Bananas: Exotic, Delicious, And Healthy

While the banana may be an everyday fruit, its properties and health benefits are by no means so. Ripe and unripe bananas sometimes show very different effects.

Not every banana is yellow

According to an old legend, the original name of the banana was: The birds told it. If the birds hadn’t so enthusiastically pounced on the ripe bananas, humans might never have thought of trying the yellow fruit. Today there is no other exotic fruit that is as readily available and popular around the world as the banana.

In terms of consumption, apples are second to none in German-speaking countries: every German eats an average of 25 kilograms of apples and 15 kilograms of bananas per year. Compared to the domestic apple, however, the banana has to be imported from distant countries. Nevertheless, it is offered very cheaply and at any time of the year, so that it has long been taken for granted.

For us Europeans, there is only THE banana. It is yellow and has a curved shape. In reality, however, there are more than 1,000 types of bananas, all of which can also look very different. There are bananas in different sizes, with red, blue, or violet skin. Some taste sweet, others tart — and not every banana is crooked.

Fructose and glucose in the banana

Types of fruit such as bananas, figs, or grapes are often viewed critically because they contain a lot of sugar, at least when they are ripe. However, the problem is not the sugar in the fruit, but rather the industrially produced sugar. Studies, therefore, show with great regularity that fruits do not cause any health problems, while industrial sugar can lead to obesity, promotes metabolic syndrome, and increases the risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, and heart disease.

However, if you cannot tolerate fructose and suffer from fructose intolerance, it is not just the fructose content that is decisive, but also the fructose-glucose ratio of the fruit in question.

If this ratio is particularly balanced or if the glucose content even predominates, as is the case with bananas, for example, then the fruit in question is tolerated much better than fruits with an excess of fructose. However, the tolerability of fruit in the case of fructose intolerance is always very individual, so it is not possible to say in general whether bananas are tolerated with this problem or not.

Sweet bananas: high-energy fruit for athletes

The high sugar content in bananas can be used especially in sports. Especially during long sports units such as bike tours or mountain hikes, hypoglycemia symptoms can occur, such as restlessness and nervousness, and you feel shaky and weak in your legs. But hypoglycaemia can be avoided by taking breaks in good time and eating light meals such as bananas. Even after or before endurance training, bananas help to keep the energy level in balance in a healthy way

For example, in a study of 14 well-trained cyclists, researchers from Appalachian State University found that they experienced a greater energy boost after eating bananas than after a typical sports drink. Over a distance of 75 kilometers, the athletes either drank a glass of sports drink or ate half a banana every 15 minutes.

According to scientists, bananas are not only rich in carbohydrates, but also in fiber, vital substances, and antioxidants. In addition, bananas contain a much healthier sugar mixture than sports drinks, which are nothing more than sugar water with flavor enhancers. Athletes of all kinds are therefore advised to rely on natural carbohydrate sources such as bananas.

Ripe and unripe bananas: the sugar content

Although bananas are among the types of fruit that are particularly rich in carbohydrates and sugar, the sugar content depends on the degree of ripeness of the banana. If you now compare the glycemic load (GL) of unripe bananas with that of ripe bananas, there is a clear difference. (Glycemic load shows how much a food affects blood sugar levels.)

Unripe bananas (still slightly green) have a GL of 9.6, while ripe bananas (yellow with brown spots) have a GL of 12.8. This is because unripe bananas contain less sugar but more starch, which changes over the course of the ripening process. An unripe banana contains starch and sugar in a ratio of 20:1, which is exactly the opposite of an overripe banana. During aging, the starch is gradually converted into sugar.

Of course, the sugar or starch content also influences the taste and consistency of the banana. While the flesh is initially rather hard and tart, it becomes softer and sweeter as it matures. Because of their low sugar content, unripe bananas are ideal foods for those with blood sugar problems.

A study at the Aarhus Amtssygehus involved 10 patients with type 2 diabetes. It has been studied how bananas affect blood sugar levels after meals. On three consecutive days, the subjects were given 40 grams of white bread, 120 grams of unripe bananas, and 120 grams of ripe bananas. The researchers found that the white bread raised blood sugar levels the most and that the unripe bananas performed the best.

Compared to the sugar-rich ripe bananas, the starch-rich unripe bananas have decisive advantages, as Irish scientists from University College Dublin found out in 2016. Because they actually have the ability to regulate blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes are smoothed out, insulin sensitivity is improved, and food cravings are avoided.

Bananas contain prebiotics

You may be wondering why a high starch content should be able to regulate blood sugar levels when starchy foods usually have a high glycemic load. But strength is not the same as strength. Because the starch contained in bananas consists partly of so-called resistant starch.

In contrast to normal starch, resistant starch is not broken down into sugar (glucose), but reaches the large intestine unchanged, which of course also saves calories. It is therefore counted among dietary fibers.

Both the resistant starch and other ingredients in the banana such as pectin and oligofructose are among the most important prebiotics, which means that they contribute to the healthy intestinal flora. They serve as food for the bacteria in the large intestine (intestinal flora) and are fermented by them. This results in short-chain fatty acids, which i.a. ensures that the environment in the gut reaches a healthy acidic pH level.

