By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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“Bananas come pre-packaged with fibre, nutrients and antioxidants.”
Banana is a very popular fruit in the world market and is consumed as staple food in many countries. It is grown worldwide and constitutes the fifth most important agricultural food crop in terms of world trade. It has been classified into the dessert or sweet bananas and the cooking bananas or plantains.
The medicinal properties of banana are part of the folk medicine of all tropical countries. Bananas are used in special diets where ease of digestibility, low fat, minerals and vitamins are required. These special diets are used for babies, the elderly and patients with stomach problems, gout, and arthritis. Anti-ulcerogenic properties of banana are reported. Green banana has antidiarrheal properties; it is traditionally used to cure dyspepsia. Flavonoids, carotenoids and polysaccharides from banana are recognized having health benefits for humans, acting in the digestive tract and in other organs, through antioxidant activities (1).
Banana as Foodstuff:
Banana is consumed and used under various ways:
- Raw at a full stage of maturity. Unripe, mature green, it is cooked prior to consumption and represents an important part of basic alimentation for significant population groups in producer countries.
- As a raw material in the making of a variety of household and regional products. Very few are found in the occidental mass-market type (2).
- The bananas provided the cyclists with antioxidants not found in sports drinks as well as a greater nutritional boost, including fibre, potassium and Vitamin B6, the study showed. In addition, bananas have a healthier blend of sugars than sports drinks (3).
- The children group studies showed that green banana pulp influenced both diarrhoea and constipation improvement. In healthy adults’ group, Green Banana Flour (GBF) increased satiety and influenced glucose homeostasis, as same as the Green Banana Pulp and Green Banana Starch. Considering type 2 diabetes adults, studies showed a reduction of body weight and increase insulin sensitivity with GBF consumption. Among overweight women, GBF consumption improved anthropometric (weight and body composition), lipid profile, and inflammatory parameters (4).
Banana as Source of Nutrients:
- Banana pulp is firm when the fruit is not ripe, but softens during maturation, so that a puree may be obtained simply by mashing with a fork. The pulp, comprising 75% water, is among the most calorie-rich (with 90 kcal/100 g) of non-oil fresh fruits. It contains approximately 20 g of carbohydrates in total per 100 g of fresh pulp, out of which fibre 2 g per 100 g fresh weight is useful for regulation of intestinal transit. In general, bananas are a good source of K, Mg, Cu, and Mn in the diet, but do not supply much vitamin C or vitamin A, relative to other fruits (5).
- Bananas are identified as relatively rich in pyridoxine (vit. B6) (6). There is some evidence that pyridoxine protects against cancer of the oesophagus (7). Pulp of bananas contains free phenolic compounds, mainly catechin and gallic acid (8). Bananas contain carotenoids: lutein, α- and β-carotene (9).
Medicinal Properties of Banana:
The medicinal properties of bananas are part of the folk medicine of all tropical countries. Bananas are useful for a number of medicinal applications, but poorly documented.
- Banana to Cure Intestinal Disorders and Anti-Ulcerogenic Properties (10)
Special Diets– Bananas are used in special diets where ease of digestibility, low fat, minerals and vitamin content are required. These special diets are used for babies, the elderly and patients with stomach problems, gout, and arthritis.
Antidiarrheal– Green banana possesses antidiarrheal effects; it is traditionally used to cure dyspepsia.
Anti-Ulcerogenic– Dessert banana is known to protect the gastric mucosa from aspirin-induced injury.
Treat Constipation– Banana has among the highest percentage of bound phenolic compounds (37.9%). These bound phytochemicals may be able to survive the stomach and small intestine digestion to reach the colon and be digested by bacteria flora to release phytochemicals locally to have health benefits. The therapeutic effect of banana to treat constipation may be due to the higher percentage of bound phytochemicals to reach the colon.
- Antioxidant Activity (11), (12)
Not only banana pulp, but pseudo stem and banana fruit peel have been found to be the good sources of antioxidants. Scientists have analysed the native banana pseudo-stem flour (NBPF) and tender core of pseudo-stem flour (TCBPF) for chemical and functional properties. They found higher content of polyphenols, flavonoids, total dietary fibre, insoluble dietary fibre, lignin, hemicellulose, cellulose, antioxidant capacity, and free-radical scavenging capacity in NBPF than TCBPF. In exhaustive reviews, scientists have reported that banana is rich in many bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, phenolic, amines, vitamin C, and vitamin E having antioxidant activities to provide many human health benefits.
- Compounds with Health Benefits Potential in Banana (13)
Banana contains various bioactive compounds such as phenolics, carotenoids, alkaloids, glycosides, phlobatannins, tannins, terpenoids, saponins, steroids, biogenic amines and phytosterols, which are highly desirable in diet as they exert health beneficial effects. These composites are helpful in protecting the body against oxidative stress due to their antioxidative activities, controlling gene expression in cell proliferation and apoptosis and important in controlling blood pressure.
Biggest myth about Banana- Banana is fattening! (14)
A study have demonstrated that NBS (Native Banana Starch) 24 g/day during 4 weeks lowers body weight and increases insulin sensitivity in a group of obese type 2 diabetics. NBS supplementation could be a cheap alternative to reduce body weight and improve glucose homeostasis on subjects with insulin resistance.
Eating a single banana can be a healthy snack, but if you add three large bananas to your regular daily food intake, you’ll be eating more than 350 extra calories. Whether or not you incorporate bananas into your meal plan will depend on your goals and if you like bananas. As a replacement for many less nutrient-dense snacks, they can be a healthful option.
- Vitamin B6. Leklem JE. In: Machlin L, ed. Handbook of Vitamins. New York: Marcel Decker Inc; 1991:341-378.