Health Food Phonies (and what to eat instead)

It’s official, the peak of the so called “health craze” may very well be upon us.  There are more “health” foods on the market today than ever before.  For example, organic food sales increased 11.5% in 2013, making it a $35.1 billion dollar industry- and sales are predicted to grow another 12% in 2014.  It’s not just specialty natural food stores that are carrying these “health” foods, either.  In 2010, large chain retailers like Walmart and Kroger surpassed natural foods based retail stores in sales of natural and organic food. Traditional chains now own 54% of the natural and organic market. 

What does all of this mean for the consumer? It means that there are more food choices than ever, most of which are surrounded by a health food halo.  When manufactures begin to brand and advertise their foods as health foods, it creates a problem.  The most apparent issue being that, most of these claims are one dimensional or just simply untrue.  Yes, this means that “all natural” cookies are still, in fact, full of sugar and fat.  If it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  This creates a tricky situation in that people are unknowingly purchasing these supposed health foods under the assumption they are making the nutritionally optimal choice.  Let’s bust through the health food halo and take a look at some of the most common health food phonies and identify what to try instead.   

Vitamin enhanced water/drinks.  Most of these drinks are high in unnecessary sugar.  One popular brand has 31g of sugar per 20 oz. serving. That’s more sugar than is recommended to have in an entire day (25g). Just as a reminder, a diet that is higher in sugar is more likely to lead to heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, and weight gain.

Try this instead.  Simply drinking water and eating a healthy diet should be a sufficient source of vitamins and minerals. If you really want an extra boost of vitamins and minerals, have a piece of nutrient dense food like blueberries or kale.

Granola Bars.  One of the most well-known and the quintessential outdoorsman’s snack, granola bars have long touted a reputation among health foodies.  Most are made of oats, nuts, and fruit. So, you may be wondering why they are on the phony list? Unfortunately, in addition to their core ingredients, most granola bars are loaded with sugar and fat. Check the ingredients label and you’ll likely see chocolate, high fructose corn syrup, and many other artificial ingredients. 

Try this instead.  You’re better off to make your own granola from whole oats, nuts, seeds, and non-sugar sweetened dried fruit. If you’re not into making your own or would just rather buy something, make sure to look for a granola bar that has a small ingredients list, at least 4 grams of fiber, no more than 8 grams of added sugar, and is around 150 calories per serving. 

Flavored Yogurt.  We’re not talking about the plain type.  We’re talking about the kind of yogurt that has fruit on the bottom, sprinkles on the top, and some of the “fruit flavored” varieties as well.  These kinds of yogurt are usually high in sugar and lower in protein than plain yogurt. 

Try this instead.  Plain yogurt with fresh fruit.  You can also throw in some spices to make your own delicious combinations (i.e. apples and cinnamon).  Plain Greek yogurt is an even healthier choice. It packs nearly twice as much protein and half as much sugar in the same amount of calories as regular yogurt.  Bonus:  Greek yogurt undergoes a process to remove the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, making it the best choice for people with lactose sensitivity and those monitoring their blood sugar.

Instant flavored oatmeal.  Normally oatmeal is a great choice, but instant flavored oatmeal differs nutritionally from its steel cut oats relative.  Manufacturers often add a very large amount of sugar and other ingredients to instant flavored oatmeal.  Another difference lies in the glycemic index, which is a measurement of how quickly a food increases your blood sugar within a two-hour period. Because instant oatmeal has been processed to cook more quickly, it is also broken down and digested more quickly by your body, giving it a higher glycemic index. Eating a lower glycemic index diet may help improve your cholesterol ratios as well.

Try this instead:  Throw some fruit and spices in with steel cut oats (pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree add some festive Fall flavor).  Or if you don’t have time to cook steel cut oats, buy plain instant oats.  You won’t get the same slowly digesting, glycemic index friendly benefits as with steel cut, but it’s a much better choice than the flavored kind. 

Protein/Energy bars.  Not all bars are created equal.  However, most contain high amounts of sugar and saturated fat. Some have the same amount or more than a candy bar!  Most people who eat protein bars are doing so because they need a quick, portable source of energy to sustain them before/during/or after exercise. The problem is that all that sugar causes blood glucose levels to quickly soar before abruptly crashing.

