Banana is one of the most nutritious and tasty fruits, loved by young and old for its soft consistency and particularly sweet flavor. Practical, “portable” snack , it gives precious energy to those who choose it.
It is rich in potassium, vitamins and minerals . In addition, it brings great benefits to the body: it fights cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, regulates the intestine and helps mood.
In addition, bananas also have another great record: they are the most consumed fruit in the world! Finally, as it is a calorie fruit ( 65 calories per 100 grams ) it should be consumed in moderation by those with obesity problems.
Normally it is eaten fresh , natural. But it is also excellent blended with milk or other fruit to create tasty and nutritious smoothies, cut into pieces in yogurt, cut into fruit salad, in the form of ice cream. It can also be used to garnish various cakes and desserts or as an ingredient for desserts such as banana bread.
Banana: what it is
The name “banana” refers to the fruit of the plant, commonly called Banana (Musa acuminata Colla) , which is not a tree despite its size. It is a perennial evergreen giant herbaceous plant, monocotyledon, belonging to the genus Musa of the Musaceae family .
The tree grows from a bulb-tuber from which a false trunk develops that reaches heights of even 6 meters. The trunk is formed by the basal sheaths of the leaves that overlap in a spiral, curled up on each other, imitating the support functions of a trunk. This is then crowned at the apex by a tuft of a few leaves.
Banana fruit only in the hot and humid climates of the tropical valleys , located in full sun or in light shade. The plant can live in mild climates, but hardly ever comes to bear fruit in abundance and well formed. Banana also needs a habitat that is protected from winds.
Curiosity about the benefits
Banana plants and their fruits have traditionally been used to treat many diseases, especially in Asia and Africa . In tribal communities, all parts of the plant are used (fruit, stem, flower, leaf, lymph, stem, internal core and root) for therapeutic preparations useful to combat numerous pathologies: from blood pressure control, to diabetes, from hypertension to anemia, up to allergies, infections, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases, as well as fever, cough, tuberculosis and dysentery.
The root extract is still used today to prevent conception, to induce labor during childbirth and to treat infections of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV / AIDS, internal and external sores of the genital parts, vaginitis and leucorrhea. . Other traditional uses include application as an antiemetic, to medicate wounds and blisters and to relieve joint pain and improve blood circulation.
The banana plant is native to Southeast Asia, the jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines , where numerous wild varieties still grow today. The banana is mentioned for the first time in some Buddhist texts of 600 BC
It seems that thanks to the expeditions of Alexander the Great to India in 327 BC, after the conquest of the Persian Empire, the Macedonian King himself made bananas known to the western world.
It is probable that the first cultivations were the work of the Chinese as early as 200 AD: with the progress of Islamic civilization, the banana plant was imported by Arab merchants thus promoting its subsequent spread in almost all of Africa .
From there, bananas were widespread in Central and South America thanks to 16th century explorers.
Bananas began to be traded internationally only in the late 19th century. It all started when the banana was presented at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition in 1876 . They were sold at the stratospheric amount of ten cents each (about two current dollars).
It was the first time that Americans had tasted this exotic fruit.
The prospect of a big deal to satisfy US consumers prompted the Boston Fruit Company to buy land in Latin America for the cultivation of this fruit, with substantial incentives for governments. Thus was born a period of exploitation which led to the birth of the so-called “banana republics”.
Suffice it to say that in 1950 United Fruit (the future Chiquita) owned 75% of Guatemala’s crops, also controlling their political power until the late 1980s.
One of the characteristics of the banana market is precisely the role played by the large multinational companies that still control the entire production chain.
Currently it is grown in more than 130 countries : in addition to Asia (China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia) also in Central and South America and in Tropical Africa. By importance it is the fourth species of fruit grown .
According to the most recent statistics, the largest banana-producing country is India with around 23%, followed by China, the Philippines, Brazil and Ecuador. The largest importers are the United States and Europe.
In addition to its great versatility and unique taste, banana is a fruit rich in phytonutrients , including vitamins (C, A and B vitamins) and phenolic compounds .
It also contains many minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus.
Adding bananas to your diet also helps improve the content of total dietary fiber , resistant starch and total starch .
What does the banana contain?
But what are the principles that make banan such a beneficial food for our health?
- Flavonols and flavonoids: both the pulp and the peel contain various phenolic and flavonoid compounds . Just to mention a few: gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, tannins and anthocyanins . The main classes of flavonoids found in bananas are flavonols , which include quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol and cyanidine . These act as protective “scavengers” against free radicals, responsible for aging and various chronic diseases.
- Serotonin and dopamine: banana peel and pulp also contain biogenic amines, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine . The serotonin contributes to the feeling of well-being and happiness while the dopamine plays an important role in improving mood, ability to concentrate and emotional stability.
- Carotenoids : other compounds characterizing bananas are carotenoids , also responsible for their intense yellow coloring. Carotenoids have been studied primarily for their role in the prevention of certain cancers and eye diseases . The idea of using different banana cultivars to manage vitamin A deficiency has recently been proposed. The consumption of foods rich in carotenoids, and therefore indirectly of vitamin A, improves immunity and reduces the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems .
Let’s see then all the beneficial properties that these nutrients give to bananas.
Antioxidant and anticancer
Banana pulp contains bioactive compounds , such as phenolic acids and flavonoids, with high antioxidant potential and useful in the prevention of chronic diseases, including tumors.
The banana against cramps and to control pressure
Bananas contain a lot of potassium : perfect allies, therefore, for athletes to avoid cramps during training or during performance.
In addition, the important presence of potassium, together with the low sodium content , makes bananas useful in controlling blood pressure.
