Q. I hear conflicting information about bananas. Can you help set the record straight?

A. Most people know the potassium in bananas is important for heart health and controlling blood pressure. But new research has found other valuable nutrients and health benefits from eating bananas.

Although potassium is best-known for heart benefits, studies found potassium may also protect muscle mass. Researchers found seniors with a higher potassium intake had more muscle mass than those who lacked potassium in the diet. Bananas, along with many other fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of potassium.

Bananas contain resistant starch, an indigestible fiber that ferments in the large intestine. By-products from the fermentation block some carbohydrates from being converted into fuel, which results in the body’s burning of fat. The prebiotic fiber found in bananas helps control appetite and acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. We continue to learn more about the role helpful gut bacteria may play in mental health, digestive concerns, heart disease, and even diabetes.

Bananas also have a combination of nutrients that help increase iron absorption in other foods. Both vitamin C and prebiotic fiber in bananas aid in iron absorption, important since many Americans are deficient in iron. The key is to consume vitamin C along with the iron-containing food at the same meal (think berries and oranges).

Since one banana costs around 23 cents, they are an economical and nutritional bargain. Try eating a banana at breakfast or lunch, as a snack or even dessert. Below are snack ideas for young and old to enjoy bananas.

Frozen Banana and Peanut Butter: Cut 1 peeled banana in half by slicing down the middle lengthwise. Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter on sliced side of one banana half. Top with remaining slice of banana and wrap banana in plastic wrap. Freeze for minimum of 2 hours before eating.

Banana Dog: Spread flour tortilla with peanut butter. Peel banana and place in center of tortilla. Roll up tortilla and enjoy.

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