Growing up, Mom always had bananas around the house. They are her favorite fruit and she still has at least one daily. She ate them from the peel, made breads, and tossed them in Jell-O. For me, not so much. Berries were always my favorite and I had to learn to like them before I could love bananas.

Today, I do love bananas, and have at least one a day just like Mom. I have discovered I prefer them when they are still slightly green around the edges. I try to purchase only enough for the next few days. I dangle them on a banana holder to keep from ripping too soon and put them in a brown paper bag and place them in the fridge in the event they do. If they are overripe, then it’s time to whip up one of my favorite banana bread recipes and add them in! I also discovered a new way to eat them. Peel the fruit from the opposite end. Try it! You might be pleasantly surprised!

The health benefits of bananas seem literally endless, probably one of the main reasons why it’s Mom’s favorite fruit. First of all, they consist mainly of fiber which is great for restoring a normal bowel function from either constipation or diarrhea. Next, they are contain a lot of the good sugar – glucose, fructose and sucrose – making this fruit ideal for an immediate source of energy. Bananas are also high in B vitamins that have shown to improve nerve function, and high in iron, which helps the body’s hemoglobin function. They additionally contain tryptophan, an aminoacid that converts to serotonin which helps improve your mood. Bananas also have a natural antacid effect in the body. So if you suffer from heartburn, an upset stomach, ulcers, or morning sickness, try eating a banana for soothing relief. I do this all the time when I’m nausea and it works like a charm!

But what bananas are probably most known for their high concentration of potassium, a nutrient necessary for human life and health. The benefits of potassium alone include lower blood pressure, anxiety, and stress; less of chance for strokes, cramps, and heart and kidney disorders; heightened metabolism, muscular strength, and water balance; and better function of nervous system and electrolytic functions.

There have also been many studies on the health benefits of bananas. According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can reduce the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40 percent. Research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology states that adults who eat at least three servings of bananas a day have a reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by 36% (the primary cause of vision loss in older adults) in comparison to those who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily. And research findings published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that daily consumption of bananas is highly protective to kidney health.

There are also some surprising benefits and unusual uses of bananas. Some people report that rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a mosquito bite is very effective in reducing itching and swelling. During stressed out moments, there are those who eat a banana versus taking medications for a healthier rebalance. And some smokers consume bananas to help them kick the habit. The vitamins B6 and B12 in addition to the potassium and magnesium in bananas can help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Countless reasons to eat bananas! So besides eating them right from the peal, below are a few of my favorite healthy banana recipes. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Banana and Pineapple Smoothie: Place 4 ice cubes, 1/4 fresh pineapple (peeled, cored and cubed), 1 large banana cut into chunks, and 1 cup pineapple into the bowl of a blender. Puree on high until smooth.

Banana Bread: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 cup white sugar. Stir in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 4 ripe bananas (mashed), and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Fold in 1 cup raisins and 1 cup chopped walnuts if desired. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

Banana Pancakes: In a large bowl, mix all-purpose 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 tablespoons white sugar. Stir in 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and 2 small ripe bananas (finely chopped) just until moistened.  Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Banana Waffles: Preheat waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, sift together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 pinch ground nutmeg. Stir in 1 cup 1% milk and 1 egg until mixture is smooth. Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour two tablespoons of the waffle batter onto the hot waffle iron. Place two slices of a banana on top of the batter and then spoon another two tablespoons of batter on top of the banana. Cook until golden brown. Serve hot.

Banana Pudding: In large bowl combine 8 ounces sour cream, 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping (thawed), 1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix and 2 cups whole milk. Stir well. In the bottom of a trifle bowl or other glass serving dish, put a layer of vanilla wafer cookies, then a layer of pudding mixture, then a layer of bananas (4 bananas, peeled and sliced). Repeat until all ingredients are used. Refrigerate until serving.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.