Health

Things You Didn't Know About the Humble Banana

Published On 01/10/2017 Published On 01/10/2017

I'll never forget the worst bike accident of my life. It happened on an overcast December afternoon in Syracuse, NY, a couple days after a snowfall. The roads were clear, but the air was cold, so cold that I only had one hand on the handlebars. The other I kept warm in my pocket, clutching a single, just-ripe-enough banana, my only appreciable sustenance for the day.

So when the car cut me off, forcing me to brake and fly over my front wheel, and I got up and saw my banana -- my beautiful, perfect, filling, afternoon-snack banana -- smeared across the pavement, you can imagine I was pissed.

A medium-sized banana typically contains 105 calories

That's for a 7" to 8-7/8" banana, with a mass of 118g. On the high end, an extra-large banana over 9" long and weighing in at 152g carries 135 calories. On the low end, an extra-small one at 6" long and 81g carries just about 72 calories. For comparison, a medium-sized apple, about 3" in diameter at 182g, carries 95 calories. That's not quite a meal, but when you're in college it'll tide you over an hour or two.

The difference: bananas are so packed with nutrients, they're basically rocket fuel

Bananas come packed with potassium, which most Americans don't eat enough of and which helps your body break down carbs, send electrical signals to your brain, and decrease your chances of getting a stroke. One study showed banana fueling during a cycling race to be as effective as chugging Gatorade.

They're among the most delicious raw foods that are high in fiber. They have no fat. They have no sodium. They have no cholesterol. They have high levels of serotonin, antioxidants, and the same chemicals active in several of everyone's favorite addictive drugs. All these factors obviously went into my decision to eat a banana the day of my fateful bike accident.

Here are the vitamins and minerals you're getting when you eat one medium-sized banana, along with the percentage of your recommended daily intake:

  • Vitamin C, 11%
  • Vitamin E, 1%
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), 3%
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), 7%
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin), 5%
  • Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid), 8%
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), 33%
  • Folate, 6%
  • Choline, 2%
  • Calcium, 1%
  • Iron, 4%
  • Magnesium, 8%
  • Phosphorus, 4%
  • Potassium, 9%
  • Zinc, 2%
  • Copper, 10%
  • Manganese, 14%
  • Selenium, 2%

They're so perfect, they might not be around forever

As Popular Science reported in 2008, the most overwhelmingly popular strain of banana -- the Cavendish, the one you've eaten all your life -- is in big trouble, because bananas are overwhelmingly similar. "After 15,000 years of human cultivation, the banana is too perfect, lacking the genetic diversity that is key to species health," Dan Koeppel wrote at the time. "A fungus or bacterial disease that infects one plantation could march around the globe and destroy millions of bunches, leaving supermarket shelves empty."

In other words, a Banana Apocalypse could happen at any time. Koeppel still recommends eating them, though.

After all, they're one of the least expensive fruits money can buy

And they're available all year round. In fact they've only gotten cheaper as the years have gone on. In the words of economics professor Mark J. Perry, who's studied this: "It’s likely that nothing has changed as far as the physical product is concerned, but greater efficiencies in production, distribution, and transportation of bananas have resulted in a price reduction of more than 41% over the last 35 years."

You can make banana ice cream really easily, using just bananas!

Here's what you do: 1. Slice up 2 full, frozen bananas. 2. Blend the bananas in any food processor or blender for 3-5 minutes or until they reach a soft-serve consistency. 3. Scoop into a bowl and enjoy lactose-free, delicious banana ice cream.

Free to remix this to add other flavors as well: I like to top mine with chocolate syrup, for instance. If you'd like firmer ice cream, stick it in a plastic tub and freeze it some more, checking it at half-hour intervals. (Ed. note: Shout-out to Thrillist's own Lisa Drikman for the recipe tip.)

That's not the only thing you can make

I mean, there are banana split donut bites, a bacon-banana-nutella monstrosity, and even banana caramel s'mores. This clown made a flippin' piano out of bananas. The one thing you seemingly can't do is smoke weed out of a banana, but I mean at this point, wouldn't you be in a food coma already?

YouTube

Arrested Development knew it: Bananas will save us all.

"There's always money in the banana stand!"

A great banana is a deeply personal experience

My head hit the pavement pretty hard when that driver cut me off. Blood ran down my knee and shin when my metal pedals had crunched leg into the concrete. Luckily, I was wearing jeans. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet. I definitely swore a lot, but ultimately not out of anger at getting cut off. I was riding on the wrong side of the road. I'm almost certain she had the right of way.

But she murdered my banana and sent it flying into the sky. I'll never let that go.

Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist and would die for bananas. Follow him @e_vb_.

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