Bananas are the most popular fruit. On average we each eat one piece of bananas every day. There are hundreds of edible varieties that fall into two distinct species.
Bananas have a distinct shape and a firm but creamy flesh inside a thick, inedible peel, while people think of bananas as having yellow skin, their color changes from green to yellow, to brown (overripe).
Although it looks like a tree, the banana is actually a plant. The banana plant grows up to 15 meters and belongs to the same family as the lily and orchid. Bananas grow in clusters of 65-150, with individual bananas grouped in bunches known as ‘hands’ of 10-20 at a time.
The most popular type of banana is the large, yellow, smooth-skinned variety of sweet banana. This banana Musa sapienta varies in size and color and is usually eaten raw. The larger, green bananas are known as plantains. Plantain bananas are prepared in a similar way to vegetables in that they are usually cooked or fried.
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and supply vitamin B6, fiber and carbohydrate, and some vitamin C. Since they have a lower water content than most fruit, bananas typically have more calories as well as a higher sugar content compared to other non-tropical fruits.
A 100g serving provides 81kcal, 20.3g of carbohydrate, 1.4g fiber and 18.1g of natural sugar.
Unripe bananas have higher starch content. As they ripen, the starch is converted to sugar (and the fruit becomes sweeter). Green bananas are also a good source of pectin, which is a type of dietary fiber found in fruits and helps them keep their structural form. Pectin breaks down when a banana becomes overripe, which causes the fruit to become softer.
Bananas are loaded with valuable micronutrients, especially potassium. Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body, helping to regulate heart function as well as fluid balance – a key factor in regulating blood pressure. The effectiveness of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, in lowering blood pressure and protecting against heart disease and strokes is well accepted and bolstered by considerable scientific evidence.
Bananas are soothing to the gastrointestinal tract due to their high content of pectin – as soluble fiber that not only lowers cholesterol but normalizes bowel function. The high fiber content of bananas promotes satiety (feelings of fullness).
The resistant starch in bananas also has a periodic effect, helping to keep gut bacteria happy by increasing the production of short chain fatty acids for digestive health.
The inside of a banana skin can be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite - many people find that rubbing the bite with the skin helps to reduce irritation. – good food.