Bananas are loaded with valuable micronutrients, especially potassium. Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body, helping to regulate heart function as well as fluid balance – a key factor in regulating blood pressure. The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, in lowering blood pressure and protecting against heart disease and strokes is well accepted and bolstered by considerable scientific evidence.
Bananas are soothing to the gastrointestinal tract due to their high content of pectin – as a soluble fibre that not only lowers cholesterol but normalises bowel function. The high fibre content of bananas promotes satiety (feelings of fullness). The resistant starch in bananas also has a prebiotic effect, helping to keep gut bacteria happy by increasing the production of short chain fatty acids for digestive health.
Bananas and plantains are picked underripe and transported from the tropics and set to ripen on the supermarket shelves or in our fruit bowls. Those with green tips are not quite ripe, but they will continue to ripen if stored at room temperature, particularly if placed in a plastic or paper bag as the gases they emit stimulate further ripening (and can ripen other fruits they are placed with). When bananas have light speckles of brown on their skins it is a sign they have ripened naturally. When buying plantain, choose those with skins that are neither yellow nor too brown.
Bananas are grown in hot climates, so they do not naturally like the cold. If kept in the fridge, the enzymes that cause them to ripen are deactivated. Instead, you might find the skin blackens. Although if you prefer an underripe banana you might want to keep them in the fridge. Bananas freeze well. Peel the skin off first and put them in a freezer bag. Frozen bananas can be blended in a food processor to make a delicious dairy-free ‘ice cream’ or pop them in your blender for a cool and creamy addition to a smoothie.