Try this instead.  A piece of whole fruit with source of protein like a cheese stick. If you really want a large source of supplemental protein, there are some protein powders out there that don’t contain added ingredients like sugar and salt.  Make sure to read the label!

Sushi.  Sushi is notinherently unhealthy. The issue is that we don’t realize how many calories and fat are in some of the rolls. Some of the specialty rolls that include cream cheese, mayo based sauce, and are tempura based (aka battered and fried) can pack an additional 300-500 additional calories per roll- most of which comes from fat. 

Try this instead. The good news is that sushi doesn’t have to be a health food phony! Simply order rolls that are wrapped in cucumber, seaweed, or rice paper instead of rice.   Stick to rolls with ingredients primarily consisting of vegetables or fish.  This will help to ensure that your sushi is packed with protein and nutrients and lacking added calories and fat from the fatty sauces and coatings.

Juicing.  In spite of what all those infomercials and celebrities are trying to sell you or tell you, juice cleanses and diets are not an effective way to lose weight or detoxify your body.  Simply eating a clean diet enables your body to detox itself and maintain a healthy pH all on its own.  If you think about it, juice based diets are high carb (sugar), low protein diets which will cause a spike in blood sugar and likely lead to headaches, mood swings and fatigue; not to mention wreaking havoc on your metabolism.    

Try this instead.  Eat the whole fruit or vegetable.  It’s that simple. When you eat the whole piece, you’re getting all the fiber and nutrients contained in the skin which will help your food digest more slowly and lead to a slow steady release of energy which won’t cause you to crash later on.

Egg substitutes. like “Egg Beaters”.  Boasting the same nutritional and protein packed power of eggs, without the cholesterol, egg substitutes may seem healthier than regular eggs, but egg substitutes often have a plethora of added ingredients such as xanthan gum and maltodextrin (sugar).  Granted, some manufacturers claim to add back in vitamins and minerals that are normally provided by the yolk. We’re guessing that most people would still prefer to eat their eggs without a side of sugar.  

Try this instead.  Eat the whole egg. Unless you have high cholesterol, eating the whole egg is a great nutritional source of protein and contains a Vitamin D and B-12.  For those who need to limit cholesterol, there are a few brands of egg whites that are 100% egg whites. Check the ingredients. There shouldn't be anything listed except for egg whites. 

100 calorie packs.  Studies have shown that people will still eat the same amount if not more calories when they are eating 100 calorie snacks. Plus they cost more, and are typically made from the exact same ingredients as a full portions size, meaning they are not any healthier than their full size counterparts. 

Try this instead. One or two pieces (about 1.5 oz.) of at least 70% or higher dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is nutritionally different from other varieties of chocolate because it has less fat and sugar and more heart healthy, overall good for you food, antioxidants and fiber.  Check out this nutritional comparison of dark chocolate to milk chocolate and other sweets and you’ll be a believer too!

Pretzels.  Thankfully the pretzel health food halo is starting to fade on its own.  It’s no doubt that pretzels used to be the go-to ” healthy” snack for social gatherings. Now, more people are aware that pretzels are little more than carbohydrates coated in salt. Not only do they offer very little nutritional value in the way of vitamins and minerals, but they are also low in fiber and high in sodium.  All those quickly digesting carbs without any fiber means that you will get hungrier sooner after eating them…oh and that’s after your blood sugar spikes from all the white starches.

Try this instead.  Have a piece of fruit and a source of protein like cheese or peanut butter. If you’re really in the mood for a crunchy snack, try making your own apple chips or zucchini chips. If you’re in hurry or hosting your own social gathering, try some nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios.  Make sure to get the raw, unsalted or sweetened kind. Words like “honey-roasted” should be a red flag.   

Many “Healthy” Cereals.  Divert the advertisement trap. Many seemingly healthy cereal brands are sold in boxes that are covered with health claims and buzzwords from popular fads that boast things like “whole grain”, “organic”, “with Greek yogurt!”, and “added protein”.  But, if you read the label, you’re likely to see it’s all an illusion.  All that added protein? 1 gram. Many cereals have more sugar in one serving than is recommended for the entire day. What you probably won’t see is any decent amount of protein or fiber.

