Before many of us can head off to bed, we have our own nightly routines to progress through. But some people have incorporated a particularly unusual activity into their evening schedules: weirdly, they boil up bananas. And, incredibly, this simple step could help combat a common issue that plenty of folks are likely to be struggling with right now.
Much like a number of other fruits on the supermarket shelves, bananas are loaded with nutritional benefits. Not only do they contain healthy doses of both vitamin B6 and vitamin C, for example, but they are also packed full of fiber – making them fantastic for your digestive system.
The peelable fruits are known for their potassium content, too. And if that wasn’t enough, there are a range of benefits that are good for our long-term health hiding behind that tough, yellow skin. For instance, bananas don’t contain any traces of fat beneath the peel, while their sodium levels are also incredibly low.
You won’t be able to find cholesterol in bananas, either, which makes them an ideal snack to munch on during the day. That said, some folks have also found a novel use for the fruit when the evening rolls around. In their minds, boiling single bananas before they hit the sheets can solve a common problem.
So what late-night refreshment is someone trying to create when they sink the sweet fruit into a saucepan of simmering water? Well, it’s likely that they’ll go on to pour the pan’s bubbling banana-infused liquid into a mug and indulge in a warm beverage known to some as “banana tea.”
The tea can be prepared in a couple of different ways, although the general process itself remains the same. And perhaps the biggest decision that you’ll have to make relates to the banana’s skin. After all, when you pick a banana up for a snack, you’ll almost certainly take care to remove the peel before you take a bite. With that in mind, it may seem appropriate to adopt the same approach when it comes to making this drink.
And if you want to use an unpeeled banana, the tea can in fact be whipped up in a matter of minutes. But perhaps you should think again, as according to Healthline, keeping the skin on could bring some added benefits. Indeed, while bananas themselves are full of fiber, it’s the peel that’s especially rich in the vital nutrient.
If you should choose to use the skin in your tea, however, there’s something else you may want to keep in mind. Depending on the type of banana you have purchased from the store, there’s a chance that the peel could be drenched in chemicals. Sourcing organic produce is perhaps your best bet for bringing home bananas that are free from such additives.
As for the actual recipe for banana tea, the Nutri Advanced website notes that you need to first trim the banana’s top and bottom ends. Then, once this is done, the banana can be submerged in the saucepan’s boiling water. And if you do decide to keep the skin on the fruit, the site suggests that you leave it in the pan for around ten minutes.
After you have allowed that time to elapse, the banana-brewed liquid can then be carefully poured into a cup. You may need a sieve to separate the sweetened water from the soft banana slop that will likely be floating within, although Nutri Advanced does also suggest that this soggy excess can be consumed along with the tea if you fancy. The website also recommends adding a touch of warming cinnamon to the brew for flavor.
And given the nutritional value of the fruit from which it’s made, banana tea is perhaps unsurprisingly said to be very good for our wellbeing. Healthline claims that the beverage retains some of the benefits of the sacred banana while also rewarding us with additional substances such as copper, magnesium and manganese. The latter nutrient is especially helpful when it comes to keeping our skin in good condition.
Healthline did raise an important point on this particular topic, though. You see, while both potassium and vitamin B6 can also be found in banana tea, their concentrations may not be as high as they are in a single banana. After all, only a certain proportion of the fruit’s original vitamins and minerals will be released into the simmering water that surrounds it.
To maximize the nutritional output of the boiled banana, then, Healthline suggests that you stew the fruit for a lengthier period than the required ten minutes. Yet regardless of your approach, some nutrients – vitamin C, for example – will always be lost during the preparation of the tea. The site claims that vitamin C is “heat-sensitive,” meaning, inevitably, it won’t last long in the water.
Still, banana tea could be the perfect beverage if you’re trying to cut back on your food intake. By draining the fruit of some of its nutrients, you see, you can obtain a lot of its goodness without the need to eat it. And that’s not all the tasty drink is good for, either.
The concoction may alleviate bloating, for instance, owing to its potassium content. This particular mineral holds a number of different jobs within the human body, such as keeping our blood pressure in check. And as it works with sodium to maintain “fluid balance,” potassium can also help to alleviate a build-up of that very mineral within the body. This is particularly useful, as high levels of sodium can have serious consequences for your health.
Indeed, Healthline reports that excess sodium may mean the body retains more water than usual, and so it could therefore leave you feeling bloated. And while it’s believed that a “high-salt diet” may be to blame for this imbalance, a helping of potassium is considered to be a cure. This is because the mineral encourages your kidneys to expel the surplus sodium and so bring things back to normal.
