At a Glance
- Bananas are a very important source of key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
- While many throw banana peel away, people in some countries choose to eat the skin for its health properties.
- Although not all experts agree, there’s scientific evidence to suggest that eating banana peel can be beneficial to health in many ways.
What do you mean you’ve never considered a good munch on the peel from a banana before chopping up the contents and adding them to your beautiful fruit salad…??
In truth, neither have I…until recently, that is. Although many people eat the skin of many different varieties of fruit and vegetables, like apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes, when it comes to bananas, my guess is the vast majority of people just toss them in the trash.
In many other countries, like India, and in some parts of Asia, however, people actively choose to consume banana peel, and there may be some valid reasons why we might also choose to do the same.
Read on to discover more about how to eat banana peel, and what the research says about why we should consider it.
What Is in a Banana?
The humble banana is a veritable reservoir of goodness and nutrition. One medium banana contains just over a hundred calories, with most of them coming from carbohydrate, plus a little protein, fat and approximately 12 percent of our recommended daily intake of fiber.
Bananas are also loaded with vitamins and minerals—most of the B vitamins, plus vitamin C and a little of vitamins A, E and K, potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
Besides the vitamins and minerals they have to offer, fruit and vegetable also contain chemical compounds called phytonutrients. They’re part of the plant’s natural defense system against disease, damage from UV rays and insect attacks, and also give plants their colors and flavors.
Why Eat the Peel?
The peel itself not only contains more of these fabulous nutrients; it also contains some other quite potent stuff. Pretty much everyone agrees that banana peel is loaded with a wide range of nutrients. Some experts, however, hold the view that many of the nutrients in banana skin may not be easily absorbed by the body, there are research studies to suggest otherwise.
Go Bananas For Fiber
Weight for weight, banana peel contains more fiber than banana flesh. Banana peel is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber which can help to slow down the time it takes for digestion to occur.
Not only does this keep the stomach feeling fuller for longer, but also maximizes the nutrient uptake from the foods we eat. Not only this, the insoluble fiber—the fiber that’s not broken down by the digestive process—provides a great source of food for the good bacteria which populates the gut. This is what’s known as a prebiotic food.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Banana skin is rich in vitamin A and lutein, which both help to improve eye health, such as protecting against cataracts and macular degeneration; a condition which affects a high percentage of the aging population.
Banana peel also contains tryptophan, which helps to increase the levels of serotonin in the body, and has been linked with improvements in mood and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A research study using non-human subjects fed with banana peel and pulp observed a marked decrease in anxiety and symptoms of depression. In addition, the researchers also observed improved memory function.
Helps Keep Nervous System Healthy
Every single function in the body depends on the healthy functioning of the nervous system. This includes maintaining regular breathing and keeping the heart beating.
The nervous system operates by the sending and receiving of electrical signals to keep the brain informed about what’s happening and make any necessary changes in our internal environment.
To send a signal in the nervous system, an electrical impulse is generated near the main control center of the nerve which triggers a wave of exchanging sodium and potassium ions along the length of the nerve.
Banana peel contains lots of potassium which can be used in nerve transmission, but is also used to help keep the correct balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body, regulate heart function and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidant Banana Peel Power
Bananas contain high levels of phytochemicals like polyphenols and carotenoids—antioxidants that help to neutralize potentially harmful free radical chemicals in the body and help to decrease the risk of some cancers.
Research suggests that in most fresh produce, the highest concentrations of phytochemicals are to be found just under the surface of the skin, so eating the peel of a banana will likely increase the amount of phytochemicals you consume, boosting the antioxidant capacity and other health benefits.
Eating banana peel is great for the environment too. The skin of a banana makes up a considerable proportion of the overall mass. By eating the peel rather than throwing it in the trash, you’re helping to reduce the amount of waste produced by your household.
According to government data, the average person in the U.S. consumes just under 11.5 pounds of bananas in one year, which equates to somewhere around 12 billion bananas consumed in the U.S. annually.
That’s a lot of bananas, and also a lot of waste! While some people might compost their banana peels, and some gets used in making fertilizers, the majority goes off to landfill sites.
The more banana peel that’s consumed, the less ends up taking up space in landfill sites, which is always a good thing.
What Does Banana Peel Taste Like?
This depends on how ripe the peel is. The skin of under-ripe, green bananas has quite a bittersweet flavor, and due to the tannins, it has a dry aftertaste, similar to that of heavily brewed tea. As bananas ripen, the peel gradually becomes sweeter, and loses much of the dry aftertaste.
This is due to a hormone called ethylene, naturally present in the fruit which is released as the fruit ripens. The ethylene reacts with some of the sugars in the banana peel and causes the complex sugars to be broken down into simple sugars. It also interacts with some of the fiber, such as pectin, which has the effect of softening the fruit.
Banana peel also tends to be pretty chewy, and this can make it unpalatable for some people. As it ripens, however, the skin does soften somewhat, making it less chewy and easier to digest.
Ways to Eat Banana Peel
If you want to give banana peel a try, and include some in your diet, you don’t have to munch on a whole lone skin—although it’s perfectly safe to do so if the mood takes you.
There are lots of ways you can use it in all kinds of different recipes. For example, you could trim a banana at the top and bottom and add the whole fruit to a smoothie, along with other fruit and vegetables—the combinations are endless!
Other options include adding the whole pureed fruit to pancake batter or a cake mix, or baking and eating the whole fruit. Heating or cooking the banana skin breaks down some of the fiber and makes the texture much more palatable. Banana peel can also be blended and added to soups, stews and curries, where it tends to add a sweet and sour flavor.
However you plan to consume your banana peel, you must make sure you wash it well to remove any bacteria and pesticides from the outer surface of the skin.
The FDA recommends washing fresh produce under clean running water, and scrubbing firm skin like banana skin well before drying with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Eating banana peel may not be the first idea that pops into your head when you want a snack, but it does appear to have some significant health benefits. It may not be as tasty as the flesh inside, but it can potentially provide a big boost when it comes to nutrients.
Banana peel is high in fiber, and contains the two main different types of fiber we need to help keep our digestive system healthy, as well as lots of different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
There’s research to suggest that eating banana peel may help to improve the nervous system and mental health, help to keep the eyes healthy, and contains high levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
The one thing everyone agrees on is that banana skin is safe to eat, so given the potential health benefits and the positive effects on the environment, it’s definitely worth considering trying out a whole banana in a smoothie, or maybe in some pancakes, to see what you think!