Going bananas!

Barbara Wilson
Nutritionist

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the UK – we eat around 30lbs or over 100 bananas, each, per year. And that’s no bad thing – bananas are one of the most perfect foods around. Not only do they come in their own, beautifully designed wrapper but they are packed to bursting with nutrients – B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, essential amino acids, carbohydrate and fibre, to name but a few.

In fact, one banana has 15% of the vitamin C, around 11% of the potassium and 16% of the fibre we need every day, and all with only 100 calories in a medium banana! Like other fruit, bananas are low in calories and contain virtually no fat, cholesterol or sodium but because of their high carbohydrate content, they are filling and satisfying. They are sweet enough to soothe those sugar cravings and provide enough ready energy to give even athletes a boost.

Bananas are easily digested and are suitable for people of all age groups. Their high levels of vitamin B6 can also help ease premenstrual tension and stress. Can one food get any better?

Banana breakdown

· Bananas probably originated in Malaysia and were discovered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC

· They were brought to the new world by Friar Tomas de Berlanga in the 1500’s

· Bananas were probably the first fruit farmed by man.

· They have grown for over 1 million years

· Bananas are harvested every day of the year and are available year-round

· Bananas really don’t grow on trees! They grow on giant herbs that are related to lilies and orchids

· Storing bananas on a banana hanger or hook is the best way to preserve the quality of a ripe banana as it avoids ‘resting bruises’

· Ripen green bananas by storing them in a paper bag. Adding an apple or tomato to the bag will make the bananas ripen even faster.

· Bananas can be stored in the fridge if you want to keep them for a longer time. The skin will darken slightly but the banana inside will remain firm and delicious.

As well as being the perfect snack, their sweet flavour and soft texture complements a whole host of other foods: they are great with almost any other fruit in smoothies and salads – mango, kiwi, papaya, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries; bananas with nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts are irresistible and it’s hard to refuse bananas with ice-cream, chocolate, toffee or butterscotch.

Bananas are a fantastic way to add sweetness and moistness to cakes and muffins, breads and puddings. They can also be used in savoury foods – the larger, green plantain are widely used to set off Caribbean and Cajun cookery.

Banana breakfast shake

This banana energy booster is a perfect way to start the day!

Break one very ripe banana into small pieces and put in the blender. Add half a carton of low fat plain or vanilla yoghurt, the same amount of pineapple juice and a handful of fresh or frozen strawberries. Secure lid and blend until smooth. Divide shake between two glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional Information: 81 calories and 0.4g fat per shake.

If you are longing for something sweet and bananas are on the menu, stay away from the banoffi but go instead for muffins. Banana muffins will have lots of moisture and so don’t need much added fat or sugar for sweetness.

They are also versatile enough to allow you to add you favourite flavours – nuts, chocolate, cherries or blueberries are all great additions to a banana muffin recipe. You can’t go wrong with these recipes – each has less than 2g of fat per muffin.

Chocolate banana mini-muffins

2 very ripe, medium bananas, peeled
1 egg white
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs apple sauce
125g plain flour
75g caster sugar
6 tbs cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven at 180 C. Spray a muffin tray with cooking spray or line with bun cases.

In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until they are smooth and combine with the egg white, apple sauce and oil. In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Add the banana mixture and stir well. Spoon 1 tbs of batter into each muffin cup or bun case. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out.

Makes 24 mini-muffins.

Nutritional information: 64 calories and 1.5g fat per mini-muffin.

Banana and sultana muffins

100g porridge oats
210ml skimmed milk
180g plain flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tbs honey
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 very ripe banana
90 g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with bun cases.

Mix together the oats and milk and set aside. In another bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder, spices and just a pinch of salt.

Add the honey and eggs to the oats and mix well. Fold the dry ingredients, the mashed banana and sultanas into the oat mixture and spoon into the muffin trays. Bake for 20-25 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

Nutritional information: 130 calories and 1.6g fat per muffin.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.