Away from that, the lack of sugar in banana tea is also considered to be quite beneficial. Yes, while the fruit itself is by no means free of the substance, very little sugar actually escapes into the boiling water that surrounds the banana. And even if small traces of this sweetener do manage to swim out into the brew, it only reduces the need to add more sugar later – so it’s still likely to be lower in the stuff than your traditional cup of tea.
Keeping that in mind, banana tea could be a worthwhile alternative to other sugary drinks on the market. According to Healthline, these particular products have the potential to do real damage in the long term – by possibly contributing towards type 2 diabetes, for example, or helping cause serious weight gain.
And, apparently, there are further health advantages to be had from a cup of banana tea. For instance, the so-called “water-soluble antioxidants” that can be found in bananas could help fight off the threat of potentially dangerous ailments such as cardiac conditions.
Both gallocatechin and dopamine fall under the category of water-soluble antioxidants, with the first of these – also housed in other fresh produce such as broccoli, grapes and broad beans – being a great cholesterol reducer. Dopamine, meanwhile, is a compound that our brain produces to help manage concentration and drive.
And if you want to get the most out of those antioxidants in banana tea, Healthline has a suggestion. As the fruit’s skin is said to be full of the compounds, it’d be a good idea to boil the banana unpeeled – provided you’re not completely put off by the prospect, of course.
In addition, the magnesium and potassium in banana tea could both benefit your ticker. As previously mentioned, potassium keeps your blood pressure in check, which will only bring positive effects for your overall wellbeing. Together, the two substances can also fend off the likelihood of strokes.
In 2014 the website PubMed website shared a paper that had some promising findings on the subject. This project engaged over 90,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 who had no previous experiences relating to strokes, with the subjects each ingesting on average 2,600 milligrams of potassium each day as part of the study.
Then, after the investigation was completed, the eight authors found that some of the women were 27 percent less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke. And in conclusion, the researchers wrote, “High potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of all strokes as well as all-cause mortality in older women – particularly those who are not hypertensive.”
But by and large, people aren’t drinking banana tea before bed to help ward off strokes. You see, apparently, the hot beverage could be the solution we’ve all been looking for when it comes to the enduring problem of insomnia. And once again, it’s all down to potassium and magnesium, as both substances are said to calm the body ahead of bedtime.
Banana tea harbors another helpful nutrient in that regard in tryptophan, as Healthline notes that this amino acid can prompt the creation of “sleep-inducing hormones” such as melatonin and serotonin in our bodies. Officially, though, no research has as yet conclusively established whether the drink is a viable option for insomniacs.
Yet that hasn’t stopped people from trying it out for themselves over the past few years, and one of those individuals went on to share their findings in the fall of 2017. Posting under the name SolventlessHybrid, they wrote a candid message on Reddit’s “insomnia” forum that detailed their situation.
“For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting very little sleep. I’m on medication that’s supposed to help you sleep, but it doesn’t help much,” the Reddit user stated. “I mentioned to a co-worker that I’ve tried a lot of things, and nothing has really worked. He told me I should try boiling an unpeeled banana and drink the water.”
“[My co-worker also said to] try to eat the banana,” the comment continued. “I didn’t believe him until I searched it and watched a couple [of] YouTube videos. It actually is real.” The Redditor then proceeded to shed some light on their sleeping patterns both before and after hearing about the tea.
“I use a snoring app to kind of monitor my sleep, and the results usually are depressing with little sleep,” the commenter revealed. “After trying banana tea, my sleep results were a lot better. I cut the ends off and cut it in half because the pot was small. I used around two cups of water and waited for it to boil.”
The poster added that they had then dropped the banana into the pan and left it for the next ten minutes. But while the tea ultimately had a positive effect on their sleep, they noted that the soaked fruit itself didn’t play a part in that change. And given the banana’s soggy texture following the process, swallowing the food proved to be quite a challenge.
To conclude, the Reddit user added, “I couldn’t eat the banana [as] it had a weird mushy asparagus taste, and cinnamon didn’t help. The tea, however, was easy to drink once it cooled down. I did use a little cinnamon and honey to make it have some taste. You should really try it.”
Three different Instagram users have sung the praises of banana tea as well. In January 2017 one individual posting under the name BioKitchen outlined their method for making the warm beverage. And in doing so, they reiterated that the brew could indeed benefit those who experience sleeping issues.