Try this instead.  Steel cut oatmeal. With no added ingredients, you’re sure to get a wholesome start to your day.  For those who are more of a fan of cold cereals, aim for a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving.  The first few ingredients should be whole grains, whole oats, etc. Sugar or any of its derivatives should not be!  And remember, if you eat more than one serving (like most people) don’t forget to take that into account too. 

Orange juice vs. orange nutrition source : http://www.tropicana.com/#/trop_products/productsLanding.swf?TropicanaPurePremium/21;  http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/HHFS_ORANGES_DEc2012.pdf

Superfood Series: Part 2


7 Reasons why non-fat Greek Yogurt is a superfood all-star: 

  1. Weight Control.  Non-fat Greek yogurt is a power house for lean protein.  One serving (1 cup) of plain non-fat Greek yogurt has 130 calories, 0g fat, 6g sugar (naturally occurring in all dairy), and a whopping 22g of protein. Nutritionally speaking, that is half the sugar and 2x the protein found in plain nonfat regular yogurt, which will help you feel fuller, longer. This is the Holy Grail for those who are looking for healthy snacks while on the path to weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. 
  2. Diabetes.  There are so many foods and snacks that are not ideal for those with insulin resistance or diabetes. Greek yogurt is certainly not one of them.  Greek yogurt is absorbed slowly into the blood stream, which allows for a slow and steady release of energy.  Greek yogurt undergoes a straining process which removes the liquid whey.  Subsequently, half of the sugar is also removed, but the protein remains intact.  It’s because of this process that Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt.   
  3. Digestion.  Greek yogurt is a great source of probiotics.  What’s so great about probiotics?  They are tiny little microorganisms that help improve digestion and protect your gut from harmful bacteria.  Research has shown that probiotics can help treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, and other gastrointestinal disorders.  They can also help promote regular bowel movements.
  4. Blood Pressure.  In one of the largest studies of its kind, research by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) indicated that foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and protein (i.e. Greek Yogurt) can help reduce elevated blood pressure.  Bonus:  Greek yogurt has about half the amount of sodium of regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is a clear choice for those with high blood pressure. 
  5. Lactose Intolerant.  Contrary to popular belief, it not only acceptable, but health experts recommend that people with mild lactose intolerance include small amounts of dairy in their diet. The key is to choose dairy with low amounts of lactose.  Cue the Greek yogurt.  Part of the straining process that transforms regular yogurt into Greek yogurt subsequently removes about 95% of the lactose.  This is why lactose intolerant people can often digest Greek yogurt comfortably. 
  6. Athletes. The same high protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium content that contributes to Greek yogurt’s ability to lower blood pressure, also makes it a great choice for athletes.  All the protein and electrolytes present in Greek yogurt can help athletes replenish stores that may have been lost during intense exercise. Not to mention the calcium in Greek yogurt helps keep bones strong and less prone to injury.
  7. Versatility.  One of the best things about Greek yogurt is that in addition to being eaten alone, it can be substituted for just about anything!  It can be blended in with smoothies or mixed with fruit and frozen to make a healthier ice cream.  Greek yogurt doesn’t curdle at a high temperature so it can also be used in place of sour cream, mayo, vegetable oil and cream cheese in dessert recipes and casseroles. 

Please note*When we say Greek yogurt we are referring to the plain, non-fat variety. 

Overweight & Obesity Stigma: Shaming Helps No One

image

Fat shaming is a form of public humiliation aimed at evoking a change in the name of “health”. It occurs every day to people of all ages, races, sizes, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. It happens at home, school, and work. At its most detrimental level, it’s precipitated by those whom we trust the most: our family members and health care providers. Often, these shameful thoughts and generalizations are internalized and eventually we become our own bullies.

The stigma associated with being overweight and obese often manifests into discrimination-which can be just as damaging as other forms of discrimination. The consequences bear devastating mental and physical health outcomes. In the past decade, the prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% and is still climbing. This issue is something we can no longer avoid as a society.

The Impact of the Media

image

Fat shaming can be seen just about everywhere you look. Take for example a recent Scooby-Doo movie that “cursed” Daphne with being overweight, emphasizing to children that being overweight is something to be ashamed of…a “curse”.

