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2012 Spring Issue 2 (April 13, 2012)

On bananas and doing new tricks with old things

April 13, 2012
By Zoe Suche

A few weeks ago, I read in passing somewhere that an excess of potassium in your bloodstream could cause potential cardiac arrest. Having eaten probably four bananas that day, I immediately proceeded to Google to confirm whether this was true and whether I was in danger. It turned out I wasn’t the only one concerned.

The first question that I found posed to the general internet community was along these lines: “I eat 25-30 bananas every day. Is this too many? People have been telling me that it’s too many.”

The general response—at least, the response of those people likely to answer questions on Yahoo! In their spare time—was that, um, yes, thirty bananas is probably too many for one day. Potassium aside, if you weren’t running a marathon, that many bananas would put you well above your caloric requirements for one day. Consensus was that five to eight was probably a reasonable upper limit; maybe a couple more if you’re involved in a lot of athletics or really, really can’t go an hour without a banana.

The lesson I derived from this brief foray into the community of banana-lovers was this: There are a lot of people out there who feel very strongly about this fruit. I at times feel similarly myself, although not the extent that I’ve ever consumed more than a couple in a day.

What exactly is so great about the banana? It’s high in potassium; it’s one of the most sugar-laden fruits out there; it’s also really easy on the digestive system. All these things make it a great recovery food, but what makes the banana truly great is its versatility and its pervasive, persistent sweetness.

To illustrate this, I’d like to tell a remotely related personal story. I’ve been getting really sick of spinach salads lately; normally they’re an integral part of my diet, but lately the chalky texture of raw spinach has been bugging me. Of course, a few days after I stopped eating them I got a nasty cold; assuming a direct cause-and-effect relationship, I’ve been trying to bring spinach back in creative ways. As such, I’ve become one of those people who consumes nasty-looking green smoothies. The formula is basically to fill a blender with pretty much all the health foods you can imagine—chia seeds, almond milk, almond butter, some pumpkin, some cocoa powder (for the antioxidants, I swear)—cram in a couple handfuls of spinach, and blend. One of the food blogs I read calls this thing the “green monster,” and without the addition of the simple banana, a monster it is; no reasonable amount of sugar or maple syrup can make it taste good. Adding a banana, however, elicits an amazing transformation; while the smoothie might retain its dubious greeny-brown colouring, its taste becomes wonderfully banana-y.

They say that it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for; despite its rather benign taste on its own, the banana can come through for you in the toughest of circumstances. Why the rant about bananas though; why now? I’d say it comes from an appreciation that strikes, every now and then, with regard to those little things that we’ve used one way for a long time and then suddenly discover that they’re versatile in other ways too. It happens every now and then; mostly with food, sometimes with clothing (those camo-patterned running spandex that have suddenly become totally appropriate to wear to class), occasionally with other stuff (making jello in a scooped-out melon rind or using that previously-useless econ textbook to keep the fridge organized) and it’s always worth a little recognition. 

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