A few months beforehand, Instagram user alyssaclarisse had recalled her own experiences with the drink. She wrote on the social media site, “[My husband] found this banana cinnamon tea recipe as a natural sleep aid. I have to tell you, it’s just the best thing ever, and [it] helps me sleep SO soundly. Amen to nature, and amen to husbands who go above and beyond for their wives!”
The third banana tea fan took to Instagram to share their experiences in March 2017. Writing under the name alexisburau, they revealed that they had wanted to try the tea after a specialized physician had brought it to their attention. And as it happens, they had only good things to say about the beverage.
The Instagram user wrote, “Did you know bananas are a sleeping pill in a peel!? Recently I listened to a podcast by a sleep doctor who was discussing the dangers of taking melatonin, and that magnesium was way more effective for sleep. He went on to describe the BEST way to get concentrated magnesium… by drinking BANANA TEA!”
“It seriously tastes like banana bread tea,” alexisburau added. “It’s AMAZING! And the best part… the banana is delicious, too! I wouldn’t recommend eating it at night, but if you let it cool and eat it the next morning, the heat INTENSIFIES the banana flavor, and it’s amazing! Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.”
However, there are some out there who don’t believe that banana tea is the answer for struggling insomniacs. And when the website Superfoodly published an article on the subject in November 2019, it included some rather eye-opening information. To begin with, the piece looked at the apparent connection between sleep and magnesium.
According to Superfoodly, a single helping of banana tea wouldn’t actually hold enough magnesium to make a notable impact, as a banana on its own only contains a relatively small measurement of the nutrient – especially when compared to a person’s recommended daily allowance. The website claims, in fact, that the amount of magnesium found in a banana would total about one-tenth of what we should be ingesting.
Superfoodly also claimed that owing to the lack of official testing on banana tea, we don’t know whether it’s suitable for certain people such as expectant mothers and young children. On top of this, a writer for the website revealed that he hadn’t rested as well as usual after consuming the beverage. So, if you do fancy giving banana tea a try, don’t expect your sleep to transform overnight.
But regardless of whether it can improve sleep or not, banana tea is perhaps best taken with a dash of honey or a touch of sugar rather than saccharin or aspartame. That’s because artificial sweeteners may come with some rather concerning health consequences, as one study on the subject has seemingly revealed.
Since artificial sweeteners first rose to prominence in the 1960s, they’ve been touted far and wide as a much healthier alternative to sugar. Substitutes such as aspartame and sorbitol have been marketed as a virtual godsend for dieters, too – not least because they contain very little in the way of calories. But are artificial sweeteners all that they’re cracked up to be? Well, the results of a 16-year study into these additives make for some pretty alarming reading – particularly when it comes to our well-being. And when you read exactly what the research has found, you may want to leave that diet soda on the shelf for good.
Initially, though, these synthetic counterparts to sugar were considered to be an all-round better choice than the white stuff – especially when it came to their caloric content. For example, while a sugar-laden 12-ounce can of regular Coke boasts a whopping 140 calories, the same amount of Diet Coke contains no calories at all.
Then, in Europe, a decade-and-a-half-long study was conducted into the relationship between artificial sweeteners and mortality. Participants came from across the continent, with more than 450,000 people taking part in the research. And when the outcomes of this lengthy endeavor were released in September 2019, the results were eye-opening.
In fact, the findings from that project may be bad news for anyone who likes to sip on some ice-cold Fresca or chew on a piece of Orbit gum. So, could sugar really be the better option? And why did so many people switch to these chemical replacements to begin with, anyway?
Well, it’s known that consuming too much sugar can not only play havoc with your dental health, but it may also lead to weight gain. And if you’re carrying a few extra pounds as a result of that sweet tooth, then you may be running a greater risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Given those possibilities, then, opting for artificial sweeteners over sugar may seem like a no-brainer.
But while sugar may have been painted in a negative light, we do actually need some of the sweet stuff to survive and thrive. There’s no need to cut out sugar in its entirety from our diets, either. The American Heart Association claims, for example, that six teaspoons or less of sugar for women and nine teaspoons or less for men are acceptable daily amounts for us to consume.
That said, it’s not always easy to tell how much sugar you’re eating on a day-to-day basis. And some sugars are better for us than others, too. Carbohydrate-heavy fruits and vegetables, for example, are an all-round good choice when it comes to providing the natural energy that the body needs to keep functioning properly.