The “fitspo” aka “fitness inspiration” community has no doubt reinforced this message. With mantras like “if you just run 5 miles a day or do this specific workout…you will look like this” [insert picture of extremely lean and toned, shirtless guy/girl in spandex],

WeightStigma

the focus is often skewed toward appearance rather than health. What the fitspo community fails to mention is that the model in the picture doesn’t do that particular workout at all. Everyone’s body is different and will respond to a workout in its own unique way.

The idea that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a matter of trying hard enough is apparent in almost any infomercial and/or print media for an exercise routine, diet, or supplement. Advertisements emphasize the idea that weight loss and being healthy is a matter of calories in and out, using the right products, or engaging in the right exercise routine (which you too can partake in for the right price) and that people must be lazy if they are overweight. The diet and fitness industry capitalize off the belief that being overweight is a character flaw, evoking a demand for their product by those in need of gaining back lost virtue.

A 2008 study revealed the tendency of the media to selectively report on scientific article findings and to frame weight and health related news stories in a way that dramatizes the content and fosters individual blame. However, recent research has shown that this is not a good strategy to evoke positive public health change. For example, studies have shown that fat shaming actually has the potential to lead individuals already struggling with weight management to gain more weight in some cases, thus, the original intention of the shaming backfires. As it should- bullying, shaming and discrimination overall, have never been shown to be beneficial to anyone.

image

So much of what we see in the news and in product advertisements conveys that body weight is a direct indicator of health. Although we agree that weight is an important factor in assessing health, it’s much more complicated than that and additional factors must be considered for a complete picture. Recent research indicates thin people too, can be “fat”. This is a direct message to not judge a book by its cover. Research has more than established at this point that thin does not necessarily equal healthy, and overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy. What we see on the surface is only a small representation of what going on below the surface.

image

 

Missing the Mark

imageimage

Take for example, the 2012 Strong4Life ad campaign which is part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Hospital’s five-year, $25 million initiative designed to curb childhood obesity in Georgia. The campaign features pictures of seemingly overweight children with a “warning” that states “it’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not” and “fat prevention begins at home…And the buffet line”. Their newest video demonstrates how a fat child, enabled by “bad” parenting, is led to have a heart attack through a series of lifelong bad habits.

It’s hard to understand why people say and do the things they do in relation to overweight people. A concerned parent of an obese child may think they are helping their child by saying something like “a minute of the lips, forever on the hips”. But in reality, these types of comments are embarrassing and will not encourage the child to make healthier choices. Instead, a more likely outcome is they’ll learn to eat alone and in shame during their next meal.

By the same token, health care providers are often uncomfortable approaching the subject and may not realize that simply telling someone to eat less and exercise more will not always help. In a recent interview, Dr. Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale, spoke about the issue of weight related bias in the health care system. “Women with obesity report that doctors are one of the most common sources of weight bias in their lives – 69% of women reported these experiences with doctors. Negative weight related attitudes and stereotypes toward patients with obesity have been documented among physicians, nurses, medical students, dietitians, psychologists, and even health professionals who specialize in obesity. Stereotypes include assumptions that patients with obesity are non-compliant with treatment, lazy, and lack willpower and motivation to improve their health.” said Puhl. This brings to light the complexity of the issue. Oftentimes health care providers may think they are helping a patient lose weight by “encouraging” them, but in all actuality, that’s not what happens. Simply put: you can’t shame people into being “healthier”.

Adverse effects

People that are exposed to more weight based discrimination are more likely to experience shame, gain weight, stop seeking medical treatment, and avoid exercise. Depression, emotional eating, and low self-esteem also play a role. Research has shown that overweight people who reported discrimination based on weight were more than twice as likely to be obese four years later than people who didn't experience such discrimination. As research has more than established, making someone feel bad about themselves does not encourage healthy behavior change.

The Need for a Shift

It’s time for a shift in the conversation- from body size, numbers, and shaming to a positive focus on individual health behavior change. As a community, we need to encourage and enable everyone to make healthier lifestyle choices. Shame does not have a place in health promotion and is not an effective motivator of change.

 

Image Sources: Daphne; Glacier; Strong4life;

Ultimate Diet Comparison

Anyone looking for a weight loss plan probably feels like they are being bombarded with new diets, fads, and gimmicks on a regular basis. With all of the information out there, it’s hard to know what works, what doesn’t, what is healthy, and what is not.  Let’s take a look at some of the most popular plans out there and examine the components of each one.

