They are high in fiber, in the form of pectin, which is excellent for helping to ease constipation (because of the high potassium content bananas are also a good choice when it comes to replenishing the electrolytes lost due to diarrhea). Bananas also provide a high percentage of our daily amount of vitamin B6, which, according to Phyllis Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, "is involved in more bodily functions than any almost any other single nutrient." B6 is important for the immune, nervous and cardiac systems and is also important for circulatory health. Another helpful component of bananas is something called protease inhibitors; these can be helpful in stopping the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.
Although we are used to seeing only two to three different varieties in the supermarket, there are believed to be around 500 varieties, including plantains. They come in all different colors and sizes. Bananas can be eaten when they are green, providing something called resistant starch which has a fiber like effect on your system and also helps to promote "good" bacteria. The riper the bananas are when you consume them, the more antioxidants they provide, making them a great all-around fruit.
Most people do not like to eat very ripe bananas. When the fruit starts to get spotted on the outside they are frequently considered to be "over-ripe" although this is usually not the case. Very ripe bananas are usually either thrown out or baked into some sort of treat. If they are too ripe for your palate and you are not in the mood to bake you can freeze them. I frequently freeze bananas in the peel if they are going to be used in baking, and peeled, in baggies, if I am planning on adding them to smoothies. In the peel is fabulous because when you are ready to use them you simply let them thaw on the counter, snip the end, and let it "goosh" into your mixing bowl where it will incorporate itself very nicely into the batter.
Today I happened to have 5 very ripe bananas and decided that it was a good day to bake. The following recipe is modified from one originally given to me by my friend Theresa. She got it from her grandmother, the family name for it was 1940's Banana Bread. The basic recipe is the same, I've merely changed the flour to whole wheat, the sugar to evaporated cane juice, and added pecans, chocolate chips and a little vanilla to make a wonderfully tasty banana bread. Theresa bakes hers in loaf pans but I love making this in a bundt for that little extra touch.
Banana Pecan Chocolate Bundt Bread
4-5 ripe bananas
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1/2 C. chocolate chips
preheat oven to 325 degrees F
grease a bundt pan and set aside
in a large mixing bowl mix bananas together
beat in eggs one at a time
add in flour, sugar and baking soda until well incorporated
add in vanilla, pecans and chocolate chips until well incorporated
pour batter into bundt pan
bake 1 hour or until cake pick inserted into batter comes out clean
remove cake from oven and let sit 10 minutes on cake rack
invert to release cake from bundt pan and let cool completely
photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Pomakis