Perhaps the biggest issue, then, is with “added sugars” – ones that have been added to processed food to boost their flavor. And you may be shocked at how prevalent such sweetened goods are in your grocery cart. A 2015 study by researchers Barry M. Popkin and Corinna Hawkes found that added sugars were present in an incredible 68 percent of the packaged food and drink that had been purchased by the U.S. households they surveyed.
More worryingly, extra sugar is often put into items such as crackers, jerky and flavored water that may not seem all that sweet to our tastebuds. Even some varieties of vitamins contain the stuff – despite that seeming a little counterproductive. And you may be stunned to hear just how much sugar that all adds up to.
You see, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. citizens each consume the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of added sugar on average per day. That’s an awful lot, and it may all come with consequences. It’s been said, for example, that individuals who eat too much sugar not only run the risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease and – in some cases – cancer.
Yet that’s not all, as apparently sugar can also have real effects on your mental health. The dips and peaks that occur when your blood sugar levels are erratic may lead, for instance, to feelings of tiredness, headaches and fluctuations in mood. And a sudden plummet in blood sugar could even make you feel more anxious than normal.
In 2019 medical professional Candace Burch explained this phenomenon further to Well+Good, saying, “The rush of sugar leads to sugar highs [that give] a lot of energy, but then the lows lead to feeling sluggish and down.” Nutritionist Brigitte Zeitlin added to the website that the “quick spike and drop” of blood sugar typically experienced after consuming a very sweet snack “can even at times mimic a panic attack.”
It’s perhaps no wonder, then, that many have turned to artificial sweeteners to satisfy a sweet tooth. These concoctions can be cost-effective, too, as only a tiny amount is needed to provide a very similar taste to sugar. And then, of course, there are the benefits to dieters, as artificial sweeteners contain very few calories.
Unlike sugar, though, artificial sweeteners don’t usually come from a naturally grown product. Instead, they’re typically created in laboratories using a great deal of technical know-how. Sometimes, chemical synthesis – which involves man-made reactions – is deployed to create these substitutes; on other occasions, they’re extracted from the alcohols of sugar itself.
And partly because artificial sweeteners often don’t exist without human intervention, there have been concerns about their safety. You may assume, too, that these substances aren’t all that healthy despite their lack of caloric content. After all, it’s often touted that natural foods are a lot better for us than processed ones.
Nevertheless, sugar substitutes such as aspartame and sucralose have been given the seal of approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. government agency is tasked with ensuring that all foodstuffs and dietary supplements that go on the market are suitable for human consumption, meaning any new additives – such as artificial sweeteners – are therefore subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
Owing to the FDA’s stringent regulations, then, artificial sweeteners may seem to have been properly vetted as safe to eat. It’s interesting to note, though, that as far back as the 1800s, there was already some doubt surrounding the potential toxicity of arguably the original sugar substitute: saccharin.
Saccharin was initially discovered in 1879 by the Russian Constantin Fahlberg, who at the time was engaged in research at Johns Hopkins University. And while Fahlberg was meant to have been analyzing coal tar, his clumsiness inadvertently unearthed what is now one of the most widespread artificial sweeteners readily available today.
After a long day working at the lab in Baltimore, Maryland, the chemist had been ready for dinner. Upon biting into his bread roll, though, Fahlberg found that the foodstuff was much sweeter than he had been anticipating. And he concluded that this unusual taste wasn’t by design, either.
An 1886 edition of Scientific American went into further detail about Fahlberg’s discovery, with the Russian himself speaking about the circumstances that had first led him to isolate saccharin. He explained, “I sat down, broke a piece of bread and put it to my lips. It tasted unspeakably sweet. I did not ask why it was so – probably because I thought it was some cake or sweetmeat.”
Fahlberg added, “I rinsed my mouth with water and dried my mustache with my napkin, when, to my surprise, the napkin tasted sweeter than the bread. Then I was puzzled. I again raised my goblet and, as fortune would have it, applied my mouth where my fingers had touched it before. The water seemed syrup.”
Then Fahlberg had a revelation. “It flashed on me that I was the cause of the singular universal sweetness,” he related. “And I accordingly tasted the end of my thumb and found [that] it surpassed any confectionery I had ever eaten.” The chemist also deduced that, as he had inadvertently spilled a chemical during his research that day, this substance must have made its way onto his own hands – and then the bread.
Fahlberg couldn’t recall which material had been involved in his mishap, however, and this led him to conduct a – potentially rather dangerous – experiment of his own. In the Scientific American article, he wrote, “I dropped my dinner and ran back to the laboratory. There, in my excitement, I tasted the contents of every beaker and evaporating dish on the table.”
