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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

A Banana A Day Might Keep You in Play

Friday August 29, 2003

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana." -- Groucho Marx.

Better to stay in play (remain healthy) with a banana a day than to rely on an apple a day to keep the doctor away. That, at least, seems the message of enthusiasts for "the wonder fruit for human health," the banana. If half the things banana fans (bananists?) claim for the green and yellow wonderment is accurate, you should rush out and stock up -- the fruit sounds almost too good to be true.

Let me tell you about bananas -- and bananists. The fruit was introduced to Americans at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, along with Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. Did you know that? At the Exposition, each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents. I had assumed they were probably here before the Indians, let alone the Pilgrims.

Bananas are called "the perfect fruit;" one banana fan has created a museum devoted to it (in Auburn, Washington.) A bananist named Wayne M. Hilburn offers 104 recipes for bananas (see his website.) However, Mr. Hilburn has not lost all perspective. He insists he does not actually "love" bananas -- he simply "likes, respects and finds bananas interesting." Instead, Mr. Hilburn reserves love for his lady and dog, both of whom, like himself, eat bananas every day. One reason he collects and distributes banana recipes is to keep his banana passion from boring people.

Before listing all their amazing (alleged) benefits, some banana basics are in order. Like money, bananas do NOT grow on trees, nor are they caught in the oceans, like tuna. Maybe you knew that. Bananas are part of the lily or herb family, and are related to orchids, though they are not nearly so pretty and don't smell as good. Yet, then again, orchids are rarely served underneath vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream with chocolate syrup and other goodies, either. Bananas have stalks that sometimes grow to 25 feet tall, making them the largest plant on earth without a woody stem. Believed to have originated in Malaysia, bananas arrived here in 1516, thanks to a Spanish missionary named Friar Tomas de Berlanga, who conveyed the first known root stocks. (Yet, the banana, as noted, did not "go public" in a big way until the above noted Exposition in 1876.)

Any guess how many bananas you consume annually? I have no idea, but the average American eats 25 pounds a year. Here is the real deal on bananas. They are loaded with potassium and vitamins B, A and C. They boost energy levels (so they make great snacks) thanks to the fact that they have three natural sugars -- sucrose, fructose and glucose. They also have ample fiber.

I am not sure of the accuracy of the many medical claims for bananas discovered on countless banana sites on the Internet, but I'll summarize a few I have read, albeit with bemused skepticism. Bananas are said to reduce the risks of:

All in all, there seems little doubt that bananas are a fine food source loaded with valuable nutrients attended by little or no baggage. You may not want to memorialize the banana with a museum, but you should add it to your grocery list.

Be well. Always look on the bright side of life. Domain: physical
Subdomain: nutrition

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