If I asked you to define a banana, I bet you’d say something like, “It’s a sort of high-calorie, tropical fruit.” Unfortunately, we know very little about this precious fruit, so we’re often afraid to eat much of it.

In India, it’s referred to as the “paradise banana,” because Indian people believe it’s the banana, rather than the apple, that we will find in paradise. Children like to eat bananas a lot. If I’m not mistaken, the first fruit many babies eat is banana, so there must be a reason, right? Indeed, rather than being afraid of bananas, we should eat lots of them. Like all other fruits, they’re a great source of antioxidants and help prevent many diseases. According to Swedish research conducted among 61,000 women, high fruit consumption prevents kidney cancer, with banana being the most efficient fruit. Another study showed that eating at least three bananas with every meal decreases the amount of free radicals formed two hours after the meal. This also decreases the oxidation of bad cholesterol, helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Also, the starch found in unripe bananas helps obese type-2 diabetics to lose weight and reduces their insulin resistance. It also helps people, regardless of whether they are diabetic, to secrete insulin and decrease the amount of sugar in the blood.

Banana is certainly a high-calorie fruit, and this is why many athletes choose to eat it, but it also has a similar effect to “energy” drinks. Because it’s a natural food item, we should all choose this fruit over artificial energy drinks. Many people believe that bananas cause bloating or can’t be easily digested, and there is some truth to this if you eat unripe bananas. Most people prefer them when the skin is yellow or maybe a little green. When a banana has dark spots on it, we think it’s overripe, so we don’t eat it. In reality, though, if there are no black spots on the skin, it’s not ripe. A banana is green when it’s picked from the tree, and at this stage, 75% of it is starch. This generally irritates the small intestines, so it is fermented in the large intestines, which then causes bloating. Bananas ripen over 15 days, after which they contain only 3% starch with the rest being fructose, the fruit sugar. A Japanese research study concluded that the riper bananas are (having dark spots on the skin) the more efficient they are at fighting cancer. This is because at this stage, they produce TNF (tumor necrosis factors) that prevent tumors by combating abnormal cells. What’s more, the riper a banana is, the sweeter it is.

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and manganese; a good source of vitamins B9 and C; and a source of potassium, magnesium and copper. What else could you want? Let’s have some bananas over here!