Given the often-toxic items that the scientist handled as part of his job, this decision may have seemed a little reckless. Nonetheless, the process yielded results. In time, Fahlberg narrowed the cause of the sweetness down to one thing: what he called “an impure solution of saccharin.”
Then, once the Russian had further investigated the substance and published the details of his findings, he set to work on producing saccharin commercially. And more than 140 years on from that momentous – if somewhat accidental – invention, the artificial sweetener can now be found in everything from cookies to iced tea.
A further five FDA-approved sugar substitutes have since been introduced, too. And perhaps as a result of health concerns, artificial sweeteners remain a popular alternative to their more natural counterpart. According to a study published in 2017 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, more than 40 percent of American adults surveyed claimed to have consumed so-called “low-calorie sweeteners.” An eye-opening 56 percent of that number revealed, moreover, that they ingested such substances daily.
If you’re among the many people who stir Splenda into your coffee on the regular, though, you may want to cut down – or even avoid the habit altogether. You see, even though sucralose – of which Splenda is constituted – has been approved for general sale, its overall impact on the body has been the subject of much debate. It’s been said, for instance, that the artificial sweetener may have detrimental effects on our gut health as well as our blood sugar levels.
In 2016, meanwhile, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health published the results of a study investigating how consumption of sucralose affected mice. More specifically, the researchers looked to see whether the substance would bring on any form of cancer in the rodents – and what was ultimately discovered was shocking.
Alarmingly, the male mice used in the study appeared to be more frequently developing cancerous tumors after having ingested sucralose. This was even the case when the animals were given relatively low doses of the sweetener. As a consequence, then, the scientists who carried out the research at Italy’s Ramazzini Institute implored others to follow their lead to determine whether sucralose is truly safe for human consumption.
But while the effects of sucralose may not be the same in people as it is in mice, we do have some evidence to suggest that artificial sweeteners aren’t all that good for us. Most notably, when the findings of that 16-year European research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, they seemed to lend weight to the theory that sugar substitutes are harmful to our overall wellbeing.
By analyzing the participants’ lifestyles and beverage intake, the specialists who led the experiment were able to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact that the subjects’ choice of drinks had had on them. The scientists discovered, for example, that 41,693 of the individuals surveyed had died during the research project.
It was found, too, that those subjects who consumed soft drinks daily were more likely to have passed away than others who more frequently refrained. And, rather disturbingly, the research suggested that even beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes can have a drastic impact on mortality.
Of those participating, 11.5 percent of the people who each consumed at least two 8-ounce glasses of soft drinks daily were recorded to have died. By contrast, the subjects who each took in less than a glass of soda or a similarly sweetened drink a month had a collective mortality rate of just 9.3 percent.
So, what does all this mean for the average person? Well, according to the study, once the differences in lifestyles between the study’s participants had been analyzed and taken into account, artificial sweeteners and sugar were held responsible for this marked jump in the mortality rate. Specifically, it was concluded that those who had consumed those two glasses or more of sugary drinks per day were 17 percent more likely to have died than their relatively abstemious counterparts.
One interesting thing to note, however, is that the study seemed to unearth a fundamental difference between the health effects of natural sugar and artificial sweeteners. Yes, although both substances appeared to have influenced whether the subjects had since passed away or not, the causes of death of the participants threw up an interesting discrepancy.
Most notably, the researchers spotted an increased likelihood of succumbing to circulatory problems among those survey subjects who often consumed drinks containing artificial sweeteners. The individuals indulging in sugary beverages regularly, by contrast, seemed to run an increased risk of dying from digestive complications.
And if that isn’t nearly enough to convince you to ditch the low-calorie drinks, then consider this. While artificial sweeteners have often been touted as a slimmer’s dream, this may also be misleading. You see, it’s been suggested that low-cal beverages containing sugar substitutes may be contributors to weight gain.
Yes, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio collated eight years’ worth of statistics in a bid to find whether there was any link between diet drinks and obesity. And when the results were unveiled in 2005, they may have proved sobering reading for anyone looking to lose a few pounds.
In an interview with WebMD, the center’s Sharon P. Fowler explained what she and her colleagues had uncovered, saying, “When we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher [than for those who drank the sugary equivalents].” Fowler added, “There was a 41 percent increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.”
All in all, then, artificial sweeteners may be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to slimming down. And when you combine this knowledge with the thought-provoking findings of the European study, one thing becomes clear: if you want a longer and healthier life, you should probably ditch the diet sodas and sip on water instead.