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Today's snack: What's more ap-PEEL-ing than a banana shake? Mix in a blender:



Peanut butter

Ice cream









Clean rags and scuffed shoes


There may be no better after-school treat than a banana. Everybody knows apples are good for you, but bananas have four times the protein, twice the carbohydrates, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals.

Eat a banana plain, mix it with peanut butter, make an ice cream smoothie, or make a shake with banana, milk and honey for a real power trip.



Sure, you can eat it, but first, let's do some stuff with it. For example, it makes a nice model for a pen and ink drawing because it holds so still!

If you have a globe or a world map, get it out and find out where BananaLand is. Where does this wonder food come from? Bananas grow in bunches on long, strong stems that hang from the stalk of a banana plant. Banana plants grow in the hot, damp climates of countries near the equator, especially in Central America, Mexico, the West Indies, Ecuador and Brazil, as well as in Hawaii and Florida in the United States.

Though the banana plant grows up to 30 feet tall, it's not a tree because it doesn't have a woody trunk or boughs. Instead, the long leafstalks wrap tightly together. A banana plant leaf may be 10 feet long.

It only takes a banana plant a year or 15 months to grow to its full size, and then it starts flowering and forming tiny green bananas. There may be 120 to 150 individual banana "fingers" in one big bunch.

In some places, big banana leaves are used to roof houses or make mats, bags and baskets.

Though bananas are picked and shipped while they are unripe, green and inedible, the peel keeps germs and dirt away from the fruit 'til the yellow color signals that the banana is ready to eat. It may take 2 weeks from picking to ripening, which makes the banana a really convenient fruit to get to market.

If you want to ripen a banana more quickly, put it with an apple or a tomato into a brown paper bag, and make sure no light can get in. Leave it on the counter overnight. The natural food gases should make it ripe by the next day.

Fast fact: "Chiquita," a popular banana brand name, is Spanish for something little and feminine.

Exercise idea: you can use a banana as a baton in a relay race . . . or put it under your chin and try to pass it from one person to another with no hands . . . or play the quick-thinking game "Hot Banana" (kids sit on the floor and toss the banana to each other while someone, perhaps an adult, turns on some music; each time you catch it, you have to say something that's hot before you can throw it to someone else, and then suddenly, the music stops, and whoever's holding the banana is "out"; keep on going 'til you have a winner . . .who will be . . . naturally . . . the TOP BANANA.

But we all agree, bananas are extra tasty, and they are really, really good for you. The first nine points, below, tell what bananas can do for you in terms of health. The tenth point tells something that you can do for others, using the peels!


1.      Energy. The banana has three natural sugars: sucrose, fructose and glucose. That's what gives you an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. That's why athletes love them so much.


2.      Happiness. Bananas contain tryptophan, a protein that the body converts into serotonin. Serotonin helps you relax, improves your mood, and generally makes you feel happier. Bananas also contain vitamin B6, which regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.



3.      Strength. High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood. That helps you avoid getting anemia, a blood condition in which you feel weak and listless.


4.      Good blood pressure. Bananas are extremely high in potassium and low in salt. That makes them great for keeping normal blood pressure, and avoiding strokes.


5.      Alertness. The potassium also makes your brain more alert, so when you have a big test coming up, you might literally want to eat a bunch of bananas!


6.      No. 2. Bananas have a lot of fiber. Fiber helps your digestive system be more efficient. That makes you more "regular" in the restroom. Eww! Enough said about that.


  1. Mosquito bites, warts and other skin grossouts: The inside of a banana peel can really help reduce the swelling and itchiness of a skeeter bite because of the chemicals that are in the peel. They say you can tape a piece of the inside peel of a banana to a wart, and keep it in place with surgical tape or a plaster, and over time the wart will go away.


8.      Stress reduction. When you're worried or under pressure, you tend to eat too much food and often the wrong kind - chocolate, chips, cookies, etc. Yes, you need high carbohydrate foods for energy every couple of hours to deal with stress, but it doesn't have to be bad-for-you high carbohydrate food. It can be bananas! The potassium in bananas is great for keeping an even heartbeat, sending oxygen to the brain and regulating your body's water balance.


9.      Tummy calming. You know how sometimes when you're worried, you get a stomachache? Bananas to the rescue again. Bananas are the only raw fruit that can be eaten without irritating your stomach because of its soft texture and smoothness.


10. Shoeshine. You read that right. Here's an environmentally friendly way to buff up a pair of shoes, too. Ask permission first, but get a pair of leather or vinyl loafers or dress shoes that are scuffed and dirty. You could use your own, or get them from your parents or a neighbor - anybody you'd like to bless. They should be made of shiny vinyl or leather, not the canvas of athletic shoes or fuzzy suede. Take the underside of the banana you just ate, and rub the shoes gently. Polish with a dry cloth. If you want to, you can rub a little dab of Vaseline over it to really make it shine.


For a (pun intended) BUNCH more learning ideas on a banana theme, see:


By Susan Darst Williams Food & Cooking 01 2008

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