It’s easy for bananas to get lost amid the fruits and vegetables that are having a moment right now, such as açaí berries, kale and Brussels sprouts, but it’s hard to overstate bananas’ significance around the globe. This healthy, inexpensive fruit is among the top five most economically important foods worldwide — right up there with wheat, rice and corn — and bananas are the No. 1 fruit in the United States. (Apples are No. 2.) It might be precisely because bananas are everywhere that they are so often overlooked. “They are actually better than their reputation,” says Dr. Graham Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center. “Their high potassium, magnesium and fiber content — about three grams per banana — and low sodium make bananas a good addition to a heart-healthy diet.”
Dr. Colditz points out that there’s a good reason why bananas are handed out to runners at the finish line of long races: “They’re easy to digest and are full of minerals and nutrients that can help with refueling after a hard effort,” he says. “Sweating often depletes your sodium and disrupts the balance of sodium and potassium. Bananas are a good source of potassium, and they can help ease or prevent muscle cramps, likely by helping to rebalance electrolytes in the body.”
Bananas are also good to reach for when the body is short on electrolytes for other reasons, such as stomach sickness or vomiting. They are easy to digest and low on the glycemic index, meaning that they can be metabolized without a “sugar shock.” Plus, they’re filling. “Because they’re low in calories and high in fiber — just one banana can provide up to 10 percent of daily fiber needs — bananas can also help with weight control by helping you feel full without extra calories,” Dr. Colditz says.
In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.