BANANAS – A NUTRITIOUS FRUIT*
Bananas are the edible fruit produced by several species and strains of large herbaceous flowering plants in the genus Musa. Unlike other fruits that grow on trees, bananas grow on plants, even though often referred to as banana trees. Almost all modern edible seedless (parthenocarpic) bananas originate from two wild species - Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Musa species are native to tropical South and Southeast Asia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. There are now some 500 banana varieties in the world, all shapes and sizes, from small finger fruits to larger fruits. In 2013, bananas were fourth among the main world food crops (after rice, wheat and maize or corn) in financial value.
The banana fruit is variable in size, colour and firmness, but is usually curved, with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind which may be green, and when ripe yellow or less commonly red, purple or brown. Yellow is the most typical ripe colour. The fruits grow in clusters, hanging from the top of the plant.
Plantains are a close cousin of bananas. They also belong to the genus Musa and are native to India. Plantains are bigger and firmer than bananas and lower in sugar content. They look like and smell like bananas and to an untrained eye could easily be mistaken for bananas. They cannot be eaten raw and must be cooked for consumption. They are a staple food in tropical regions of the world, and can be eaten in any stages of ripeness.
|Eaten as a fruit||Used as a vegetable|
|Shorter than a plantain||Longer than a banana|
|Thinner skin||Thicker skin|
|Colour is green when not fully ripe, yellow when ripe||Resemble green bananas, but may be green, yellow or black|
Nutritional Value of Bananas (per 100g) (from USDA Nutrient Database)
|Energy||371kJ (89 kcal)|
|Dietary fibre||2.6 g|
Health Benefits of Bananas
The carbohydrates and sugars give a sustained and substantial boost of energy. The riper the banana, the quicker it is digested and converted to energy, making ripe bananas useful during physical activity such as sport.
· Antioxidant Action
Scientific research papers confirm that bananas have significant antioxidant properties. Thus they assist in protecting against the adverse effects of free radicals.
Bananas are said to be the best fruit source of vitamin B6. 100g of banana provides about a third of the RDA of this vitamin. They also have moderate amounts of vitamin C and the other B vitamins.
· Minerals and Trace Elements
Minerals and trace elements include potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc. The levels of potassium are high (358 mg per 100g) in contrast to very low sodium levels (1 mg per 100g).
· Blood pressure
It has been shown that a diet high in potassium and low in sodium helps keep blood pressure normal. Bananas, with their very high potassium content, and being essentially salt (sodium) free, assist in blood pressure control.
· Glycaemic Index
The glycaemic index of unripe bananas is 30 and that of ripe bananas is 58. Thus they are a low glycaemic food, meaning the release of glucose is gradual and does not lead to high blood sugar (glucose) levels.
100g of banana provides 2.6 g of dietary fibre, which assists in bowel regularity.
· Weight control
Bananas have a high satiety index, ie they are filling for the amount of kilojoules they provide. Four bananas have the same number of kilojoules as a medium serving of French fries, yet they are so much more filling. Bananas are fat and cholesterol free.
Harvesting and Ripening of Bananas
Commercially, bananas are harvested green because they continue to ripen after they are picked. They are then transported at around 15 degrees Celsius to maintain their "hard green" status en route to the warehouse and ripening facility. They are then placed in the ripening room for conditioning to a customer's specific colour. There is good airflow and constant temperature in the ripening rooms, which creates a controlled environment that replicates the climate conditions (heat and humidity) where the bananas were grown and would have ripened naturally. The air in these rooms is heated to around 17 degrees which causes the bananas to start to respire. The combination of warm air and the introduction of ethylene (the gas bananas and other fruits naturally give off as they ripen) starts the ripening process. The flesh gets softer and the skin turns towards a yellow colour. The ripening process continues for the next 7-10 days. As the bananas ripen, they give off significant quantities of ethylene, which continues the ripening process. Once ripened, they are then transported to the wholesale markets. Of course, the best bananas are those ripened naturally on the plant.
The major differences between conventional and organic bananas are that conventional bananas are grown with synthetic fertilisers and insecticides and herbicides to protect crops from mould, bugs and disease. Organic farmers use natural fertilisers such as manure and seaweed, insect predators and barriers to prevent pests, and they weed by hand or mulch in order to prevent weeds. Understandably, organic bananas are more expensive.
Wax Tip Eco Bananas
Wax Tip Eco Bananas are grown under an ecoganic ™ certified system. This system dictates “that, among other measures, NO insecticides are used for Banana Bell injection; NO nematicides, insecticides or miticides are used on the soil; and minimum fertiliser are used – producing a more natural growing cycle”. In Australia, these are identified by having their tips dipped in red food-grade wax.
Bananas should be part of everyday nutrition, for the reasons set out above. It is not recommended to eat 30 a day as one web site suggests (www.30banansaday.com)! However, one to two each day is health beneficial, as well as being enjoyable and satisfying.
*Copyright 2014: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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