Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bananas as the Perfect Food?

Searching for the perfect food?  The one that provides all your nutrition needs?  One that will save you from having to prepare food?  One that that you can spend your limited food budget on?  Well, if you read this post about bananas, you might think you have found your holy grail: After reading this, you’ll never look at a banana in the same way again.  Does any of this information have any use?   Let's look at each one.

**Some of this I have already covered in previous posts, here, here, and here.

1) (Opening paragraph)--"Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy."

Well, yes, the banana does contain "natural sugars" and fiber.  All fruits do, some just have more per portion than others. (As opposed to "refined sugars?"  Or "artificial sweeteners?"  Which means you are probably not eating fruit....) I will also point out, for those of you haven't taken (or have forgotten) basic chemistry, you will find that sucrose is actually a disacharide made up of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, so you could just say "bananas contain carbohydrate" and be less redundant.  I think the "energy" they are referring to the carbohydrate converting to blood glucose within about 15 minutes to two hours after consumption (depending on what you ate with it).  If your blood glucose is low, you will feel better after eating a banana (or any fruit, really), but that rise in blood glucose is only going to last for maybe an hour or two.  Hardly sustainable.
**If you have diabetes and experience a blood glucose level below 70 mg/dL, fruit might work in a pinch but you will have to do less peeling/chewing if you consume 4 oz fruit juice or consume 3-4 glucose tablets.

2) Depression

No one food is going to cure your depression, as I have written about here.  And in a previous post I stated this:
"Bananas do contain serotonin, and some people who have depression have a shortage of this, but the serotonin found in the banana does not cross the blood-brain barrier. If someone has been eating poorly, eating a banana or another carbohydrate rich food might give them a temporary sense of well being, but it won't last. Bananas could be worked in to an otherwise healthy meal plan to help overall depression but they are not a cure unto themselves."

3) PMS

If you read the above links, I mentioned this before.  Hint: The answer is "No."
They also mentioned blood glucose regulation causing you to feel bad--which is true--if you have uncontrolled diabetes or even prediabetes eating to control those conditions can help you feel better.  But one banana contains roughly 30 grams of carbohydrate--about the amount per meal that a person with diabetes could have (if they are trying to stay about 100 grams per day, some people need less).  Not everyone is going to want to use up their carb selection on a banana (or eat just half a banana).  As far as B6 is concerned; a banana only contains about 0.4 mg per banana and the studies on blood glucose regulation used much higher doses.  And the results were poor as well.


Your body absorbs iron the most efficiently from "heme" sources, which usually means animal products.   For those who choose to be vegan or vegetarian, however, and are trying to find a variety of non-heme sources, you want to have foods that contain at least 3.5 mg iron per serving (best) or on the low range of 0.7 mg (serving).  The banana weighs in 0.26 mg/serving so no help there.  If you are low in iron, you might need short term supplementation under a physician's guidance.  (The dose that your physician might use is probably on the lines of 26 bananas per day or ~1.5-2 pounds of liver for the non-vegetarians, which is not really realistic to consume).


Already discussed.  But let me repeat: Remember that you can also get potassium from all meats, fish like salmon, avocados, apricots, legumes, leafy greens, etc. I suppose bananas might be a convenient source for some, but not the only one.


I actually had trouble finding a reliable source that said that this "study" even took place.  Although if the students were skipping meals and not getting enough fruit and vegetables this may have contributed to better performance.  Again, I suppose the bananas were a convenient source of potassium.


Well yes, they do have fiber, but so do other fruits and vegetables.  If you absolutely hate other fruits and vegetables I suppose this would be preferable to taking a fiber supplement.


It looks like we might need a hangover primer here, but guess what, we already talked about that too (in the videos in the link).
The fruit by itself can give you some well needed carbohydrate if low blood glucose levels are making you miserable, and the potassium in the banana could help with the hydration too.  As far as bananas "calming" the stomach acid, there have been some animal studies that indicate that bananas might speed the healing of stomach ulcers, but there may not be much of a change of pH.  Milk does contain some potassium as well, but as far as the "soothing" of the system, which of the eleven body systems are you referring too? 


From a previous post: "There was a small study done in India back in 1990 hat used a banana powder to treat GERD, but that is not the same as eating a whole banana. Anecdotally, some people complain of worse GERD symptoms after eating bananas. If you are unable to handle too much fructose, like yours truly, it could be that the resulting intestinal gas puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. There does not seem to be any harm in trying the banana powder for GERD as long as you are working to find out what is causing the problem."


We are not sure exactly what causes morning sickness, it might be the change in hormones or possibly the lower blood sugar levels, we don't know.  But if it is a blood sugar problem, you actually don't want to be snacking on bananas or other high carbohydrate foods.  The hormonal changes in pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance, which means that the cells in the body do not allow the insulin to "upload" glucose into them like the body usually does.  As a result the pancreas needs to produce more insulin to keep the blood glucose regulated.   Sometimes the pancreas can't keep up, and the result is gestational diabetes, which all pregnant women need to get screened for.  How this relates to banana/carb intake is that if you eat too much carbohydrate (remember one banana has 30 grams), your body has to try to produce extra insulin to handle the resulting glucose load, and that overproduction of insulin can cause you to have a blood glucose "crash" later on (if you have gestational diabetes and take insulin, you have to minimize your carb intake to avoid having to take high doses of insulin).  Making sure that you get most of your calories from protein and good fats, while filling in with 30-45 grams of carbohydrate at each meal (depending on what the weight gain limit is) will be more likely to prevent those blood sugar crashes.  Will it help with morning sickness?  Maybe, we don't know.


Previous post: "Lots of anecdotal information on this one, but no studies that I could find. I wouldn't recommend trying this if you have already scratched and have an open wound though."


       1)  I think they might be talking about bananas as anti-anxiety as opposed to working on the nervous system, so see above comments on depression.  Surely they couldn't be talking about calming they voluntary or involuntary nervous system--I don't necessarily want my nervous system calmed down because it might involve stopping my heart or my digestive system.  Read this for a brief overview of our wonderfully complex nervous system.
        2) See "morning sickness" for why overloading on carbohydrates does not stabilize a person's blood glucose.

See above for "heartburn."  Also, regular consumption of bananas might help increase the production of the mucus that normally protects the stomach lining against acid, but the banana itself does no "coating."


Bananas do not reduce fever, nor do they keep you from having bad "qi" since the latter does not exist.

15) When you compare it to an apple, it has FOUR TIMES the protein, TWICE the carbohydrate, THREE TIMES the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals.
1) An apple has zero grams of protein.  Do the math.
2) Let's see, I can only have 30 grams of carbohydrate at this meal so I could eat one apple and something else or I could eat a whole banana.  I like volume and variety, so apple it is!
3) An apple has zero phosphorus.  Do the math.
4) An apple has zero vitamin A.  You know what you have to do.
5) Covered iron above.
6) Really?  How much math do you have to do?

Take home message--Bananas are good source of potassium and fiber.  No magic.


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