba, gloria, and latundan, contain 400 milligrams of potassium. Most individuals receive approximately 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of potassium from various foods.

Bananas are also a great source of instant energy, whether you are watching your diet or just trying to eat healthy. Like most fresh fruits, bananas contain no fat, sodium, or cholesterol. It is a known fact that a low-fat, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and
certain types of cancer.

Bananas are also rich in vitamins A, C , K, and B6, and in fiber and magnesium. Lack of vitamin B6 in the diet can cause weakness, irritability, and insomnia. Vitamin K helps regulate blood pressure and may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Vitamin K is also essential for helping muscles contract properly during exercise and reduces the incidence of muscle cramps.

Bananas also contain plenty of carbohydrates, which are the body’s main source of energy. It contains a natural mood enhancer, tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts to serotonin. Serotonin is known to make the body feel relaxed; it also helps improve moods too, thus preventing depression.

Due to its great taste, banana can also serve as a substitute for sweets to satisfy one’s craving for sugar. The convenience and nutritional value of bananas make them a good post-exercise snack. During long exercise or training sessions, bananas can give the immediate energy that a person may need.

Considering these great health benefits, the banana is truly a wonderful and delicious fruit, and affordable too.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July 2015 issue.