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BANANA BREAD FOR THE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS

Sept. 2, 2001 – Don't throw away those ripe bananas that are starting to turn black and mushy. Use them instead for making banana bread.
Bananas — really, big herbs — are native to Malaysia. Back some 2,000 years ago, traders carried them across the Indian Ocean into Africa. From there, they went to the Canary Islands, where European explorers put them aboard ships sailing to the Caribbean. Here, they thrived in the year-round warm temperatures, abundant rain, and deep, fertile soil.
We enjoy ripe bananas in a variety of ways: sliced in fruit salads, blended in smoothies, and made into cakes, pies and cocktails. Eaten out of hand, they are brimming with good nutrition. One medium-size banana has 120 calories and is an excellent source of vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium. The Food and Drug Administration has just approved bananas for health claim labeling, linking their potassium content to helping prevent high blood pressure.
Many traditional recipes are for banana bread that's as rich as cake because of the high fat and sugar content. The recipe here has been modified to make it more healthful. It replaces oil with unsweetened applesauce, substitutes egg whites for whole eggs, reduces the sugar content by 1/2 cup while increasing the number of bananas, and uses whole-wheat flour in place of some of the white flour for added fiber and nutrients. Enjoy this sweet bread for breakfast or as a snack.
Healthful Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
whites of 3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick coating. Lightly flour the pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt with a whisk.
In another medium bowl, beat the mashed bananas, sugar, applesauce, egg whites and vanilla until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just until smooth. Stir in the raisins, if desired. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top of the batter evenly in the pan.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is brown and the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes on a wire baking rack. Invert onto the rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely.
Makes 16 slices. Per slice: 175 calories, 0.5 gm fat (4 percent fat calories), no cholesterol, 88 mg sodium.
Food tip: If you have bananas that are overripe but don't have time to make banana bread, then do this: Peel the bananas, then place them in plastic freezer bags, six to a bag. That way, you'll have them ready for preparing banana bread in the future.

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