I wanted to document my experience with Banana Island, which is essentially a cleanse where you eat as many bananas as you want. I know it may sound fruity! I recommend skeptics head over to http://thebananagirl.com/ and check out Freelee's videos. She is a wonderful inspiration for anyone looking into raw foodism, and helped me when I was making the transition to veganism. Also, her videos and research could explain why I would do this much better than I can put into words, but here are the results of some research I've done*:
1. WHY RAW?
Raw foods are full of enzymes, and so aid in their own digestion. Food that is cooked or pasteurized does not contain these enzymes and thus requires a much greater effort from our bodies to digest. Digestion typically requires more energy than any other body function. This is why our energy levels plummet after large, cooked meals (aka the "food coma," you KNOW what that feels like). People who eat large meals of raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds, however, usually report an increase in energy levels. This is because they have set their bodies free to perform other functions such as repair and rejuvenation. This is the reason I juice almost daily, because I get so much nutrition for very little effort!
2. WHY BANANAS?
Out of all the reasons I could list, I'd like to focus on one: potasssium. Now, most of us are aware by adulthood that potassium is a buzzword for health. Like, it has a lot to do with something important to our health, and bananas have it. Right? That was the extent of my knowledge until I put in some research.
As it turns out, our potassium-to-sodium levels are a critical key to vibrant health. High sodium, low potassium diets are directly linked to all the major health problems in our country (and leading causes of death) like heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Potassium deficiency has the lesser effects of mental confusion, irritability, weakness, as well as heart, nerve, and muscle problems.The reverse, high-potassium and low-sodium intakes, are preventative to these health problems and are key to lowering high blood pressure. It isn't enough just to restrict sodium, the high potassium intake is also essential.
Most people have a potassium to sodium ratio of less than 1:2, which means they ingest twice as much sodium as potassium. However, researchers have recommended at least a 5:1 ratio, and a diet high in fruits and vegetables can achieve a ratio greater than 100:1! This douses your body in the electrolytes that aide in so many of its most important functions. Without enough potassium, cells will burst their sodium-potassium pump, fatigue sets in and muscles grow weak.
There are some of my answers to WHY. On to the HOW of Banana Island!
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Some things to note:
-Even though my sources are, I myself am not a doctor or a nutritionist. The things I write are my opinion and experience, and the things that work (or don't) for me are not for everyone.
-I am not pressuring myself to stick entirely to bananas and am allowing some other raw fruits and veggies. For one, when I went to stock up in the store most of the bananas were still green, a problem I'll explain later. Also, I do not have a specific goal like detox or an expectation of weight loss. If I really wanted those results I would be following Freelee's advice to the letter, but I am doing this mostly to cleanse my digestive tract, maximize my potassium intake, and for the adventure!
-I prepared for this, and even then, I've already discovered that I didn't prepare enough. I urge anyone considering a cleanse to get their body, mind, and pantry in the right place before embarking on one. More on that, coming up...
BANANA ISLAND, DAY 0:
That's right! Day Zero. This was the day I really prepared myself for cleansing, although I have been eating mostly raw for weeks and eliminated caffeine from my diet, which was a cleanse in and of itself. I will make a post soon about how I did it and why. The point is, after eating so well for so long, I knew I was ready for a cleanse and that it wouldn't be a shock to my system, or my mind. I think a lot of healthy detox and cleanse ideas have a bad rap because people try them without preparing themselves, and as soon as the pangs begin or the fruit basket is empty, failure creeps in along with disgust for the process.
For the mental aspect, I watched some videos on Youtube, including the skeptics. I wanted to be aware of potential set-backs, but usually watching any kind of vegan videos gets me fired up and these just reaffirmed my purpose. There are some really beautiful raw foodists who put their whole selves into their Youtube accounts, and I love them for spreading that around. Anyway, it helped motivate me and get my mind in gear, and it was reassuring to hear from others that they had eaten other things besides bananas too.
Foodwise, that day I ate... mostly bananas! That's right. If you're going on a cleanse, you should work your cleansing foods into your diet gradually, and I had already been eating a ton of bananas. I won't call it Day 1 only because I enjoyed other fruits for breakfast and made a massive spiralized raw zucchini noodle dish for dinner (pictured above).
I also prepped by buying a cart-full of bananas at the store, but this is where I hit my first potential snag: most of the bananas in the store were not ripe. They were still bright yellow or even had a greenish tinge at the stem. A good, ripe banana shows itself by having brown spots (not bruises, mind you, but those freckles of brown that most people think looks unappetizing, but the fruit under the peel is perfect!) and is easier to digest and much healthier. Really, looking back, I should have bought my bananas days ahead of time and ripened them at home. More on this later.
Check out my next post, Banana Island Days 1-2, coming up!
*I got a lot of information from the wonderful book The Complete Book of Juicing. Aside from great recipes, it is a powerhouse of information on raw food and nutrition, and I highly recommend it. I am in no way compensated for this recommendation, I honestly love this book.