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    Archive for the ‘bananas’ Category

    Q & A Roundup

    I thought it would be fun and informative to feature some of the more interesting questions I have received via email and social media over the past few weeks. Here they are — with my answers, of course — for your perusal.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Allergy-Friendly Breakfast Pie (Wheat, Soy, Dairy, and Nut-Free!)

    goodmorningiu9You can have this pie whenever you please — day or night.  However, its fruity flavors are breakfast-ish to me.  And, while it is a pie, it is made of such healthful ingredients that you can start your day off quite nutritiously with a slice.

    Chock-full of fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it makes minimally-nutritious morning pastries quiver in fear!

    YIELDS: One 8-slice pie

    INGREDIENTS:

    For crust:

    3/4 cup raw almonds (see NOTES at bottom of post)
    3/4 cup raw walnuts (see NOTES at bottom of post)
    (NOTE: For nut-free version, you will need 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup hemp seeds, and 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds; see NOTES at bottom of post)
    2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded dried coconut (optional)
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup pitted dates (any variety; I like Medjool)

    For filling:

    1.5 cups blueberries
    1.5 cups strawberries, sliced
    1 medium banana, sliced
    2 Tablespoons cup raisins
    1 scoop unsweetened whey or hemp protein powder (optional; see NOTES at bottom of post)
    1 Tablespoon water (if needed, to thin out)

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    To make the crust, process the nuts/seeds, coconut (if using), vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in food processor into a finely ground powder.

    Add the pitted dates, 1/3 of a cup at a time, and process for 30 to 45 seconds at a time.

    Once all the dates have been added, you should have a solid “dough-like” product.  If it does not stick together, add a few more pitted dates and process again.

    Remove the “dough” from the food processor and press it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan (preferably glass), forming a crust that goes up onto the sides of the pan.  Once done, place pie pan in freezer for 30 minutes.

    While crust freezes, make the filling, as detailed below.

    Rinse out the food processor and fill it with berries, the sliced banana, and the raisins.  Process for 45 to 60 seconds, or until completely smooth.  If needed, add up to 1 Tablespoon of water to make processing easier (careful, though, you don’t your filling to be watery!).

    Once filling is smooth (and has a creamy texture), remove crust from freezer and pour filling into pie pan.

    Refrigerate pie pan for at least 90 minutes.

    Once pie has been fully refrigerated, cut into eight uniform slices and enjoy!

    NUTRITION FACTS (for 1 slice, crust made with almonds and walnuts, filling without protein powder):

    245 calories
    1.5 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    5 grams fiber
    4 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: B vitamins (except B12), folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, zinc

    Good Source of: Iron, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 ALA fatty acids, vitamin E, zinc

    NOTES:

    1. For a simpler and less costly crust, you can definitely use one type of nut or seed.  I like using a combination in order to achieve more flavors, but that is completely up to you.  If using multiple nuts/seeds, feel free to experiment with different ratios, too.  You can also try ingredients not listed in this recipe (i.e.: Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)

    2. The extra scoop of whey or hemp protein in the filling provides an additional 2.5 grams of protein per slice, and thickens up the texture slightly.  I find that an unsweetened, vanilla-flavored type works best with the filling.

    3. Serving this for guests?  Top it off with whole fresh berries or sliced fruits of your choice!

    4. If you want to give the crust a hint of chocolate flavor, add one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the crust.  For a deep chocolate flavor, add two tablespoons.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Banana Coolers

    DSCN0003_thumb[1]This snack (one of my summertime favorites) is so amazingly simple, it doesn’t truly classify as a “recipe”.

    However, many people who have seen me “making this” often react with surprise because it is a new concept to them.

    One of my favorite things about this snack — apart from the fact that it is fun finger food — is that it is an empty canvas that allows you to add your own flavor touches.

    Additionally, each bite is creamy and cool; reminiscent of banana-flavored soft-serve ice cream.

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 frozen banana (very ripe, pre-sliced and frozen at least overnight)
    Nut or seed butter of choice
    Spices (optional; see below for suggestions)
    Toppings (optional; see below for suggestions)

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Lay out frozen banana slices on plate; let thaw for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Top each slice with a dollop of nut or seed butter of choice.  Adjust total amount of nut/seed butter depending on hunger level and caloric need.

    Add toppings and/or spices, if so desired.

    Enjoy!

