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The Banana FAQ Page
By Don Bennett, DAS

How to know when a banana is ripe and ready to eat

Good color, but definitely not ripe yet. Yet some people think that when the green is gone, it's ripe, but it's not. The starches have not completely turned into sugars, so these will not be sweet. No wonder people say they don't like bananas, I don't like them either when they're like this.

1. Green
2. Green with some yellow
3. Getting there
4. There's still green at the tips
5. Nice yellow, but still green at tips
6. No more green, but still not ripe
7. Certainly ripe

There could have been a banana in between 6 and 7 that would also be considered ripe.

This could be perfectly ripe in the hotter weather. In the cooler weather it could be sweeter if you let it get a little riper (a little more spotted).
In most cases, this is Mmmmmm. But in the hotter weather these could be soft and slightly over-ripe.
These could be good too if they're firm, but if you are not going to eat them right now, now's a good time to throw them in the fridge so they don't get over-ripe (especially when your house is warm).
Heavenly if firm!
Could be good if they are not mushy, but in the warmer weather they are likely to be mushy. But if they are still somewhat firm, eat 'em or put them in the fridge (or freezer if you want to make banana ice cream).

Definitely past their prime. Some would say "freeze them for ice cream" or "make a smoothie out of them" but personally, if I wouldn't eat them whole, I wouldn't eat them just because I can process them so they are edible in some form.

If you're not sure, you can always go by the "look, feel, & taste" test... if it's a good ripe banana, it should have spots on the peel, and the part you eat will not be mushy, will not have any golden fermented-tasting areas, and will taste sweet.

Note: Some bananas simply don't ripen properly. They go from unripe to over-ripe. This has to do with a combination of the following: when they were picked, not moving them quickly enough into cold storage after being gassed (if they were gassed), being exposed to ethylene gas during transportation, and inappropriate temperatures during transportation and storage prior to sale to the consumer. It is a shame to toss them, but it comes with the territory.

 



A fine example of banana ice cream, but date sauce would be healthier than chocolate sauce.

(Put pitted Medjool dates in a blender, cover with water, blend until smooth, put into a squirt bottle and squirt onto fruit. It's a delicious sweetener... and the healthiest.)

Q: Does freezing fruit damage nutrients?

It depends on the water content of the fruit. When water freezes, it expands, so when the water in the cells of the fruit freezes, it breaks through the cell membranes. This can be seen when you freeze and then thaw a high water content food such as strawberries; you'll be left with a squishy mess when you defrost them.

So the amount of damage depends on the water content. Melons will be affected more than strawberries which will be affected more than bananas, which are affected the least because they are only 75% water. As an example, nuts would hardly be affected at all.

So you do diminish the nutrient content of the bananas used in banana ice cream, but not anywhere near as much as the bananas used in banana bread (cooking does far more damage than freezing, including the causation of autoimmune reactions).

A way to get around this nutrient damage issue is to chill the bananas but not let them freeze, and then mash them into ice cream. Or just eat them cold as is! This would result in a cold fruity treat (but make sure they are ripe before chilling them). In practical terms, most people just throw frozen bananas through a Champion juicer (the best machine) or a Vitamix (which takes some muscle but it can be done, just be sure to run the Vitamix only as much as needed to turn the bananas into ice cream or you'll warm up the ice cream too much).

If the only way you eat bananas is as ice cream, then you're obviously missing out on some nutrition. But if you eat most of your yearly banana intake unfrozen, and you're not cooking the other foods you eat, then you can probably afford to trade some nutrition for a tasty dessert if it helps you stay on your raw food diet.

 



"A note about organic bananas vs conventionally grown bananas. Organic bananas will usually be more nutritious because they are usually grown on more nutrient-rich soil. That's one good reason to eat organic bananas. Another is that you are supporting organic agriculture, and the greater the demand, the less pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will be used, and therefore the less -cides will be in our environment. Things with "-cide" on the end are bad. Conventionally grown bananas will have -cides on them, but those are not problematic for the consumer because you don't eat the peel. But bananas can sometimes have systemic -cides in them. These -cides were placed in the soil so they'd get into the plant. In the case of bananas, these -cides are likely to be fungicides to deal with "leaf spot" which is a disease that can devastate banana crops. So if you can buy your bananas organically grown, do so, especially if they make up a large part of your diet (the person who wrote the rest of this page gets about 45% of his calories from bananas!)." – Banana Dog


OLIVER: THE REAL
BANANA DOG
I like 'em too!

