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BIG SCREECHER: Don’t slip up on your health, eat bananas!

I grew up with the Chiquita Banana jingle. I think the whole world has. You know it: “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say, bananas have to be ripened in a certain way, when they are flecked with brown and have a golden hue, bananas taste the best and are best for you. You can put them in a salad. You can put them in a pie-aye. Any way you want to eat them, it's impossible to beat them. But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator. So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator." Chances are you can sing or at least hum a few bars of the Chiquita jingle. The "Chiquita Banana" song first hit the airwaves in 1944 when Miss Chiquita made her debut. It was written to help teach Americans how to ripen and use bananas, which were at the time an exotic tropical fruit. At its peak, the jingle was played 376 times a day on radio stations across the United States. It was one of the most successful commercial jingles of all time. So when my swim teammate Ed from Seattle, Washington sent me an e-mail with all the benefits of bananas, I was amazed at all its benefits. My father use to work on the docks as a longshoreman, and when he unloaded the bananas for United Fruit, we had bananas. That was pre-container shipping and we ate a lot of bananas and that’s before we learned how healthy they were. Most seniors know to eat a banana a day which is rich in potassium, but that great monkey food has a lot of other good stuff in it. Reading about bananas, I went back to my elementary school days at P.S. 130 and distinctly remembered our teacher. Mrs. Infantee. in a Social Studies class quizzing us on the dangers of the banana. Bananas dangerous? Well, she claimed there was danger of the banana spiders stalking in the bunch. I don’t know how true that is, but I never forgot banana spiders. Bananas contain three natural sugars -- sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes. But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet. Here’s another use for it -- to fight depression. According to a recent survey undertaken among people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier. For those suffering with PMS, forget the pills -- eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood. If you are suffering from anemia, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so help cases of anemia. You’ve got high blood pressure? This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so that the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke. Bananas affect your brain power: 200 students at a British school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert. Sorry kids, you’ve still gotta study to pass, but enjoy the banana. Are you constipated? High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives. You’ve got a hangover? One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system. Bananas also have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief. For you moms-to-be, snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness. And here’s a use to treat mosquito bites. Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation. Did you know that bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system? Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady. Unfortunately, because of its high carbohydrate content, bananas are a no-no on my Atkins Diet. However, when ever I’m not on the diet, I look for bananas to eat. I rarely buy bananas for home consumption, because my wife hates bananas. She can’t stand the smell and won’t dare taste it, so whenever I’m visiting anyone and I spot a bunch of bananas, I immediately make like Cheetah and peel it open, before I’m told I can’t have it.And for you suffering from ulcers? The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach. Here’s a use for this marvelous fruit in temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan. And for those addicted to smoking and tobacco use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal. So go smoke a banana instead. Stressed out? Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack. Bananas help prevent strokes. According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%! And here’s another use -- you would never guess -- for warts. Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape! So do like me and Cheetah do, eat at least a banana a day and never, ever, ever put bananas in the refrigerator…no…no...No! And watch out for the banana spiders! Screech at you next week!

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