    OPTIONAL SPICES & TOPPINGS:

    • Cacao/cocoa powder
    • Cacao nibs
    • Chia seeds
    • Chocolate chips (one per banana slice)
    • Cinnamon
    • Ginger (for a real kick, add a drop or two of lime juice!)
    • Hemp seeds
    • Maca
    • Unsweetened shredded coconut

    NUTRITION INFO (per serving; assuming 1 medium banana + 1 Tablespoon almond butter)

    206 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    3 milligrams sodium (75 if using salted nut/seed butter)
    4 grams fiber
    2 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Magnesium, manganese, monounsaturated fats, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    Good source of: Phosphorus, potassium

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    You Ask, I Answer: Colorful Fruits and Vegetables

    WintersquashApart from bananas, what other fruits and vegetables contain the cool-sounding phytonutrient delphinidin?  I don’t want to assume white just because it is bananas.

    — Brandon (last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown

    In light of your post about specific vegetable servings, what are examples of orange vegetables, besides carrots? Do sweet potatoes or winter squash count?

    — Purnima Anand
    New York, NY

    Brandon: Delphinidin, which has been studied extensively and shown to be a powerful chemopreventive phytonutrient (meaning it is quite powerful at squashing tumor cells), is also prevalent in blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

    Start your day off with a blueberry-banana-strawberry shake and you’ll get your delphinidin on!

    Purnima: The following vegetables are categorized as “orange vegetables”.  The classification is, of course, based on color, but also on the specific phytonutrients, antioxidants, and carotenoids these foods offer:

    • Acorn squash
    • Butternut squash
    • Carrots
    • Hubbard squash
    • Pumpkin
    • Rutabaga
    • Sweet potatoes
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    You Ask, I Answer: More to Bananas than Potassium?

    BananasI don’t hear a lot about bananas, except that they are a good way to get potassium and B vitamins.

    You often write about phytonutrients and antioxidants in fruits.  Do bananas have any?

    Also, why do some diets forbid you from eating bananas the first few weeks?

    — Sandra Talenda
    (Location withheld)

    Let’s get the frustrating things out of the way first.

    I will never, ever, ever understand diet plans that treat bananas (or any other nutritious, whole foods) as if they were radioactive waste.

    A standard medium banana is not only a very good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, it also only delivers 105 calories.

    FYI: When it comes to potassium, potatoes and avocados surpass bananas.

    Anyone who recommends banana avoidance in the name of health needs to take a nutrition class.  Stat.

    As far as phytonutrients are concerned, all plant-based foods (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and spices) contain them.  That’s one significant reason why a diet heavy on plant-based foods is optimal for health!

    Keep in mind that we are still in the process of identifying phytonutrients; the nutrition nerd in me can’t help but feel excited when researchers uncover a new one.

    Bananas provide high amounts of the following phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants:

    • Glutathione: a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect against cellular oxidation and damage
    • Phenolic compounds: a Cornell University study concluded that certain fruits — including bananas — contain phenolic compounds that protect neural cells from oxidative damage, thereby helping slash the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
    • Delphinidin: a naturally-occurring pigment that helps lower cancer risk — particularly of the prostate — by causing tumor cells to undergo apoptosis (“cell suicide”)
    • Rutin: a flavonoid also found in asparagus that is associated with blood pressure reduction
    • Naringin: also found in grapefruits, this flavonoids reduces LDL cholesterol oxidation, thereby lowering atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease risk

    For what it’s worth, the riper a banana, the higher its phytonutrient, antioxidant, and flavonoid content.

    If you don’t like the texture of a very ripe banana, I suggest peeling, slicing, freezing, and incorporating it into a smoothie.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    891318One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains as much potassium as two medium bananas.

    FYI: The United States Department of Agriculture classifies medium bananas as those measuring anywhere from 7 to 8 inches.

    Score another point for dark, leafy green vegetables.

    Remember — they already get kudos for being good sources of calcium and vitamin K — two crucial nutrients for bone health.

    While most people equate potassium with bananas (and that’s not too off-the-mark; bananas are a good source of that mineral), other foods provide higher amounts.

    A medium banana contains approximately 420 milligrams of potassium (roughly ten percent of the daily requirement).  One cup of cooked Swiss chard, meanwhile, contributes 961 milligrams (slightly over a quarter of a day’s worth!).

    Take a look at these other potassium-rich foods that are often forgotten:

    • Spinach (1 cup, cooked): 835 milligrams
    • Lentils (1 cup, cooked): 731 milligrams
    • Edamame (1 cup): 676 milligrams
    • Nutritional yeast (3 Tablespoons): 640 milligrams
    • Baked potato (medium, with skin): 610 milligrams
    • Halibut (3 ounces, cooked): 490 milligrams

    A good list to keep in mind, particularly since the majority of adults in the United States do not meet daily potassium requirements.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Bananacado Shake

    Most of us avocado-banana-420-420x0are accustomed to eating avocado in its savory form, usually as guacamole or part of a salad.

    In some parts of the world — especially Indonesia and the Philippines — avocado is commonly included in sweet concoctions.

    Fret not: although this delicious breakfast smoothie utilizes avocado to achieve a creamy texture, its taste goes unnoticed.  The key is to use very ripe fruit in order to provide a good amount of sweetness.