Diet comparison2

 

Paleo Diet (Similar to Atkins, Dukan Diet, Vegan Diet)

The Goal: Promotes weight loss and maintenance; prevention of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

The Theory: Paleo advocates say that the highly processed, high carbohydrate diet of the typical American is the cause for many of the biggest health issues. The premise of this diet is to eat the way cavemen did in the Paleolithic period more than 10,000 years ago. The motto of the Paleo diet is “if a cavemen didn’t eat it, I shouldn’t either”.

The Food: The Paleo diet is high in meats, fish, nuts, berries, fruits, vegetables. Grains, sugars, dairy, and legumes are not consumed.

Pros/Cons: While most Americans would benefit from eating fewer processed and sugary foods, and more fruits and vegetables, any diet that encourages the omission of complete food groups is not recommended. Whole grains are the preferred source of energy for the brain, and also offer vitamins and fiber. Furthermore, because dairy and fortified cereals are not allowed on the Paleo diet plan, calcium and vitamin D will be lacking. Both of these dietary requirements are crucial in muscle function and bone health. Weight loss may result from following this plan because of simple calorie reduction, but the rigid rules and guidelines make it difficult and unhealthy to follow long term.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet (Similar to TLC Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Vegetarien Diet, Ornish Diet)

The Goal: To prevent and lower high blood pressure; promotes weight loss.

The Theory: A healthy eating pattern that is low in sodium and high in potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber will help fight off hypertension. The DASH diet was designed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The Food: The DASH eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and low fat or fat free dairy products. It includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Sweets, red meats, sodium (salt), and sugary beverages are limited.

Pros/Cons: This eating plan is rich in potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein and is low in sodium, saturated and trans fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2300mg of sodium per day, while those with high blood pressure or who are at risk for developing high blood pressure further reduce sodium intake to 1500mg/day. The DASH diet is backed by scientific research studies showing that this pattern of eating does help to lower blood pressure and even promotes weight loss. Although reducing/omitting salt may take some time to get used to, seasonings such as herbs and spices can help avoid blandness. This is a healthy, balanced eating plan that includes all foods groups and echoes the recommendations of the American Dietetic Association. 

Dukan Diet (Similar to Paleo Diet and Atkins Diet)

The Goal: Weight Loss.

The Theory: The idea behind this diet is that protein, not calories, is the key to weight loss. When protein supplies the majority of the diet and fat and carbohydrates are restricted, the brain turns to alternate fuel sources (stored fat) for energy. This diet has 4 stages with clearly identified rules for eating at each stage.

The Food: What you are allowed to eat depends on the stage of the diet. In stage 1 (the “Attack” phase), it’s all you can eat proteins: lean beef, veal, pork, venison, organ meats, eggs, fish, shellfish, ham, turkey, chicken, tofu, and nonfat dairy. Water and diet sodas are also allowed, along with 1 ½ Tbsp of oat bran per day. In the phases that follow, foods like vegetables and eventually fruits and specific carbohydrates are slowly added back into the diet. The last phase (called “Permanent Stabilization”) is meant to last a lifetime and help keep the weight off.  It also includes strict rules about when and what foods can be eaten.

Pros/Cons: This diet encourages the body to be in a state of ketosis, where fat is used as the brain’s fuel source. Common side effects of this type of very low-carb diet include bad breath, dry mouth, lethargy, and constipation. At each stage, you must follow specific rules and cheating is considered destructive. This diet is low in potassium, fiber, and vitamin D.  For those who do not eat fish, omega fatty acids could also be lacking. Consuming a diet this high in protein causes the kidneys to work overtime to eliminate uric acid, a byproduct of protein breakdown. Kidney stones and other kidney problems may result from a long term, very high protein diet such as this. Besides unhealthily omitting whole food groups, the “black and white” way of thinking foods is not recommended. A more balanced approach and mindset would be a better way to reach weight loss goals.

Mediterranean Diet (Similar to DASH Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, and Vegetarian Diet)

The Goal: Weight Loss and improvement; overall health.

