You don’t have to hold membership in Washington D.C.’s most prestigious museum system to appreciate Smithsonian Magazine’s appreciation for the much-unheralded banana.
The museum’s website calls this food “The Funniest Fruit,” mentioning the banana phone Sesame Street’s Ernie used to irritate his roommate Bert and citing newspaper headlines about a dude in a banana suit who started a public fistfight and wound up “bruised.”
But, there’s nothing funny about this remarkable food’s nutrients and benefits.
For cyclists who have yet to discover the wonders of bananas – or for those who had no clue, there were ways to eat this fruit other than as part of a banana split – you will want to get into the habit of eating at least one per day once you finish reading this.
Where to find bananas if you have no clue? In the produce department at your favorite supermarket. Hint: produce is nowhere near the beer aisle.
What can a banana do for your blood pressure and heart health?
According to nutritionists writing for Medical News Today, even the American Heart Association recommends including a banana in one’s diet because a single, medium-size fruit provides 9-percent of a person’s daily potassium needs.
As a cyclist, you already know that potassium plays a big part in lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on one’s cardiovascular system.
You will be when you learn that the same medium banana contains about 420mg of potassium plus heart-healthy fiber, folate, and antioxidants (including vitamin C).
A full cup of strawberries only has 233 mg of potassium. Indulge in a daily banana and your LDL numbers (the bad cholesterol) could take a nosedive.
Imagine your LDL score if you ate two every day.
What can a banana do for your digestive health?
Healthline medical experts aren’t joking when they cite 11 “evidence-based” health benefits you will derive if you go little bananas to improve your digestive health.
Not only are these yellow and green treats popular around the world, but they are easy on the stomach and digestion.
Bananas are usually the first fresh fruit given to babies once they start eating solids.
What’s the reason they are so tummy-friendly? Because their makeup is almost exclusively composed of water and carbs and there’s not an ounce of fat in bananas.
They can keep you going on arduous rides because they slow the digestive process and don’t cause sugar level spikes.
Bananas keep working even after you’ve eaten them.
Once in the GI system, they “feed” your gut’s beneficial bacteria, and if all of this doesn’t convince you to keep bananas on hand, perhaps knowing that they reduce the amount of damage the body suffers from free radicals will.
Bananas impact endurance and help maintain a healthy weight
When 14 male cyclists completed two 75km cycling time trials, researchers took blood tests before and after to see whether eating a banana during their rides would have a beneficial impact.
Participants experienced that same boost from the banana as they did after consuming highly-touted beverages that are marketed to athletes.
Consume bananas before endurance rides and expect your energy levels to increase. Bananas may trigger dopamine bursts, so if you feel euphoric at the end of your ride, why not attribute your high to the banana you ate?
Endurance aside, the topic of weight control remains a topic for debate within the medical community.
“While bananas do not specifically affect weight loss, they do have properties that can help a person manage their body weight,” said Medical News Today journalists.
When people consume bananas that are high in fiber, they feel fuller and for a longer period of time due to the fruit’s high starch content.
As a result, weight loss can occur because the tendency to eat when not hungry is diminished.
Bananas contribute to kidney and healthy skin
If your kidneys are taking a pounding during daunting rides, you only have to eat a banana two or three times a week to reduce your risk of kidney disease by 33-percent.
Eat one every day and your risk is reduced by 50-percent.
Called the perfect food for athletes due to easily-digested carbs and high mineral content, even the peel protects you.
Banana skin is so thick, the fruit rarely absorbs pesticides or pollutants as it grows, so if you worry about toxicity, this is your fruit.
Are you more concerned with your shin than your skin?
But who doesn’t want to look good on and off the bike?
Healthline recommends banana face masks made by mashing fruit and letting the potassium, manganese, vitamins B6, C, and A work they’re magic.
They say that a banana mask can impact skin conditions like acne and while you won’t necessarily want your biking buds to catch you in the midst of a banana facial, eating one may help protect your skin from the sun’s rays, according to Healthline.
Snacking al fresco during your longest rides
Stashing a banana into a pocket of your biking shorts or bib for a mid-ride snack is one of the best ways to sustain your energy on-the-go.
The Saddle Skedaddle website recently named bananas one of its top 5 transportable foods for cyclists, further dietary evidence that bananas belong on your fueling strategy list.
Cyclists aren’t the only beneficiaries of this largesse.
Ever wondered why pro tennis players eat bananas during matches?
They know an energy booster when they see one.
Cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds calls bananas “Nature’s own energy bars,” because they’re easy to eat and digest, they’re environmentally-friendly (no energy bar wrapper to litter the landscape) and they replace lost electrolytes almost as fast as a cyclist sweats, supplying “25g-30g of carbohydrate to supply energy to cycling muscles.”
Absorbed into the bloodstream at a fast pace, bananas benefit your body big time, and you won’t find a better recovery food once you reach your destination.
5 non-boring Ways to get your banana fix
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas a year (100 per person), but if you are easily bored, too many bananas served au natural could turn you off to the fruit — especially if spending time in the kitchen is torture for you.
That stated you do need variety and portability so we suggest doing the minimum to make this happen. Start with these ideas and you could discover that following banana recipe is actually fun.
1. Peel and freeze bananas in batches so they’re ready to take along or use in recipes.
2. Whip up a big batch of banana shakes in your blender, pour them into plastic water bottles with straws and freeze so you can grab and go as you leave home.
3. Fill baggies with greens, bananas and other fresh ingredients and freeze each one. When you’re ready to hit the road, toss the contents into the blender for the healthiest and freshest pick-me-up of all.
4. Make individual portions of “banana bread on a stick” for consumption at the end of your ride by following this recipe.
5. Pre-bake and freeze gluten-free banana bars for a delicious breakfast treat that doubles down on nutrients.