By Richard W. Bukowski

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The former keeps us regular, reduces the risk of diverticulitis, and helps eliminate substances that may play a role in colon cancer. But it is beta glucan, the soluble fiber in oats, that is causing a stir. Solid research has shown that while oats produce no nutritional miracles (no single food does), those who consume them regularly can experience these benefits: lower blood cholesterol levels, a decrease in high blood pressure, healthy arteries, and better diabetes control. Some of this information about oats is not new.

The answer seems to depend upon whom you ask. We had best begin by covering the available facts about aspartame. The sweetener is commonly labeled "noncaloric," although that term is technically inaccurate. Aspartame is broken down in the digestive tract into its components — namely, aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol — which the body absorbs and metabolizes. Collectively, they contribute about four calories per gram, but since the substance is about 180 times sweeter than sugar, very little needs to be used in foods and beverages to achieve a satisfactory degree of sweetness.

The green color is chlorophyll, the plant pigment that is the key to photosynthesis. As a banana ripens, its need for photosynthesis decreases, and the membranes around the chloroplasts, the cells that produce chlorophyll, begin to break down. This allows the enzymes that metabolize chlorophyll to enter, and the green color gives way to the yellow of various anthocyanins. This cascade of events is triggered by the release of the plant hormone ethylene, a process that banana producers mimick by ripening their green produce with ethylene gas after transport.

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