Five health benefits of bananas and a spicy lime banana chip recipe

Julie Daniluk, R.H.N.

Bananas are chameleons. They can masquerade as cream in a shake, be a substitute for eggs as a binder in baking recipes, work as a sweetener in bars and can even be dried into chips! They have a deeply satisfying texture that fools the mouth into thinking it's fatty like an avocado, yet one banana contains less than a gram of fat.

Did you know that bananas were considered a rare treat 50 years ago? Now, they're the fifth most-traded agricultural commodity (after cereals, sugar, coffee and cocoa) and we consume almost 100 million metric tonnes of them every year. An average banana only contains about 100 calories, which is not much more than a medium apple. Yet these amazing portable treats have been given a bad rap lately, with dieters being told they are high in sugar. However, new research indicates that bananas may help you lose belly fat – bananas contain a resistant starch that's digested slowly, thereby promoting fat loss and balancing blood sugar levels.

Beyond their nutrition, it is important to consider the very real issues of producing bananas. To ensure you are supporting your health as well as the health of the environment and banana farmers, choose certified organic and certified Fair Trade bananas whenever possible.

Five reasons to go bananas for bananas!

1. Bananas can lower the risk of heart disease.
The combination of potassium and resistant starch (aka indigestible fibre) in bananas make them excellent for blood pressure and blood sugar control – two factors in heart disease and other metabolic disorders. Numerous studies have shown that consumption of resistant starch can also increase satiety, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity. One semi-ripe banana provides close to five grams of resistant starch.

2. Bananas are high in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 has been studied extensively for its role in reducing PMS and pregnancy-related hyperemesis (aka morning sickness). Two bananas make up half your daily requirement for vitamin B6 during pregnancy.

3. Bananas may reduce the risk of certain cancers. A prebiotic called FOS (fructooligosaccharide) in bananas nourishes the healthy bacteria in the colon, encouraging proper elimination. Good gut transit time also lowers the risk of colon and renal cancers. Firmer bananas tend to alleviate constipation while the softer, riper fruit can slow diarrhea.

4. Bananas can soothe ulcer pain. Bananas stimulate the production of a mucus barrier that protects against acid erosion and bacterial pathogens. Studies suggest that this could be one of the reasons why bananas are an age-old remedy for peptic ulcers caused by the bad bacterium, h. pylori.

5. Red bananas fight age-related macular degeneration.
While we are accustomed to thinking of sweet bananas as having yellow skins, you can also find them in red, pink, purple and black skins. Red and orange bananas, and other varieties with darker peels, have a higher carotenoid content that gets converted into vitamin A in the body. The combination of vitamin C and carotenoids in coloured bananas have been shown to protect eyesight.

Spicy lime banana chips

Most banana chips are dipped into sugar water and deep fried in coconut oil for a glistening sheen and crispy taste. But what if you could have all the deliciousness of banana chips without the grease? This recipe is so easy and packs impressive amounts of vitamin B6 and potassium.

10 ripe bananas
6-8 fresh limes, juiced
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

1. Peel and cut the bananas into 1/4 inch thick slices on an angle to maximize size of each chip.
2. In a large bowl, grate ginger and soak in fresh lime juice to create a marinade. Add bananas to bowl and marinate for about 5 minutes.
3. Place banana slices on a mesh sheet or parchment. Sprinkle with some cayenne powder to taste if desired.

Oven method:
Place them in an oven set at 125 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 hours and take them out of oven as soon as they have become pliable and are not crunchy.

Dehydrator method: Put single layer of slices on dehydrator racks and turn on high for about 24 hours. Peel chips off rack and let cool.

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