People’s feelings on ripe bananas can get as heated as the ever-controversial mayo or no mayo debate, and today we’re weighing in. No matter their state of ripeness, bananas are always good for you. However, the super ripe bananas with brown spots do offer some unique health benefits that may convert the haters into believers.
Time for a confession – I have always loved bananas. I eat one banana every day with breakfast like it’s my job. If there were a banana hype crew, I’d be lead. I even own a banana holder to protect my precious breakfast banana on my commute to work. You get the idea. My love is warranted when you realize all the nutrients that one banana delivers: Potassium (an electrolyte for nerves and muscles so they can function properly and develop); Magnesium (also good for nerves and muscles, especially important for people who eat a lot of protein); Vitamin B6 (good for heart and mood, helps produce neotransmitters that support immune and metabolic function); Vitamin C (supports body tissue repair and growth) and fiber (hello regularity)!
Historically I’d been Goldilocks with regard to banana ripeness, but I changed my tune after learning that it’s in our best interest to show brown bananas some love. To get you on board too, here is a breakdown of what health benefits they provide, and suggested recipes for how you can enjoy them.
Why Browner Bananas Are Good for Our Bodies
- More antioxidants – The levels of antioxidants in bananas increase as they ripen and gain brown spots; it’s an easy sign that the fruit’s chlorophyll is breaking down. More antioxidants means a higher concentration of the molecules that protect your cells against free radicals that can damage them and make you sick. Sign me up.
- Easier to digest – Greenish and yellow bananas are more starchy than sugary. As they ripen, the starch transforms into simple sugar carbs, which makes them easier for your body to breakdown. Usually I’m careful about too much sugar but in this case I love it because their quick digestibility makes them a good bet for energy right before a workout.
- Helps fight bacteria and viruses – Studies show that the riper the banana, the greater the Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). TNF has great impact on body cells conditions and is seen as a way to help our bodies defend against tumor cell growth and bacteria. So maybe the saying should actually be, ‘a banana a day keeps the doctor away’?!
Ways to Eat Brown Bananas
If the softer, browner bananas are really not your cup o’ tea, you can mask the texture by adding them into healthy recipes. Here are our three favorites:
- Superfood smoothies: Since brown spotted bananas are sweeter than less ripe bananas they are great for adding to smoothies when you need to tamper down the flavor of strong or bitter superfood powders (like maca, spirulina, etc). If you have a bunch that are all ripe simultaneously, you can prep them for future smoothie use. Cut them up into 1-inch pieces, place in a ziploc or tupperware and freeze them!
- Paleo Pancakes: On the weekends I like breakfasts that are a little different from my weekday routine and often opt for paleo banana pancakes. They are super easy to make and feel like a treat but are totally healthy! To make:
- In a bowl, use a fork to mash up the ripe banana until it reaches the consistency of applesauce.
- Mix in: one full egg, 1 tbsp almond meal and a pinch of salt and cinnamon.
- Whisk everything together until thoroughly blended.
- To cook: Pour banana batter into a hot non-stick pan with a little coconut oil or butter. Cook on each side until you’ve got a nice light golden color and pancakes are fluffy.
- To eat: top with nonfat greek yogurt and jam, or enjoy with a drizzle of maple syrup
- Chocolate banana chia pudding: Making chia pudding is a simple way to get the superfood’s benefits; adding your ripe bananas into the mix amps up the nutrients and adds a nice creaminess. I like to add some cocoa powder to my recipe and enjoy it as an ice cream substitute when I’m craving some dessert. To make, combine the following ingredients in a blender:
- 1 cup cashew or hemp milk
- 1 brown banana
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 packet stevia
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- pinch of salt and cinnamon
- To set: Place pudding mixture in a mason jar and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- To eat: stir contents (chia seeds can get stuck to bottom) and garnish with a honey drizzle, chopped nuts and/or shredded coconut.