Bananas. One of the staples of diets the world over. But are bananas good for you? Turns out, bananas have many health benefits – and not just the fruit itself, other parts of the plant are useful too!
Let’s take a closer look.
Benefits of Bananas
- Bananas could help with weight loss. They contain complex carbohydrates that help you feel full longer.
- Plantains, cousins of bananas, contain high amounts of beta carotene.
- Bananas contain tryptophan which converts to serotonin in the body.
- Bananas contain more potassium than any other fruit. Potassium helps to regulate blood sugar and help your vital organs to function properly (read more about potassium here).
- Bananas contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, folate, magnesium, manganese, iron and fiber in the form of pectin, a water soluble fiber.
- Bananas are sterile until opened, making them less likely to harbor pathogens.
- Bananas are naturally low in salt.
- Bananas are naturally fat free.
- Bananas can be eaten raw, cooked, frozen or made into ice cream or a number of other treats.
- Bananas oxidize quickly and turn brown. Dip in salt water or lemon juice to prevent browning.
- The more yellow the banana, the more natural sugar and antioxidants it contains.
- Bananas can help prevent nausea associated with morning sickness.
- Place a banana peel on a wart and tie it on for a few hours. The wart will go away. You may have to repeat this process a few times, but it will eventually work.
- Bananas come in a neat, pre-made package that make them very portable.
- There is a large number of types of bananas. They range from the small finger bananas and ice cream bananas (yes, they really do taste like ice cream!) to the large, starchy plantains.
- Banana leaf can be used like aluminum foil. Wrap your food in it and place in the oven or grill to cook, or store in the refrigerator. The leaf will turn dark, but remains intact.
- Banana leaf contains polyphenols. One of these is the antioxidant EGCG, the same as found in green and black tea. Polyphenols can help fight diseases like diabetes and cancer.
- Banana leaves contain one of the compounds that make up Naproxen Sodium.
- Banana leaves and peels can help heal burns.
- Unused parts of the banana (leaves, peel, bruised fruit) can be used in mulch.
- The juice of the banana peel contains compounds that help heal skin and stimulate the growth of new skin cells. Use it on wounds and sunburn to help cool and soothe, and then begin healing.
- Banana leaves contain allantoin, a natural substance that helps heal the skin. Read more about allantoin here.
- The juice from banana leaves is astringent and can help with diarrhea and ulcers.
- Banana leaves contain the polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that produces L-DOPA. L-DOPA is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.
- Plantain leaves are charred and ground for use in African Black Soap. Lye is made from the charred leaves. The less filtration, the more black the soap.
- A banana mat or stool, the root, can live 60-70 years, making it a very long-lived plant.
- Banana plants have very few pests and diseases. The worst pest is the spider mite which can be controlled by a bit of liquid soap in water sprayed on the leaves. See instructions for making your own liquid soap here.
- Banana leaves or peel can be shredded and used as a poultice on wounds to draw out infections.
- Banana plants grow large and dense, making them great for shading outside eating areas.
- Bananas are very easy to grow. I have a large mat of bananas that is about 30 feet across and the tallest one is over my head now. They are slow to come back in the spring, but soon provide lush tropical foliage. And oh yeah, I don’t live in the tropics. I’m in Western North Carolina.
The most common bananas for cooler climates are Musa Basjoo and Chinese Yellow. There are a few others, though I haven’t had experience with them. I had Chinese Yellow bananas in Minnesota. They require mulching in the winter. I have Basjoo here in NC, and like a lot of people in the south, I have quite a large patch. Bananas are susceptible to root nematodes and the nematodes love a poor soil. So I add plenty of mulch including comfrey (read about comfrey mulch here). Compost is essential to root growth.
My bananas produced flowers last year, but frost hit before they could fruit. I hear the fruit is fibrous and seedy. I use my banana plants for shade and I use the leaves for most all of the tips above. If you want to take your banana inside in the winter, keep it in a pot outside during the summer and take it in when the weather turns cold. The key to timing is when night time temperatures dip down to 50°. My sensitive plants come in when the nights turn cold. You can plant them in the ground and dig them again in the fall, just be aware that the plant may be very large by then! You can leave them in the ground and mulch them if you wish. I didn’t mulch mine and it got down to 0° with a windchill well below zero. We usually don’t get that cold here, but it proved the bananas could withstand it.
What other uses or benefits of bananas can you think of?
Please share in the comments section below!