Raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, edible seeds contain a lot of beneficial nutrients for overall health. One such fruit is the humble banana. Though banana is called as a poor man’s fruit, its health benefits are for all. It is a staple fruit in many tropical countries with thousands of varieties available worldwide. Everyone is aware of the banana fruit, but can you eat banana peels too?
Banana is calorie filled nutritious fruit that contains potassium and soluble fiber in ample. It also contains vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin C and magnesium which helps in cell regeneration and soothes the skin. Bananas have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are associated with many health perks. The health benefits include reducing hypertension, enhancing mood and treating depression, improve gut health and aid in digestion, dense source of calories before and after workouts and cosmetic benefits like skin and hair health.
Banana and banana peel is consumed in some parts of the world. Most people throw away the peel like any other fruit, but it is said that we can eat the peels of the banana. The peel contains highest concentration of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12, magnesium and potassium. It also has these so-called ‘superfood’ compounds – bioactive compounds like polyphenols and carotenoids, which exert numerous health benefits like neutralizing free radicals in the body that lead to oxidative stress and reversing signs of aging.
However, it must be noted that banana peel, unlike the fruit cannot be consumed raw as it contains pesticides that are sprayed on them during harvesting. Hence, banana peels are usually eaten in a cooked, boiled or fried form. The sweetness quotient varies with the fruit – the peel is less sweet as compared to the fruit. Some people do choose to consume banana peel raw after washing or mixing it with other fruits in a smoothie. The peel tends to become thinner and more sweet as the fruit ripens. Hence, it is best to wait until there are a few black spots on the banana peel before consuming it.
Ways to incorporate banana peel
People have been starting to get more innovative in putting the banana peel to use in cooking. Recently, it has been used as a replacement for pork for people switching to vegan or vegetarian diets. Another easy way to make use of the peel is to add it in making banana bread for some additional fiber and potassium.
- Washing and scrubbing : It is important to wash the peel of banana well, just like all fruit peels to remove the excess dirt and foreign substances on it
- Smoothie : Parts of banana peel can be added to the everyday fruit smoothie if one has a good blender.
- Ripening : The peel of the fruit becomes more sweet as it ripens, just like banana itself. It can be utilized better for consumption if it has started to show brown or black spots on it
- Cooking the peel : Prior to incorporating the peels into a banana bread or some other dish, boiling or cooking can soften the peel, which will cause the cell walls to lyse within the skin, helping to make the nutrients to be absorbed more easily. The heat by cooking the peel also loosens the hard texture of the peel, making it easier to chew and digest. The peel acts as a good ingredient in curries, sandwiches and stir-fry dishes
Another fact to keep in mind about the peel is the color of the peel. The color of the peel makes a difference in the nutritional content of the peel. Green banana peels, or the unripened and the raw variety are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which improves mood and delivers better sleep quality and, resistant starch which has gut health benefits. On the other hand, a ripened yellow banana peel contains more antioxidants and anti aging effects.
Why you should eat banana peels
There are lot of health benefits you can get when you eat banana peels. See below:
- Fiber : The fruit itself is a good source of fiber and the peel adds more fiber. The peel contains – pectin, a type of soluble fiber that is also found in apples, help in gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhea, provides satiety and lowers cholesterol levels
- Plant sterols : Plant sterols, also called as phytosterols, are substances found primarily in plants, that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol, and thus compete with it for absorption. This reduces overall cholesterol levels in the body
- Antioxidants : The peel of the banana fruit contains phenolic compounds that have antioxidant properties that prevent the development of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer and others
- Potassium : Banana itself is a rich source of this mineral and the peel also contains good amount of potassium that is required for maintaining the blood pressure in the normal levels and protecting against age related loss of bone mass
- Reduce food waste : Eating the peel is also beneficial for the environment. The peel of the fruit attributes to about one third of the entire weight of the fruit. Throwing away the peel adds more to the food waste. Decaying food waste leads to methane gas production, which is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming
Some of the other uses of banana peels include
- It is a good food for plants (fertilizer) to help them grow better
- Peel can be used for skincare and haircare routine to improve the skin texture, reduce acne scarring and making the hair shiny and smooth
- It can be fed to livestock such as cattle, goats, poultry and other animals
Although banana peel has many nutrients and health benefits, consuming a banana peel may not be the ideal thing to do just because one can consume it (with thorough washing and rinsing).
Experts in the field opine that the fruit itself is self – sufficient in many nutrients and one isn’t missing out on a lot by just consuming the fruit and a well-balanced diet. Even though the conventional bananas are cultivated with pesticides within the safety limits recommended by the USDA, it is advised to thoroughly rinse and clean the banana peels when you are about to eat. This will eliminate dirt, bacteria and any other unwanted additives.
Pesticide consumption can be the cause of health impairments and increase the susceptibility to disorders like cancer, dementia, autism and cancer. It is recommended to go for certified organic variety of bananas that are grown without the use of pesticides, if one is keen on consuming the peel.