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Bananas: Giving You a Hand in Your Health

First noted by Alexander the Great on his conquest of India in 327 BC, the banana is America’s top-selling fruit.

Contrary to common perception, the banana actually comes from the world’s largest herbaceous flowering plant—not from a tree. Bananas grow in bunches called “hands”; a group of hands make up a “stem,” which can weigh over 100 pounds.

Nutritional profile. Bananas are known to be rich in potassium. A medium banana can contain 400–600 milligrams of it. A fruit this size also has 2 grams of protein and 4 g of fiber, is very low in calories and fat, and provides a multitude of vitamins and minerals.

For your health. Bananas are known to help treat anemia; lower blood pressure; resolve bowel issues and constipation; boost brain power and energy levels; fight depression; soothe heartburn; replenish the body during hangovers; prevent morning sickness; soothe mosquito bites; calm nerves; help with mood disorders such as premenstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorder; and decrease stress.

Buying, eating, and unusual uses. Fresh bananas are available year-round. They ripen best off the plant. The more ripe they are, the sweeter they taste. After you’ve eaten a banana, you can use the skin in place of plastic wrap to keep food fresh and give it a unique taste. The peel can also be used to polish shoes!

Sacred status. The banana tree is sacred in many cultures. It is associated with fertility and prosperity for Hindus. Malay women bathe with banana concoctions after childbirth. In India, the banana flower is regarded as a sign of good luck and is often tied to the head for important ceremonies, such as weddings.

—By Jessica Cline

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