It’s no surprise that bananas are a fruit favorite around the world, packed with nutrients and antioxidants, rich in fiber and low in fat, they are little powerhouses of good nutrition. In our never-ending quest to stay healthy without sacrificing our taste buds, bananas are a clear go-to and they are quite versatile. Dr. Christopher Calapai D.O. a highly accredited New York City anti-aging and stem cell specialist, and long-time nutrition advisor to the New York Rangers hockey team explains,
“Bananas are packed with health benefits throughout every stage of their lives, from green to fully ripe. As the banana ripens some of these health benefits change, making it a rare fruit that is enjoyable in many forms.”
Typically when we think of bananas we think of a lunch-box addition or a quick on-the-go snack, more so than a cooking staple? Here are 5 healthy ways to incorporate bananas into your meals and the health benefits of each.
When they’re green…
Fill Up on Mashed Plantains.
Green bananas are often referred to as plantains, they are not sweet like ripe bananas and they contain most of their fiber in the form of resistant starch. “Plantains are rich in starches that regulate appetite,” says Dr. Calapai. “Resistant starch may even slow stomach emptying, making you feel full longer and thus reducing the urge to eat sooner after a meal.”
Mashed plantains could not be easier to whip up. Simply peel and cut the green plantains into chunks and boil in a full pot of water for 20-30 minutes or until tender, then mash with a fork until they achieve the consistency of mashed potatoes. Sautee garlic and onions in olive oil and add to the plantains along with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you enjoy. You can serve the dish with fish, chicken or meat, sprinkle with bacon bits or eat plain.
Satisfy your craving for something salty, crunchy with plantain chips.
“All bananas, green, ripe or in between are very low in calories, about 105 per fruit” explains Calapai “So you can get away with frying them in your choice of light, heart-healthy oil.”
Plantain chips are a great snack or side dish and are also incredibly simple to whip up. Peel the plantain completely and cut off about half an inch on both ends, then thinly slice the rest of the plantain into chips. When the oil is piping hot fry your chips until golden and salt to taste. Voila!
When they’re semi-ripe…
Eat “Maduros” for younger, healthy skin.
“Maduro” (pronounced mah-doo-row) means “ripe” in Spanish and it’s what Latin Americans call this tasty plantain dish. You can eat plantains this way once they are very yellow and spotted, or have turned fully black. Simply peel, cut into thick diagonal slices and deep fry until golden brown in heart-healthy oil. Bonus! “Bananas at any stage of ripeness are very rich in Vitamin C, an antioxidant also known as called ascorbic acid,” says board certified dermatologist Dr. Kally Papantoniou. “Vitamin C assists in collagen production, which keeps your skin healthy and also blocks free-radical damage which is believed to potentially contribute to the aging process.”
When they’re ripe…
Manage blood sugar with a banana smoothie.
This one takes five minutes and a blender. Cut up two nice yellow, ready to eat bananas into chunks, add milk or yogurt of your preferred variety, some ice, and blend until thick! “Bananas have shown by studies to possibly regulate blood sugar as they are very moderate in the glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause dangerous spikes to your blood sugar levels,” says Dr. Calapai “Having a good banana smoothie for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, as opposed to high-sugar options make sure you are balanced throughout the day.”
Amp up the flavor!
If simply eating a banana starts to get boring amp up the flavor with a healthy pairing. Cut up your banana into chunks and add a healthy spoonful of peanut butter, sprinkle with some almonds or cinnamon, or mix with some dark chocolate chunks!
Bananas are a great, affordable way to add some goodness into your meal plan. Enjoy!