Inside Sport - - INSIDER -

One of the most ubiq­ui­tous of lunch bag items, the meal in a peel, quick nour­ish­ment for work­out war­riors ev­ery­where. But a lot of mis­con­cep­tions have built up around ba­nanas re­cently, so we had Healthy Food Guide’s Brooke Long­field ex­plain just how good they are for you. And one other thing – you can also use them in some re­ally nice recipes ...

ONE OF THE big­gest food myths going around is that ba­nanas are fat­ten­ing. They also get a bad rap for be­ing high in sugar. So, should we be say­ing “no no” to ‘nanas?

To start with, ba­nanas are low in fat and kilo­joules (calo­ries), like all fruit. A medium ba­nana has about 400kJ (150cal), which is the ideal size for a be­tween-meal snack. They’re also a good source of fi­bre to help keep you feel­ing full be­tween meals. If you’re watch­ing your weight, so far ba­nanas are looking good as a fill­ing and low-kilo­joule snack.

What about sugar? Ba­nanas are about 90-per­cent car­bo­hy­drates, most of which is from nat­u­ral sugar, such as fruc­tose – but this isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Sugar in fruit is very dif­fer­ent from the sugar added to cakes and bis­cuits.

The amount of sugar in ba­nanas dif­fers depend­ing on how ripe it is. Un­ripe, green ba­nanas are lower in sugar and high in a type of car­bo­hy­drate called re­sis­tant starch. This puts a brake on di­ges­tion, so that it slowly re­leases sugar into the blood­stream to help keep your blood sugar lev­els sta­ble. For this rea­son, less-ripe ba­nanas have a low gly­caemic in­dex, giv­ing you long-last­ing en­ergy. (Bis­cuits and cakes are ab­sorbed quickly and cause sugar lev­els to spike). As they ripen, more of the re­sis­tant starch is con­verted to sugar – that’s what makes them taste sweeter. But even ripe ba­nanas have a medium gly­caemic in­dex.

On top of this, ba­nanas are a nu­tri­tional gold­mine. They’re packed with po­tas­sium, fo­late, vi­ta­min C and B vi­ta­mins. Ath­letes often rely on them to re­plen­ish nu­tri­ents lost in sweat, and also as a quick and easy source of en­ergy be­fore, dur­ing or after ex­er­cise. And the best part is this ver­sa­tile fruit re­quires no prepa­ra­tion – just peel and eat!

Brooke Long­field is Healthy Food Guide’s Ac­cred­ited Prac­tis­ing Di­eti­tian (APD) and Ex­er­cise Phys­i­ol­o­gist, BSc (Nu­tri­tion) (Hons), BAp­pSc (Ex&SpSc)

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