Here at Loras college, if you have a meal plan or have ever stepped foot in the Cafe, you know that we have an abundance of bananas. At least in the Cafe, they seem to be everywhere you look: by the cereal, the pizza, the sandwiches, the salad bar … you name it! Besides the facts that they’re super tasty and are an incredibly convenient snack, why are we so bananas for bananas?
There are many athletes on campus, and we’ve all been told to eat bananas, either before workouts to help with cramps or afterwards to aid the recovery process. And while proper fueling and nutrition recovery are important, those aren’t the main reasons to choose a banana over some other type of fruit. Any old apple or orange will satisfy your caloric needs. Bananas, on the other hand, offer way more than just calories. One of their constituent nutrients is magnesium, which not only helps your muscles contract and relax during your workout, but also with protein synthesis to help you recover after that hard workout.
Potassium — another important nutrient found in bananas — doubles your recovery potential. Biology majors know all about the sodium-potassium pumps in cells that are essential to forming ATP, which are the molecules that give your muscles the energy they need to keep operating at high athletic potential. As the name suggests, potassium is a key component of those pumps. Without adequate potassium in your diet, the sodium-potassium pumps will not operate as effectively and you will feel slow and sore.
Even if you’re not an athlete, you can still reap tons of benefits from these nutrient-dense fruits. Their yellow color isn’t the only thing making you happy; bananas also contain Vitamin B9 (AKA folate), which is a total mood-booster. Folate helps the neurotransmitter serotonin enter the brain and make you feel happier by acting as a natural anti-depressant and decreasing anxiety, fatigue, irritability, anger, and aggression. Sound too good to be true? It’s just nature’s way of keeping us healthy and happy, and that’s not even all these fruits have to offer!
If you’re hungry for a late-night snack, a banana is the way to go. In addition to all the other nutrients they possess, bananas also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps promote sleep. It’s a precursor to melatonin, which is what helps regulate your sleep cycle. So if you’re trying to stay up late to finish that paper you forgot to do for class tomorrow, a banana is probably not your first snack choice. But to get rid of a late-night rumbly tummy and to improve your quality of sleep, peel a banana before heading off to bed!
When choosing your banana, there’s really no wrong time to eat them. Obviously most people like their bananas to be perfectly yellow with barely any green or brown on the peel. Green bananas—which are slightly under-ripe—contain more resistant starch and less sugar, but sacrifice their sweet taste for a starchier one. Brown bananas are super sweet because the starches have converted to sugar, but don’t let this deter you: more sugar doesn’t necessarily mean they are worse for you. The riper the banana, the easier it is for your body to process all the nutrients listed above.
There’s loads of ways to eat bananas, from smoothies to banana bread to peanut-butter-banana sandwiches to just a plain banana right out of the peel! You won’t be disappointed by all the good things these tasty, nature-wrapped superfoods have to offer.