The banana is the most commonly eaten fruit in the world, and a staple in almost every athletes diet. But why?
The banana fruit has been around for thousands of years, and is enjoyed by everyone, including animals, across the planet. What's not to like as well? They are tasty, healthy and relatively cheap to purchase.
Bananas are grown in the hot tropical areas such as South America, Africa and some areas of the Caribbean. However, because bananas are a significant part of local growers diets, only about 20% of bananas produced are exported.
When going out for a ride, no matter how long, I usually have a banana or two wedged into my pack. They are perfect for the mid-ride break, and gives you that much needed energy boost when you're flagging. So what makes them such a super food?
What are Bananas?
Derived from the Arabic word "banan", meaning finger, bananas grow in bunches called "hands". They grow in clusters containing 50 - 150 bananas on every plant.
Believe it or not, bananas are a form of berry fruit, grown on towering trees in hot climates. They are sweet with a creamy texture, protected by their luminous yellow jackets.
Now for the fun bit... Bananas are packed full on healthy nutrients and vitamins that benefit our bodies, especially when training. The top 4 nutrients are Vitamin B6, Manganese, Vitamin C and Potassium. A medium sized banana will contain roughly 95Kcal and contain little fat, sodium or cholesterol.
There's a lot more than meets the eye with bananas. Not only are they tasty, snack size and great energy boosters, they carry a variety of mental and physical health benefits too.
Potassium is a powerful mineral which aids the cardiovascular system for maintaining a low and regular blood flow. Each banana contains roughly 350mg of potassium, so including one banana per day into your diet can help reduce your chances of developing blood pressure problems.
The trace amounts of naturally occurring fats found in bananas are part of the sterol family. Although these chemically look similar to cholesterol, the sterols found in bananas actually help block cholesterol build up in the blood.
A medium sized banana will contain around 3g of fibre - this ranks them high on the food fibre content index. The fibre found in bananas is largely soluble which studies have shown lowers risk of heart disease. Fibre is brilliant for the digestive tract also. It helps regulate the speed at which your body converts carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Another health benefit that secures bananas a "super food" title is their mental health benefits. Tryptophan is a protein that's found in bananas which the body uses to convert into serotonin... the happy chemical. This helps promote relaxation and better moods.
Bananas also rate low on the Glycemic Index, which measures the impact of food on our blood sugars.
Bananas and Athletes
Given the beneficial properties that bananas possess, it's understandable that athletes favour this snack sized super food. They are naturally occurring, which means they are largely free from many chemicals humans introduce into food production.
The carbohydrates in bananas provide you with the energy boost needed when talking that gruelling climb, or for snacking on when you stop for your mid-ride break. The potassium levels contained in a banana are also believed to help reduce the risk of muscle cramping, something we all dread when trying to smash that Strava stat.
They are small and conveniently shaped to transport, coming encased in their own protective coat. Not only this, but they are considerably cheaper than other nutritional bars and gels on the market.
With all these great vitamins and minerals for the body and mind, it's hard to not appreciate the benefits that bananas can give us.
Try it yourself with new recipes and getting those nutrients into your daily intake.
You may also enjoy: