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)