By Adrienne Dellwo
While there’s no perfect diet for everyone with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, certain nutrients can help with our symptoms. We talk a lot here about supplements, which are a great way to make sure you’re getting consistent daily amounts, but it’s also important to make sure you’re eating the right foods. I’m starting a Food of the Week series to look at the nutritional value of different foods and see how beneficial they might be.
Inside the Banana
Bananas are probably best known for being rich in potassium — there’s about 400 mg in a medium-sized one. If you complain about nighttime leg cramps, your doctor will probably tell you to eat a banana before bed. Why is that? Potassium is important for muscle function, including contraction. It’s crucial for cardiac, skeletal and digestive health. Potassium is also an electrolyte, which means it helps conduct electricity around your body.
Those are all good reasons for us to get enough potassium. If you have problems with absorption, sweat a lot, eat high amounts of salt, or have frequent diarrhea, you may be at risk for potassium deficiency.
But potassium’s not the only important thing inside a banana peel — this fruit also contains magnesium and malic acid, which many doctors recommend for our muscle pain and tenderness. They also help your body produce energy.
Do you think you need to eat fish to get essential fatty acids? You might be surprised to learn that bananas contain both Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Bananas vs. Potassium Supplements
Potassium supplements, in doses higher that what’s in multi-vitamins, come with several warnings and should only be taken under your doctor’s supervision. If you’re on NSAIDs or ACE inhibitors, they can interact badly with your medication. It’s generally considered better to get potassium through natural sources.
Food sources of potassium don’t come with the same dangers. Along with the banana, you can get potassium from apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, peas, beans, potatoes, fish and beef liver.
If you’re on a low-carb or diabetic diet, a banana may not be the right choice for you — they’ve got about 25-30 carbs, or 2 diabetic exchanges. For a snack, however, you might be able to combine a banana with a good source of protein such as peanuts or peanut butter.
Benefits of Bananas
Bananas are a quick, easy, portable snack that can help your muscles function properly, support heart health, aid digestion, prevent dehydration and more. They’re a simple way to get a boost of the nutrients that help alleviate symptoms without taking more supplements and possibly getting into dangerously high amounts. In addition, banana allergies are rare.
Personally, I’ve eaten bananas when my muscles are tight and sore, and also for charlie horses, and they do seem to help.