The serotonin , arising from the tryptophan in bananas, helps to overcome or prevent depression positively influencing mood and relaxing the body.
Fruit suitable for diabetics
It contains resistant starch with low digestibility compared to cereals with high glycemic index . Thanks to its hypoglycaemic action, it is so suitable for the diet of diabetic patients. Its daily consumption improves insulin sensitivity.
Excellent for intestine and stomach
Banana has positive effects on the intestine: pharmacological investigations have shown that banana is effective and beneficial in the treatment of diseases of the gastro-intestinal tract . The fruits are also perfect against constipation thanks to the high content of dietary fiber .
Bananas contain a good amount of phytosterols . It is natural plant sterols that lower blood cholesterol levels through a reduction in its absorption in the intestine.
Therefore, a daily intake of phytosterols up to 3g / day is safe and has a cholesterol lowering action in patients with dyslipidaemias.
An aid to quit smoking
According to a recent scientific study, bananas, thanks to their content of vitamins B6 and B12, of potassium and magnesium , would help the body recover from the effects of nicotine “withdrawal”.
Bananas can therefore make it easier for those people who have decided to quit smoking.
Against ulcers and heartburn
A banana would help recover from a hangover (helps restore blood sugar levels, depleted due to alcohol intake), buffer heartburn and treat ulcers (bananas have a natural antacid effect) .
When we live in a time of stress , our metabolic rate increases, thus reducing our potassium levels. Therefore, the consumption of bananas with a high content of this mineral can help “recover” from these destabilizing events.
Against mosquito bites
Did a mosquito bite you ? To relieve itching and reduce swelling and irritation, just rub the inside of the banana peel on the affected part ,
It could be the cause of intolerance in subjects predisposed for the presence of allergenic proteins.
In fact, those who take beta-blocker drugs because they are cardiopathic, should consume the banana in moderation to avoid hyperkalaemia, that is, a condition of excessive presence of potassium in the blood.
Furthermore, it is not recommended for those suffering from diabetes because its low digestible resistant starch has a hypoglycaemic action, making it suitable for the diet of diabetic patients.
The important thing is that consumption is moderate and that the banana is not very ripe , because with ripening the enzymes in the banana transform the starch into sugar, increasing its glycemic index.
Banana: buying guide and how to consume them
It is a fruit available all year round , also thanks to the long flowering period, and does not have a seasonal trend. Its availability and its practicality of consumption make it ideal for fresh consumption.
It is excellent at any time of the day, for breakfast, lunch, as an afternoon snack or in the evening, also as a snack.
The pulp can be consumed directly or it can enrich fruit smoothies, yoghurt, fruit salads, ice creams, or even it can be used as a garnish for cakes and various sweets. The pulp in contact with the air tends to darken rapidly, but with a splash of lemon this oxidative reaction is stemmed.
The pulp of bananas can also be consumed in dried form : just cut a banana into slices and put it in the oven at 80 ° to allow the water contained in the fruit to evaporate.
The peel of bananas
Even the banana peel can be eaten as it has many nutritional and bioactive compounds, particularly polyphenols and carotenoids . However, the external part of the bananas may have undergone post-harvest treatments to avoid the formation of mold during transport.
For this reason it is preferable not to venture to eat it without having the certainty of its healthiness and without having carefully washed the bananas under running water.
How to store the banana
Bananas are not very perishable and can withstand, under optimal conditions, for several days. They should be kept at room temperature but in a cool place in order not to accelerate the ripening.
They can be kept in the refrigerator , but at temperatures not lower than 3 °: in this case the outer skin tends to darken, without however altering the pulp.
Banana is a climacteric fruit , that is, it ripens even after being separated from the plant. This happens because it produces ethylene , a gaseous vegetable hormone that accelerates its maturation.
For this characteristic, attention must be paid to the fruit and vegetables positioned close to the bananas. In fact, ripening is accelerated not only by self-produced ethylene, but also by that “stimulated” by the proximity of other ripe fruits.
How to choose bananas
This tropical fruit does not have a precise seasonality.
It arrives on our tables from distant lands located along the climatic belt between the two tropics. The transport is usually by ship , in cold storage , often with a controlled atmosphere to prolong the conservation.
To savor it at its best, the pulp must have the right degree of ripeness , which corresponds to a certain Brix degree (unit of measurement indicating the sugar content of the fruit). The bananas displayed on the sales counters normally have a low Brix degree and are still green, but in a couple of days the banana ripens and becomes sweeter.
The variety choice practically does not exist: on the market there are for the vast majority bananas of the Cavendish variety .
Banana: homemade beauty mask
Over time, face masks improve the appearance of the skin, making it purified, radiant and hydrated . On the market there is really spoiled for choice, but also the simplicity of a DIY mask can be a winner: natural, effective and economic.
The banana-based moisturizing mask that we offer you is very simple.
- 2 teaspoons of yogurt
- 1 pureed banana.
Mix the ingredients, apply the mixture on the face and leave it on for 10 – 15 minutes. Then rinse with warm water, dry your face and apply a moisturizer.
Your skin will be soft, hydrated and nourished. If you suffer from allergies or sensitive skin, ask your doctor or beautician for advice first.
The banana in the kitchen
In oriental ethnic cuisine there are many recipes that include banana as an ingredient. In South and Central America, however, a close relative of the banana, the plane tree , is often used , which is best suited for cooking.
In some Asian countries, such as India, banana flowers are also eaten , which before hatching appear as purple and fleshy panicles. Their flavor and texture have little in common with the fruit, because they are starchy and slightly bitter, with a walnut aftertaste.
Instead, our recipes are all healthy and you can try smoothie, banana bread but also homemade tea or banana ice cream!
Discover the recipe of :Smoothie with Oat milk and bananas