    This is one of my favorite breakfast foods whenever I’m in a rush.  The combination of healthy fats, fiber, and protein keeps me full through most of the morning!

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 small avocado, sliced (or one half of a large avocado)
    1 medium frozen banana (previously sliced and stored in Ziploc bag)
    1/3 cup frozen strawberries OR frozen peaches OR frozen pineapple
    1 cup milk of choice (choose unsweetened varieties if using non-dairy milk)
    1 scoop (or 1/2 scoop) unflavored protein powder (ONLY if using low-protein milk, like almond milk)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 Tablespoon oat bran or psyllium husks

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Place all ingredients in blender and process until evenly combined.

    For optimal texture, blend for at least 20 seconds.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION:

    441 calories (460 if using 2% dairy milk, 485 if made with low-protein milk + protein powder)
    2 grams saturated fat (3 grams if using 2% dairy milk)
    15 grams fiber
    180 milligrams sodium
    0 grams added sugar
    12 grams protein (24 if made with low-protein milk + 1 scoop protein powder)

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fatty acids, pantothenic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Magnesium, vitamin E

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    Also Going Bananas? Teddy Grahams!

    I suppose bananas are having “the best week ever.”

    A few hours after posting about the inane “morning banana diet” that has taken grip of Japanese dieters, I was browsing the aisles of a local supermarket when I came across… banana Teddy Grahams (so new they aren’t even mentioned on the Teddy Graham website!).

    For those of you visiting Small Bites from outside the United States, all you need to know is that Teddy Grahams are teddy bear-shaped cookies that are a big hit with young children.

    Although the actual product may be for kids, the advertising sure targets the parent/caretaker contingent.

    I noticed that plastered on each of these boxes, in very large font, was the statement: “Made with real fruit!”

    Oh, goodie. Real fruit! Nutrition! Vitamins! Minerals! Health!

    (Insert sound of record coming to abrupt halt HERE.)

    Not so fast.

    Sure enough, the third ingredient — before high fructose corn syrup, but after sugar and white flour — was dried bananas.

    “Well, they’re trying to make their cookies more nutritious,” some of you may think.

    Except that there is absolutely no point of putting real fruit into a product that is going to undergo that much processing.

    Remember, the more processed a food, the more nutrients it loses. This is why eating a baked potato with its skin provides more nutrition than a handful of Pringles.

    This particular flavor of Teddy Grahamas offers 80 milligrams of potassium and almost twice that amount of sodium (food label hint: the more processed a food product, the higher the sodium and the lower the potassium.)

    Keep in mind that a small (six-inch long) banana provides 362 milligrams of potassium!

    In essence, these dehydrated bananas are simply there to add flavor as well as an illusion of health and the “made with real fruit” tagline.

    If parents are looking to make a typically cookie-filled snack time healthier, I recommend gving a child half a serving of regular Teddy Grahams (that’s approximately 10 teddies) and a small banana.

    There is no reason why children should not be exposed to real pieces of fruit, especially when they have fun mushy textures.

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    Say What?: Japanese Dieters Go Bananas

    And you thought the Master Cleanse diet was as ridiculous as it could get?

    CBS-3 in Philadelphia is reporting that Japan’s “morning banana diet” fad has led to shortages of the yellow-skinned tropical fruit.

    What exactly does the morning banana diet entail, you ask?

    Oh, just the usual nonsense.

    Apparently, you can eat whatever you want –in unlimited quantities, no less — for lunch and dinner (although dinner should preferably be no later than 6 p.m.) as long as you consume one raw, unfrozen banana for breakfast.

    That’s right, feel free to wolf down cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes — the bananas will magically help you lose weight!

    Two other rules — you may only drink water and exercise is completely optional!

    The diet’s “official website,” which credits a “white-collar worked named Hitoshi Watanabe” as creating the diet, provides some laughable theories as to why this weight-loss plan “works.”

    My favorites?

    * “Bananas contain enzymes that assist in digestion, speeding it up and thus reducing the amount of time the intestines need to work to digest food, resulting in a metabolism more suited to losing weight. These enzymes only exist if the bananas are eaten in their raw state.

    Oh, look, the digestive enzyme myth again!

    Humans already have necessary digestive enzymes; we do not need any from our food supply.

    Additionally, speeding up digestion sounds like a dieter’s nightmare, as it would mean faster gastric emptying (and thus feeling hungry more quickly!)

    * “Laying off the manditory[sic] exercise and allowing afternoon sweets reduces stress, which would otherwise lead to overeating.

    There’s a new one! So popping bonbons at four in the afternoon creates as many “feel good” endorphins as lifting some weights or jogging?

    Who knew nutrition could be so comical?

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