The short-chain fatty acids z. B. counted the butyric acid. It is said to play a special role in the health of the colon. On the one hand, it is considered the main source of energy for the colonic mucosa, on the other hand, it has an anti-inflammatory effect and stimulates intestinal motility. Prebiotic foods such as unripe bananas come from e.g. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease benefit and are also important for the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Do bananas help with diarrhea or constipation?

Since the stool weight is increased by the resistant starch, green bananas can counteract constipation on the one hand, but can also be used for diarrhea, since the pectin contained protects the intestinal mucosa and binds bacterial toxins.

In a Brazilian study by the Universidade Estadual Paulista, 80 children, all of whom suffered from constipation, were able to show that giving them green bananas was usually enough to get their digestion going again. If children needed laxatives, their dose could be reduced if green bananas were eaten at the same time.

A double-blind study from Bangladesh examined the effect of green bananas on persistent diarrhea in 62 infants aged 5 to 12 months. After just three days of treatment, 55 percent of the children who had been given cooked green bananas and rice recovered, compared to only 15 percent of the children in the control group (who ate only rice). After four days, 78 percent of the banana babies were fine, but only 23 percent of the rice babies.

The researchers concluded that green bananas are great for treating children suffering from diarrhea. In addition, bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals, which can help replace nutrient losses caused by diarrhea.

Antioxidants reduce the risk of disease

According to a study at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, both the flesh and the skin of the banana are very rich in bioactive substances that have antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, strengthen the immune system and thus reduce the risk of various diseases such as arteriosclerosis and cancer. These include the u. Carotenoids (e.g. beta carotene), phytosterols, biogenic amines (e.g. dopamine), polyphenols (e.g. flavonoids)ulcers, and cancer.
English researchers studied a specific flavonoid found in bananas. It’s called leucocyanidin and has the ability to protect the stomach lining from damage, e.g. B. by aspirin. In addition, there is already quite a bit of evidence that this flavonoid counteracts stomach ulcers and can also relieve them.

Bananas also have anti-cancer properties. According to a Japanese study, the ripe fruit plays a key role here. These have a higher content of antioxidants and are therefore more effective against free radicals, stimulate the formation of white blood cells and strengthen the immune system. Yes, ripe bananas are said to boost the immune system 8 times more than unripe fruit.

Bananas are food for the nerves

Bananas are among the foods that contain most of the happiness hormone dopamine. Here, too, the ripe fruits have the edge. Analyzes at Kobe University in Japan have shown that the flesh of 100 grams of ripe bananas hides up to 10 milligrams of dopamine. Furthermore, bananas contain virtually all of the B-complex vitamins that are essential for the central nervous system (except for vitamin B12).

So it’s not surprising that bananas have long been used in traditional medicine to strengthen the nerves and fight depression. The banana peel even contains up to 560 milligrams of dopamine. Scientists, therefore, see great potential in it for preventing and curing diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Banana leaves instead of aluminum foil

Even though bananas are very popular in our latitudes, very little is known about the use of banana leaves, e.g. B. as a replacement for aluminum foil.

What to look out for when buying bananas

Since conventionally grown bananas are among the fruits that are most contaminated with pesticides, you should only use organic bananas. Also, look out for fair trade seals if you’re reluctant to participate in the exploitation of plantation workers.

When buying your organic bananas, consider whether you want to eat them when they are unripe or ripe, or when you need the fruit, because the green fruits ripen easily, so you could also buy grass-green bananas, which can be stored longer.

Since there is so much to report about cultivation and the criteria when buying bananas, we have a separate article on this: What you should pay attention to when buying bananas.

How to store bananas

How long bananas last depends on storage conditions. The exotic love an airy, cool, and dry place. Are bananas also hanging – e.g. B. on a hook – stored, they can be stored for up to two weeks. If a banana is about to become overripe, you can put it in the fruit and vegetable drawer of your fridge to keep it from going bad.

How to freeze bananas

You can also put bananas (peeled and cut into pieces) in a freezer bag and freeze them. Frozen bananas are good for baking and cooking, for smoothies or fruit sauces. You can also use a blender to quickly conjure up delicious ice cream. The frozen banana pieces are simply mixed until creamy. Add some lemon juice, some pieces of mango, or some ginger.

The banana peel is also edible

Tons of banana peels are thrown in the trash every day. To stop this waste, you can also just eat your banana peels. It just has to be organic bananas. Dishes such as pulled pork can be prepared very well from the banana peel – of course without pork, so the dish is then called a pulled peel. For information about banana peels, their nutritional value, and whether they’re as healthy as some say, read our article: Super-healthy plant parts that people often throw away.

The banana demonstrates diversity in the kitchen

Bananas are best enjoyed on their own or in the form of banana splits (with ice cream and chocolate sauce), but they also go wonderfully with mueslis, fruit salads, smoothies, and shakes. For banana milk, you can do without animal milk, try it e.g. B. with the delicious tiger nut milk, with oat milk or rice drink. Bananas are also delicious when cooked and baked.

A special cake is the so-called banana bread, which is a great source of energy for endurance sports. Another popular snack is banana chips. Traditionally, unripe bananas are sliced, fried in oil, and then dried.

The sweet exotic also harmonizes perfectly with spicy spices such as chili and gives hearty dishes such as curries a particularly fruity and aromatic note. The creamy banana gives chutneys, sauces, and soups a creamy consistency.

We wish you a lot of fun cooking and an excellent appetite!

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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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