The Theory: In general, people who live in the countries near the Mediterranean Sea live longer, healthier lives than Americans.  The population experiences less heart disease and diabetes as well.  This eating pattern mirrors that of the region.

The Food: The Mediterranean eating pattern emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, with fish and seafood at least a couple times per week. Poultry and dairy are encouraged in moderation, and red meat and sweets are saved for special occasions only.

Pros/Cons: This is a sensible eating plan that focuses on heart healthy foods while limiting foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Researchers at Harvard University developed a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to help consumers with food choices. There are clear and well established cardiovascular benefits to this style of eating (note: this is not considered a “diet” but rather a way of eating for life).  The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve blood cholesterol profiles, and meets the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for fat, protein, fiber, and other key nutrients.

The Engine 2 Diet (Similar to Vegan Diet, Vegetarian Diet, Raw Food Diet, Ornish Diet,    Macrobiotic Diet)

The Goal: Improve overall health with the added benefit of weight loss.

The Theory: A plant based diet can prevent and often reverse heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, which are thought to be caused by the typical American diet that is high in animal foods and saturated fat. The creator of this diet claims that plants and plant based foods offer the nutrients, fats, and proteins that keep the body functioning as it was intended.

The Food: The Engine 2 Diet consists of plants and plant based foods, minus vegetable oil (which is said to be stripped of nutrients and high in calories and saturated fat). All animal based products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) and processed foods are omitted from the diet and replaced with whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. Cooking with water instead of vegetable oil is recommended. This is a 4-phase program that slowly eliminates unwanted foods until a full vegan diet is achieved.

Pros/Cons: Most Americans eat too many processed foods and high-fat animal products, so the premise of this plant based diet for improving overall health is likely to have benefits. This diet plan aligns with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for most nutrients, but may fall short on Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Vitamin D, all which are found mainly in dairy products and meat. Some people find it difficult to follow a strict vegan diet, though it can be maintained in a healthy way with proper education and support. The Engine 2 program does offer online support for a fee.

Superfood Series: Part 1

bananas

There’s a lot of information floating around the web which boasts the fantastic, heroic-like powers of bananas. But, what does the research say? We’ve looked through the literature and done the work for you. The verdict? Bananas pack a healthy food punch!

Here are 7 reasons why bananas are superfood all-stars:

  1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease. Just one medium size banana provides 12% of the recommended amount of daily fiber (20-35 g/day). Approximately 1/3 of the fiber in bananas is soluble fiber which is the type of fiber associated with decreased risk of heart disease. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure, and protect against heart attack and stroke.
  2. Healthy Weight. Soluble fiber also provides us with the feeling of fullness, which helps promote weight loss. For a fiber-full breakfast or snack, throw in a whole, ripened banana with 1 cup of cooked steel cut oats. This combination provides around 12 grams of fiber which can help you in reaching your weight loss goals!
  3. Digestion. Bananas digest more slowly than other foods due to their fiber and pectins which causes a slower absorption into the blood stream.
  4. This means bananas are also good for people with Diabetes. Bananas have a relatively low glycemic load value (16) because they digest slowly which leads to a slow and steady rise of blood sugar.  As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, which means the greener the banana, the lower the glycemic load.     
  5. Constipation. Stopped up? Research indicates that bananas can help you. The fiber in bananas acts as a sort of “scrub brush” of the intestines, which aids in digestion and helps prompt regular bowel movements. The key is to eat a ripe banana.  Green tinted bananas contain a considerable amount of starch, which can be hard to digest and lead to constipation. As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, and they become easier to digest.  Bonus: as bananas turn from green to yellow, levels of cancer and heart disease fighting antioxidants increase! 
  6. Athletic Performance. The unique combination of vitamins and minerals in bananas in conjunction with their low glycemic load, makes them a great fruit for athletes. Did we mention that bananas are a good source of potassium which helps prevent muscle cramps? Their portability also makes them a perfect snack for travel games.
  7. Happy Thoughts. Some nutrients in bananas are known to be able to help fight against depressive symptoms. That’s right; bananas play a small role in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin -- the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm
http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/SIOW/2011/09/a-banana-a-day-keeps-depression-away.html
http://columbusclinical.com/blog/five-foods-that-cause-constipation
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7
http://www.naturalnews.com/036771_bananas_digestion_health_benefits.html
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp