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Banana

Banana is a crescent shaped fruit prepackaged by nature in a yellow skin. It is a good source of fiber, vitamins and potassium. The banana is a perfect snack food for the whole family and particularly the elderly, great as an after exercise food to give your muscles back some energy.

Banana
The thermal nature is very cooling.
The flavour is .
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What it is

The banana is a large tropical plant that is related to the lily reaching 2 to 8 meters in height; it is also the edible fruit from the plant.  Bananas grow in bunches of 50 to 100 individual fruit and this bunch is further divided into “hands” of a few up to about a dozen of these crescent shaped fruit. There are actually several hundred varieties throughout the world in a variety of colors and sizes, the average banana is about 15 – 20 cm long, 125 g in weight and yellow in color, although they can be found in colors from red, purple to black. 

Each fruit has a protective outer layer known as its peel or skin with a creamy-yellow flesh inside. While both the skin and the flesh can be eaten, in western cultures we generally eat the creamy flesh and discard the skin, while in many Asian cultures and in alternative natural treatments, the skin is also often used.

The common banana that you see most often in markets is a soft and sweet desert banana, usually the 
• Cavendish banana - the banana usually found in markets
• Burro banana - is short and chunky with a lemony flavor, 
• Manzano banana - smaller than even the burro with a dryer texture. 
Also; 
• Plantains banana - more starchy and firm variety. These are considered more of a vegetable and must be cooked before being eaten.


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What is in it

Banana is a very good source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and a good source of fiber, vitamin C and the minerals potassium and magnesium.

For the most antioxidants eat banana when it is very ripe, the riper the better. When the chlorophyll breaks down the green coloration turns to yellow then brown. This decomposition creates NCCs (nonflourescing chlorophyll catabolytes). The chlorophyll is replaced by NCCs in the leaves of plants and also the fruit, particularly in the peel and the flesh just below the peel. NCCs have been found to have a powerful antioxidant effect in your body when eaten.

Banana along with Jerusalem artichoke, barley, asparagus, garlic and others are a rich source of FOS (Fructooligosaccharide). FOS has been used in Japan as a dietary supplement for its prebiotic effects. Which can increase calcium absorption and prevent yeast infections


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What it is good for

Banana are a good food for the elderly as it helps in conditions like dryness, blood pressure and digestive weakness, which all tend to increase with age. While children who are cold, inactive of frail may not do well with banana.

Banana,
• Lubricates the intestines and lungs
• Treats constipation
• Treats ulcers 
• Detoxify the body
• Treat drug addictions (particularly alcoholism) which have heat signs and sugar cravings during withdrawal
• May reduce the risk of kidney cancer
• Protects against ulcers
• Helps protect against macular (central vision) degeneration 
• Improves calcium absorption
• Reduces hypertension 
• Reduce blood pressure

Treatments
• For dry conditions – dry lung and dry cough; eat banana that has been cut up and cooked into a thick soup.

When a banana still partially green and unripe it has an astringent quality. 
• Use steamed, partially ripe banana to treat diarrhea and colitis 
• To treat hemorrhoids – steam a whole organic banana until very soft and eat including the skin.  Do this 2 times a day on an empty stomach.


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When you get it

Bananas are a tropical fruit, and as many are imported they can be found in markets year around although the fruit from the farm are best in the summer months.


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Which to select

Like the pear, bananas ripen best off the plant; therefore they are always picked green. Choose bananas depending on when you want to eat then.

Bright yellow banana with small brown spots are very ripe and ready to eat now.
Pale yellow banana is usually just a couple of days from ripening. Green bananas may take up to a week or more to ripen depending on when they were picked.

Bananas should be firm in your hand with no soft areas, larger brown bruises or other injuries. The stem and skin should be intact with no splits.

The size of the banana does not effect its nutritional or taste qualities so choose the size that best suits you.


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Where to store

Banana is actually a very fragile fruit, which, particularly when ripe, can be damaged and bruised easily.
Keep banana at temperatures of greater that about 13 °C, so they should be stored at room temperature until you are ready to eat them. 

When a banana is ripe it can be refrigerated. The ripening of the banana will stop and the skin will turn brown quickly although the flesh inside will keep well. If a banana is overly refrigerated while it is unripe, it is likely that the ripening process will not resume after returning it to room temperature.

To speed up the ripening process, as with pears, they can be wrapped in paper where they will ripen. If you add an apple this will accelerate the process even more.

When your banana is ripe you can peel it and freeze it where it will keep for around 2 months.


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How to use

When the banana is ripe, peel it and throw away the skin, although sometimes the skin is used in Asian cooking or in natural medicine, unusually you do not eat the peel. 

Most often the banana is peeled and eaten as a snack at school, work or on the run, but there are many other ways you can use it.
• Mash and put on a sandwich with nut butter and/or honey
• Add frozen chunks of ripe banana to a smoothie. It adds a thick creamy feel without the need to add ice
• Add chopped banana to cereal
• Dried banana can make a tasty addition to muesli and other foods although be aware as it is high in concentrated carbohydrates like all dried fruits
• Bake a banana cake with honey and whole grain flour. One of the great wholemeal cakes


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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. This serving sizes is a good guide to the amount you should eat from each food group.

Grains (Carbohydrates)   6 – 8 serves
Meat and beans (Protein)  1 – 2    serves
Fats:    1
Dairy:   2 - 3
Fruit:    2
Vegetables:  5
Water:  6


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Things to watch out for

Children who are cold, inactive of frail may not do well with banana as they are a very cooling food and may increase cold conditions.

Latex allergy – as with avocado and chestnuts, banana contain the digestive enzyme chitinase, which is associated with a condition known as the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. If you have an allergy to latex then you may also be allergic to these fruits. The processing of banana with ethylene gas increases this enzyme therefore eating organic fruit, not treated with this gas. Cooking may also reduce these effects


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References

Australian Bananas, Banana Info, http://www.bananaland.com.au/info/index.php, retrieved 01/2009

Banana growers’ council, http://www.abgc.org.au/, retrieved 01/2009. 

Wilipedia, Banana, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana, retrieved 01/2009

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)


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