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Bananas: Nature's power bar

H.K. Jones

Looking for a perfect anytime, anywhere, good-for-you snack? Delicious, nutritious and conventionally packaged in its own protective cover, nothing beats a banana.

In fact, bananas are America's No. 1 fruit. A typical man consumes over 28 pounds of bananas each year. That’s a whole lot of bananas! And that’s a good thing. Bananas are not only low in the things you don’t want (think saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol) they’re also loaded with the things you do want (potassium, fiber, and vitamins C and B6).

Grown in the warm, humid tropics, bananas are picked and shipped green. Like most tropical fruit, they develop better flavor when ripened off the bush and they come in varying degrees of maturity.

Choose plump, evenly colored bananas free of blemishes and bruises and ripen them uncovered at room temperature. Also keep in mind that as bananas ripen, their starch turns to sugar; so the riper the fruit, the sweeter the taste. Green bananas are best for cooking, full yellow bananas are excellent for snacking or adding to cereal, yogurt, salads, or whatever, and brown-specked bananas are best for baking good-old fashioned banana bread.

While there are hundreds of banana species, the good old-fashioned yellow “Cavendish” is still America's favorite. If you’re feeling little adventurous, take a trip to your local ethnic market and check out the short, chunky red banana and the finger banana (both of which are sweeter than the Cavendish), the apple-flavored Manzano (which turns black when ready to eat), the Orinoco with its trace of strawberry flavor or the Plantain with its mild, almost squash-like flavor. All make for a yummy, low-cal snack that will fill you up, without filling you out.

Banana Smoothie
1 banana
1 cup of strawberries
½ cup low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup orange juice
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.