“Anything can happen. The great banana peel of existence is always on the floor somewhere.”
– Robert Fulghum
I recently traveled to Brazil to ring in the new year. The first night that I was there, I suffered from food poisoning (I should have been wary of sushi in a new exotic country, but I was excited to try a new dish!). Beyond Mylanta and Reglan, one food that saved my gastrointestinal tract was bananas.
Bananas are great when traveling for multiple reasons. For one, bananas naturally grow with their own protective packaging. Unlike other fruits, you don’t (always) have to worry about washing one off before you eat it. You can easily carry one in your bag or backpack. They don’t require refrigeration so bananas are great snacks for road trips. Bananas are full of potassium, a helpful electrolyte if you’re dehydrated from expelling excessive fluids. While there is virtually no fat or protein in bananas, they are full of carbohydrates. The greener the banana, the more starch that it contains. As a banana ripens, the starch begins breaking down into sugar. A light yellow banana is perfect for when you’re sick. Too much sugar (found in very brown, spotted bananas) or fiber (in very green bananas) can sometimes aggravate diarrhea.
The dietary recommendations for someone undergoing digestive issues like gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or upset stomach are to follow a bland diet. One way to follow this diet includes the BRAT diet which stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, & Toast. Sometimes there is an extra T for Tea. For the short term, the BRAT diet provides easily digestible carbs but also a low amount of fiber (only 3 grams in a medium 7-inch banana) to help bulk stool. Since this diet is very low in protein with virtually no fat, it should not be maintained for longer than 24 hours. Extreme dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea can hypokalemia, or low concentration of potassium in the blood which can affect the heart’s rhythm.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Nutrient Database, one 7-inch or 118 gram banana contains 105 calories, 1 gram protein, <1 gram fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 27 grams of carbohydrate. For those monitoring their carbohydrate intake, such as those with diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, this equals 2 carbohydrate servings. The USDA estimates that 14 grams of the carbohydrates are sugar, but as a banana ripens, the starch in it will break down into sugar. This means that dark yellow and brown bananas with be higher glycemic, or cause blood glucose levels to rise slightly faster than a starchy green banana.
Bananas provide a significant dose of potassium with a 7-inch banana clocking in at 422 milligrams. That is nearly 9% of the 4,700 milligrams recommended per day for most adults, although people with advanced kidney disease may need to avoid eating entire bananas due to this high potassium content. Potassium is one of the most abundant nutrients in the body. As an intracellular electrolyte, it helps regulate fluid balance, blood pressure, and muscle contraction, but also helps transmission of nerve impulses. For those with high blood pressure, increasing potassium intake by 2,000 milligrams has been shown to improve management of diastolic blood pressure. I do not recommend supplementing potassium without first consulting your physician. Too much potassium (especially in large concentrated doses) can lead to toxicity that can cause muscle weakening, vomiting, and irregular heartbeat that could cause a heart attack. Some diuretic medications cause the body to excrete potassium as it removes fluid from the body. People taking these medications should have their potassium levels checked regularly.
Bananas also contain 32mg magnesium, 76 IU’s of vitamin A, and 2.6mg fluoride. Notable phytochemicals in bananas include lutein and beta carotene.
- One of my favorite ways to eat a banana is to simply add 1-2 tablespoons of any nut butter! The nut butter balances the snack by adding protein and fats for more satiating snack.
- You can also try Banana Dippers, Baked Banana, Roll Ups, & Banana Bites
- Creamy Banana Oatmeal
- Banana Pancakes Increase the fiber content by replacing half or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat. For a FODMAP friendly option, try Monash’s Oat and Banana Pancakes (option to use almond milk in place of cow’s milk).
- For those who feel very comfortable in the kitchen, I recommend trying the sweet and savory Shrimp and Banana recipe. Even if you are new to cooking, there is an instructional video.
- When I was in Brazil, I frequently ate fish with a banana sauce that was quite tasty. I recommend trying this Salmon with Ginger-Banana Sauce that is high in anti-inflammatory foods.
Come to a comfortable seat with weight distributed evenly between both sitting bones, OR stand tall with weight evenly distributed between both feet. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes, then take 3 deep breaths through your nose. Inhale and bring both arms overhead. Keeping your pelvis still and weight even between your sitting bones, grasp your right wrist with your left hand, exhale and lean your upper body to the left. Hold here for 1-3 breaths, opening the side of your body. Inhale back to a neutral upright position. Switch your grip to now grasp your left wrist with your right hand, exhale, and lean to the left. Hold this position for 1-3 breaths, feeling the stretch now in your left side body. Inhale upright, exhale arms down to either side. You have completed some “bananasana!”
Bananas: Naturally Sweet and Simple Fruit Enjoyed Around the Globe. Food and Nutrition Magazine: October 29, 2018.
The BRAT Diet. Webmd website. Accessed January 2019.
Full Report (All Nutrients): 09040, Bananas, raw. USDA Agriculture Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release. Accessed January 2019.
Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes. National Institutes of Health. Accessed January 2019.
Nutrition for Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease in Adults. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed January 2019.
Potassium, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institute of Health.
The Science of Nutrition by JL Thompson, MM Manroe, LA Vaughn.
Starch Breakdown during Banana Ripening: Sucrose Synthase and Sucrose Phosphate Synthase. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Accessed January 2019.
2015 Evidence Analysis Library Evidence-Based Nutrition Practice Guideline for the Management of Hypertension in Adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Sept 2017 Volume 117 Number 9.