For kids in Haiti, bananas are widely available across the island— and are a very inexpensive fruit that can be added to meals or used for a snack. Might I add, they taste great with some peanut butter! The vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in bananas are beneficial for a growing body and maintaining a healthy immune system.

Bananas have been used widely throughout our challenge in smoothies and morning oat recipes. They are a great, inexpensive and healthy choice for naturally sweetening-up food. When a frozen banana is pureed, it has a creamy texture like ice cream — which is another reason why it goes so great in smoothies! This fruit is very versatile with it’s properties, adding moisture to recipes or acting as a binding agent. Did you know that you can use bananas as a replacement for butter and eggs in many baking recipes? Sweet breads, brownies, or muffins are great places to swap in mashed bananas.

Bananas are a good source of Fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Potassium.

Vitamin B6 is helps produce anti-bodies that ward of diseases, as well as hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout the blood. Potassium also plays a number of roles in the body, such as aiding in proper growth, controlling heart activity, and helping the body to use carbohydrates.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant that’s aids in a number of functions from wound healing to reducing damage in the body caused by free radicals to increasing absorption of iron from plant-based foods.

Magnesium plays a role in a number of body mechanism, such as controlling blood sugar levels, muscle and nerve functioning, maintaining normal heart rhythms, and bone structure. It also plays a role in boosting a healthy immune system. Bananas are commonly recommended when a person has diarrhea since it restores key nutrients, like potassium, that are lost with excessive bowl movements.

The fiber in bananas helps promote healthy gut bacteria since it has a prebiotic effect. (Prebiotics are non-digestable carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria in your gut). A growing body of research suggests that a having a healthy gut is important for preventing diseases like heart disease, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

Not a fan of bananas or allergic to them? No worries, there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables you can eat that are good for your gut health. The fiber found in plant foods comes in different forms, but can’t be absorbed into the blood to be used by the body for fuel. So it travels to the colon (large intestine) were it is used by the gut bacteria. Eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables is key for increases immunity—- protecting you from getting sick or making your symptoms more mild and the duration of the sickness shorter (in the event that you get sick). You can find key nutrients in bananas in other foods too— Vitamin B6 (e.g. beans, avocado, nuts, whole grains) , Potassium (e.g. beans, avocados, green leafy veggies, melons, mango, sweet potatoes, winter squash), Magnesium (e.g. almonds, spinach, cashews, beans, avocado), Vitamin C (e.g. broccoli, sweet potatoes, winter squash, tomatoes, green leafy veggies, oranges, mango, pineapple, strawberries).

Note: It’s best to get fiber, prebiotics, and most vitamins/ minerals from food sources first (there are a few exceptions that Kristina will get into in a future blog). Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may not have the same benefits as compared to consuming the foods themselves.

Image from Blue Cure, a non-profit organization that is educating men, young and old, about prostate cancer prevention through lifestyle and diet.