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Why Australian bananas are nature's perfect food for breakfast

By: Glenn Cardwell, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian

There's nothing like an Australian Banana for breakfast - they aren't just delicious, but also extremely nutritious, bursting with essential nutrients potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, folate and fibre.

It's a myth that bananas should not be eaten for breakfast as they are moderately acidic. I agree this sounds bad until you are told that many nutritious foods are acidic - all fruits, all vegetables, legumes, fish, grains, peanut butter and milk.

Being slightly or moderately acidic is not a problem. After chewing and swallowing, the first place food visits is the stomach, which is very acidic, and for good reason - the acid helps kill any nasty bacteria you may have swallowed with the food. The stomach is an acid bath. The food then passes into the small intestine which is an alkaline bath, because your digestive enzymes work best in an alkaline environment.

Your body doesn't really care about the pH (measure of the acid/alkaline level) of your food, as it will digest everything.

It's also untrue to say that a banana is high in sugar, therefore it will give you a sugar crash. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the blood sugar response after eating foods that provide carbohydrate, both starch and sugar and the banana has a GI of 52, which is classified as low.

So if two thirds of the carbohydrate in a banana is sugar, why does it have a low GI? Because the fibre in the banana slows down the digestion and absorption of the sugar into the small intestine. That means that blood sugar levels rise slowly after eating a banana and never reach a high level in the blood.

There is no 'sugar crash' after a banana. A ripe medium banana will provide you with about 20g of carbohydrate, of which two thirds is sugar and one third starch. The carbohydrate is what helps replace the muscle fuel you will have used the previous day. All carbohydrate is digested and absorbed to circulate the body as glucose, the only fuel the brain can use when it is thinking.

Without doubt a banana for breakfast is great for both your muscles and your brain.

The banana is an excellent nutritious addition to your breakfast. Don't believe anyone who tells you anything else. The science will back you up.

Glenn Cardwell is an Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietitian with 37 years in clinical and public health nutrition, including 10 years as consultant dietitian to the National Heart Foundation, five years at the Children's Hospital in Sydney, and was a major player in establishing the WA School Canteen Association in 1994.


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