 


 

The issue of stomach elasticity when eating lots of bananas (and fruit in general)

What people usually find hard to do when first adopting a diet that contains lots of fruit is to eat enough fruit at their meals in order to get enough calories for the day. And this is usually because their stomach has lost its ability to stretch to accommodate a normal-sized meal of foods that a human being is designed to eat.

The meals of the typical Western diet contain food that is low water content and low fiber, and therefore low bulk, so the stomach, over time, loses its ability to stretch because it doesn't need to expand very much. (This ability can be seen in an infant after it's consumed its fill of breast milk.) Fruits however are high water and high fiber foods, so to consume a meal containing the same amount of calories, a fruit meal will be larger (fill more stomach volume) than the meals previously eaten.

So you've got to allow some time for your stomach to regain its lost elasticity. And initially when you try and eat a normal-sized fruit meal, you will likely feel full before you've eaten enough, but in time you'll be able to eat a fruit meal without feeling "stuffed".

Below are examples of an abdominal area after a 1,000 calorie meal of bananas (10 bananas), and after that meal left the stomach a short time later. This is a reason that people who eat a low-fat, vegan, fruit and veggie diet like pants with elastic waistbands. (And by-the-way, after that meal, I didn't feel "stuffed". And I ate that many bananas because that's how many my body wanted; sometimes it's only five or six. And to keep things in perspective, keep in mind that if I need 2,500 calories for the day, this meal of 10 bananas was only 40% of what I needed for the day.)

 

BEFORE AND AFTER EATING 10 BANANAS

 



Issues with eating a meal of bananas

Some people don't "handle" bananas very well; they get some indigestion, or a spacey feeling when starting to incorporate a lot of bananas into their new, healthier, diet. And there's a reason for this. But first it's good to know what this is not. It's probably not an allergy to bananas, as some health practitioners will tell you. An allergy to something we're designed to eat is very rare. (And while we're on the subject of allergies, no adult human has an allergy to wheat or dairy, because it is impossible to be allergic to something you're not designed to eat, such as soap, grains, or cow's milk. See this article for some enlightening info on this subject, which also pertains to the banana issue.)

Reasons for having a hard time with bananas:

1. Eating them when not ripe. – This is more prevalent than you'd imagine (see the above info).

2. Eating them combined with other things. – A banana will combine okay with some things, but not with others. We should be looking for the best combination, and a banana combines best with another banana. :)

3. Eating when your body would rather you didn't eat. – If your eating program has you eating X number of calories a day, and you are not yet eating according to your body's needs (as evidenced by hunger), you may be trying to eat a quantity of bananas that will give your digestive system a hard time, but you'll be doing this in an effort to get X number of calories in at the meal.

4. Not getting enough sleep. – Most people don't know about the relationship between good digestion and enough deep, restorative sleep... even most mainstream nutritionists. Now, you might be tempted to say that sleep isn't the problem with the banana eating because other foods don't give you the same problem, but this isn't necessarily so (and, yes, the "happens with X but not with Y" makes it more difficult to diagnose things, but that's because the science of health restoration is complex, but fortunately the art of health restoration isn't... and fortunately there are health creation practitioners who are knowledgeable in the complexities and are also good at parsing them into teachable material, such as this "banana page".)

5. Not being active enough to warrant the amount of calories you're trying to eat and/or not being active enough in general so as to have good digestion.

6. Not giving any known and unknown digestive issues time to resolve before changing to a much higher fiber diet and a much higher water content diet (i.e. a very different diet than your system is used to). Funny how even when you're "trading up" diet-wise to a healthier diet, this can temporarily "upset" your digestive system.

7. Digestive rebalancing and healing due to improved lifestyle practices (more/better sleep, now being appropriately active, now getting enough D and B12, more stress management, now being properly hydrated, the cessation of burdensome foods, the cessation of harmful toxins). – If your digestive system wasn't operating at an optimal level, when you make non-dietary improvements in your life, the available nervous system energy (aka "nerve energy") is increased and will be used to improve healing and "housecleaning". This can temporarily give you stomach upsets with certain quantities of foods. Backing off a bit can help, but since this will mean temporarily eating less, this can mean losing some weight. This is good if you've got some weight to lose, but if you were already at your ideal "set" weight, becoming even a little underweight can cause concern if you aren't aware that this is okay (and actually a sign of a good thing). The trick with weight loss is knowing if it's normal under the circumstances, or if you're simply not eating enough calories.

8. Not chewing enough. – You'd be surprised just how many people don't chew their food enough. If you may be one of them, make a conscious effort to chew each mouthful more than you normally do. If you can do this conscious effort for a month, it'll become a habit that you won't have to think about anymore.

9. Eating them whole vs in a smoothie. – Some people do better when eating them whole (if they chew them well) and some do better when they make a smoothie. Eating them whole only has the issue of not chewing enough, but when you make something unnatural, like a smoothie, there are a host of things that can "go wrong". As stated above, if you mix the bananas with items that don't combine well, this can cause problems. The answer: Make a banana smoothie with only bananas. If the bananas are ripe, and you have a Vitamix, you won't need water. And just because you can drink down a smoothie, doesn't mean you should; bananas were meant to be chewed, so chew your smoothie meals. Seriously! Chewing tells the brain to produce certain digestive juices (according to what is in the mouth), so if you don't chew, you'll hamper digestion. A banana is also supposed to be mixed with saliva as it would if you eat it whole. But if you simply drink it down, again, digestion will suffer. So let your mouthful of smoothie spend some time in your mouth and of course swish it around while you do so. If you're concerned about how others will react if they see you consume a smoothie in this fashion, eat your smoothie in quiet solitude (which will be good for digestion too).

10. A "hinky" sugar metabolism. – If you've been getting your calories from a relatively high fat diet, you likely have some level of impaired sugar metabolism, which could lead to a sugar metabolic disorder (diabetes, candidiasis, chronic fatigue) if you don't already have one. So when you then transition to low-fat, high carb diet (which is what humans are designed to eat), you could get roller coaster blood sugar levels until your body has had time to rebalance and heal (pancreas mainly). During this time, it might be helpful to consume additional fiber along with sweet fruit (like bananas) because the extra fiber will help to slow the uptake of sugar into the blood and thus help to prevent wild swings of blood sugar. Here's a good video to watch about blood sugar.

11. Loss of normal stomach elasticity. – This is explained above.

It's unfortunate that when switching to the diet we're designed to eat, you can feel worse before you feel better (much better). But that's because we've been born into and have come of age in a culture where many things we see as normal are anything but... especially when it comes to what we eat. So if you've been eating and living in accordance with culture and not with nature, when you see the light and start making positive changes, the detoxification, rebalancing, and healing that takes place can often feel not so good even though it's very good for you because it's part and parcel of health improvement. This is why knowledge is very important as you go through this so you won't draw the wrong conclusions.

So look at the above reasons, read more about health restoration in general and what can be expected, and ask questions of knowledgeable educators who've had many years of practical experience. And most important: Know that what you are experiencing has a good reason, and it's a reason that can be understood, dealt with, and corrected, and as such, it is a temporary and not a permanent thing.

 

And here's me back from foraging for some very delicious Namwah bananas.
I hang them in my living room and feast on them as they ripen.
As you can see, they ripen from the top down (I'm holding the bunch upside down) and this is because the bananas at the top are the older bananas, so they ripen first.

 

 

 

Can you get too much potassium from
eating "too many" bananas?

 

The short answer is 'no'. But we hear that if we eat too many bananas we can get too much potassium, and that could be bad. Dr. Angela Lennox said, "the tropical fruit contains potassium which, in high enough doses, could cause illness...Potassium can cause severe heart disease and, potentially, a cardiac arrest...You're likely to be very sick, as they [bananas] contain a lot of calories." I won't comment on that second part but I include it to show how mainstream MDs know very little useful information about a healthy diet.

 


But where does this "too much potassium" notion come from? As you can imagine, there probably haven't been lots of studies done on populations who eat lots of bananas, because there aren't any more (except people eating a low-fat, vegan, raw fruit and leafy green diet, but we're not studied because our results would run counter to the mainstream notions of healthy eating, and because robust health is bad for the health care industry). And even though science is fond of extrapolating results from animal studies to humans, no one asked why other primates who eat lots of bananas don't get heart disease and heart attacks. Hmmm.

Potassium is potentially toxic, however toxicity or death due to potassium poisoning from ingestion is prevented because of the vomiting reflex. Meaning, if you somehow could manage to ingest too much potassium, you'd throw up. I watched a banana eating contest where some people tried to eat 20 bananas at a sitting to break a record. No one ate all 20 but came close, and no one threw up or died. Here's why: The consumption of food containing potassium results in mild increases in the concentration of potassium in the bloodstream, but blood levels of potassium do not become toxic. This is because of the uptake of potassium by various cells of the body, as well as by the action of the kidneys which transfer the potassium from the blood to the urine. When we say that our bodies are self-regulating, this is what we mean.

Now it should be noted that those with a diagnosed kidney condition are warned to be mindful of not over doing potassium-rich foods, and rightly so, but there's a difference between eating a diet and living a lifestyle that promotes kidney disease, and eating a diet and living a lifestyle that allows the body to heal malfunctioning kidneys. So a kidney condition does not mean that you are stuck with it, and it doesn't mean that you can't eat a healthy diet that supports the body's efforts at healing itself (which it is always trying to do), it just means that you have to eat intelligently.

But the body’s potassium regulatory mechanisms can be overwhelmed when potassium chloride is injected intravenously; high doses of injected potassium can result in death. (Indeed, this is a method used by murderers.) And because of this, it was assumed that too much "high potassium" food would be dangerous. (It might surprise you to know that there are many assumptions in the field of dietary recommendations.)

Knowing that a normal level of potassium in the bloodstream is in the range of 3.5-5.0 mM, while levels of 6.3-8.0 mM (severe hyperkalemia) result in cardiac arrhythmias or death due to cardiac arrest, and knowing how much potassium is in a banana, we can calculate how many bananas would need to be eaten to get a dangerous level of potassium in the blood. Turns out, it's far more than the biggest banana eater could eat. Keep in mind, when you get to the 12th banana, the potassium from the first few bananas have already left the bloodstream.

So while the body has no way to regulate a concentrated dose of potassium injected directly into it, it has the amazing ability to prevent us from dying from eating the foods we're designed to eat. So bon appetit!

 

 

~~~~~~~  OTHER INTERESTING BANANA STUFF  ~~~~~~~~~

 

Amazing Facts About Bananas With Black Spots

Did you know that a banana that has black spots on its peel creates a substance called TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) that is powerful in fighting against abnormal (cancer) cells. The more black spots it has on its peel, the higher the concentration of TNF. According to a study by Japanese researchers, the effect of TNF from ripe bananas on our body showed that it is eight times higher than it is from green bananas and other fruits. So eat 'em ripe!

 

Banana Memories

Before the variety of banana we know today – the Cavendish – there was the Gros Michel, which went extinct in the late 1960s due to Panama Disease, which was due to growing bananas as a mono-crop. As a kid, I remember the "Big Mike" variety; it was better than the one we have today, and it had little seeds. In the next 10 -15 years, today's Cavendish will likely go the way of the Gros Michel and will not be viable for mass consumption. There is currently no variety that would be a good replacement. The song, "Yes, We Have No Bananas" is said to have been inspired by a shortage of the "Big Mike" bananas, and we may be hearing that tune in our lifetime.

Gros Michel bananas

 

‘Bioplastic from banana peel’ teenage girl wins award

A Turkish teen whose science project developed a method to make bioplastic for electrical insulation cables from banana peels has won the second annual Scientific American Science in Action Award.

The $50,000 award, which is supported by the Google Science Fair, Elif Bilgin, 16, will have access to a year’s mentorship and has been invited to take part in the overall Google Science Fair in September 2013.

“My project makes it possible to use banana peels, a waste material which is thrown away almost every day, in the electrical insulation of cables,” Ms Bilgin said. “This is both an extremely nature-friendly and cheap process, which has the potential to decrease the amount of pollution created due to the use of plastics, which contain petroleum derivatives,” she said.

The judging panel elected Ms Bilgin’s project, ‘Going Bananas! Using Banana Peels in the Production of Bio-Plastic as a Replacement for Traditional Petroleum-Based Plastic’, from a pool of 15 finalists, who were culled from thousands of submissions from more than 120 countries for the 2013 Google Science Fair.

“Thomas Edison famously said, ‘Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration’,” said Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American and Chief Google Science Fair Judge. “He would have found a kindred spirit in Elif Bilgin, who spent two years toiling away on her project to develop a bioplastic from discarded banana skins. We admire her persistence and her wonderful work,” she said.

In September, Ms Bilgin and one of the other finalists will travel to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, to present their projects to an international panel of finalist judges, including science luminaries, technology innovators and Nobel laureates. They will compete for prizes that include $100,000 in scholarship funds, time at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Google or the LEGO Group, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a $10,000 grant to the Grand Prize winner’s school. The winners will be announced at a gala on 23 September 2013, which will be streamed live on the fair’s YouTube channel.

Scientific American has partnered with the Google Science fair, an annual international online competition, since it launched in 2011. The Scientific American Science in Action Award was created to recognise a project that can “make a practical different by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge”.

 

 


Vending machine in Australia
(A good message, but I have to wonder about ripeness.)

 

 

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