From the moment you realise you are going to be a mum until your child is getting dressed all by themselves, Australian bananas are the ideal addition to both your diets. Accredited Practising Dietitian, Glenn Cardwell provides 20 reasons why:
Pregnant & New Mums
Pregnancy is the time to pamper your body and understand the impact of your eating – especially since you are dining for two. One way to give your diet a pinch of powerful production is to add nature’s non-stop energy snack, bananas.
Bananas are excellent when you are expecting because they not only contain essential nutrients for the healthy growth of your bundle of joy, but they are also good for managing morning sickness and constipation that sometimes come with having a baby on board.
- Relieving Your Heaving
Thankfully, morning sickness usually only lasts the first trimester but that doesn’t make it fun (however if you are like me pregnancy makes you sick all the time. Bananas have been helping me feel better for breakfast now that I’m in my 3rd trimester.) Eating dry crackers, toast or a piece of fruit like a banana in the morning before you get out of bed, and having small snacks frequently through the day can help as it keeps the stomach from being empty, which can make you feel unwell. Avoiding spicy and fatty foods can sometimes help ease nausea as well.
- Reduce Constipation
As the muscles in the intestine lose some of their tone during pregnancy, foods pass more slowly through the gut. The pressure of the baby on the mother’s intestines can also slow down the passage of food and waste, resulting in constipation. The solution is copious amounts of fibre, which bananas provide aplenty, fluids and physical activity. Although the banana is an obvious choice to boost your fibre intake, other fruits, wholegrain breads and cereals and legumes are good options.
- Energy to Burn
Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrate energy in the form of natural sugars and starch. It’s no wonder they call it nature’s non-stop energy snack.
- Protect Against Spinal Cord Defects
Folate is vital in the development of a baby’s spinal cord in the womb. It is so critical that the vitamin is recommended to women considering pregnancy. An overwhelming body of evidence has linked folate deficiency in early pregnancy to increased risk of neural tube defects, most commonly known as spina bifida, in infants. One banana will provide about 10 per cent of your folate needs each day.
- Form Strong Gums
Extra Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is required for forming new blood vessels, skin, gums, and other tissues, and even bones. One or two bananas each day will provide valuable vitamin C, as will other fruit, fruit juice and salad vegetables.
- Absorb Your Iron
In order for a healthy amount of oxygen to reach your baby via the placenta, your body (and your blood) needs about 50 per cent more iron than usual. Although a banana provides only a little iron, its vitamin C greatly helps with iron absorption from other foods. Iron supplements (usually with folate) are commonly recommended during pregnancy.
- Strengthen Bones and Teeth
Calcium is required for strong bones and teeth, and in nerve and muscle growth, both for mum and baby. An extra 300mg of calcium is required for pregnant teenagers as they are still growing as well as nourishing the baby. The perfect way to bump up calcium intake is to regularly drink smoothies – simply blend a banana with a cup of high calcium milk.
- Help Babies Grow
Extra protein is needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding to support the growth of the baby, and the production of breast milk. This is easily achieved by adding a delicious banana smoothie (a medium banana and 200mL of milk) to your daily diet.
- Boost Your B6
Uniquely, bananas are one of the richest fruit sources for vitamin B6. This powerful vitamin is important for cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular, and nervous system function. New or expecting mothers’ daily need for it increases by almost 50 per cent, making bananas a great solution.
- Baby’s First Food
After six months, your baby’s exclusive exposure to the bottle or the boob is coming to an end. Their digestive system is now ready for solid food. Here are a few reasons why Australian Bananas make the ideal first food:
- Essential Nutrients
Bananas are soft, easy for an infant to tackle, and rich with essential nutrients, including vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and natural sugars for energy.
- Half a medium banana will give an infant:
- Folate: 33 per cent of their daily needs
- Magnesium: 25 per cent of their daily needs
- Vitamin B6: 50 per cent of their daily needs
- Familiar Consistency
Mash a banana with breast milk or formula when introducing solids. It is more likely to be accepted quickly as a new food.
- Made For Tiny Hands
The banana is the ideal finger food. It can be nibbled, chewed, sucked and squished. Give your child a small amount at a time.
- Easing Teething
During teething, a cool or frozen banana can help relieve the pain of a tooth coming through.
Nature’s Long-Lasting Energy Snack For Toddlers
Australian bananas make the ideal snack for toddlers. Whether they are just starting to walk or speaking in sentences, children at this age need one fruit serve each day. This might be a medium banana, or half a banana and half of another fruit. While bananas are very popular with young children, it is also important to introduce them to other fruits, especially once they start getting teeth towards the end of their first year of life.
- Great Source of Carbohydrates for Energy
To fuel the activity of a toddler, they need carbohydrates at each meal. Bananas are an excellent source of the nutrient in the form of natural sugars and starch.
- Protein for Growth
Normal growth needs protein to help produce new cells. A small banana smoothie (150 mL milk and a half banana) as a snack or meal is an excellent source of both protein and calcium.
- Vitamin B6 for Blood Health
This vitamin is needed for making red blood cells, and carrying nerve impulses. A small banana will provide about one third of their B6 needs for the day.
- Folate for Growth and Brain Health
The B vitamin folate is needed for proper growth and development. Half a banana will give a toddler about 15 per cent of their folate needs each day.
- Fibre for Digestive Health
Bananas are a great-tasting source of fibre, so even a small serving a day for a young child will help keep them regular.
Toddlers only want to eat when they are hungry, and they may not want to finish everything on their plate, making snacks like bananas so convenient. You can simply cut them in two and save half in the refrigerator in plastic wrap for later.
Glenn Cardwell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with 35 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.