Banana is one of the most widely available and consumed fruit across the world, including India. It is said to be the nature's energy-rich fruit. Fresh, creamy, and delicious, bananas are regarded as the cheapest fruit. Readily available throughout the year, banana belongs to the family of Musaceae. It has four times protein, twice as many carbohydrates, three times as much phosphorus, five times as much vitamin A and iron, and minerals compared with other fruits in general and apple in particular. Considering the above nutritive, nutraceutical and therapeutic values, banana is regarded as the 'best value fruit'. Bananas come with nature-gifted, protective outer skin, and therefore less likely to be contaminated by germs and dust.
Commercially, it is one of the widely cultivated crops in the tropical and subtropical zones. Banana leaves are also used popularly in India as eating plates. Human beings have been getting nutrients from bananas as a source of food/fruit for the last several hundred years and, at present, it is the staple food of 400 million people of four continents from the highest to the lowest-income groups. Its texture, convenience and easiness to eat, taste as well as nutritional values are the testimonials for being number one dessert fruit.
Bananas come in different sizes (4-9inches), colour (yellow to brown), weight (70-150g) and taste. Structurally, it has a protective outer skin layer enveloping around delicious, sweet and tart, cream white edible flesh. Plantains are other cultivar types, often recognized as cooking bananas. They are intimately related to natural fruit (dessert) bananas. Plantains employed as a staple food in many parts of the world especially tropical African and Caribbean regions as well as in Thailand, Laos, and other Southeast Asian parts.
Nutritional and medicinal value of banana
Banana is an exceptionally nutritious fruit. The most important contents of ripe banana fruit are three natural sugars: glucose, fructose and sucrose in addition to starch. The sugars constitute between 17-20% of the total carbohydrate of the fruit in the approximate ratio of 20:15:65 with small amount of maltose. As a starchy fruit, it supplies about 1.25 g protein from 100 g pulp and contains 9 mg tryptophan, an essential amino acid and 400 mg aspartic and glutamic acids, which are not essential amino acids. The fat content in the pulp is only around 0.5% and do not contribute much to the energy source.
A ripe banana fruit is a source of 10 vitamins and is a rich source of vitamins A (carotene) and C (ascorbic acid) and good source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B9 (folic acid). The (3-carotene (precursor of vitamin A) level is around 350 lig among the popular banana cultivars but the Cavendish (Grand Naine) fruit contains only 75 pig of (3-carotene in 100 g pulp. However, Red Banana and Nendran fruits contain more than 1000 gg 13-carotene, which are considered as carotenoid-rich bananas.
Mineral contents of a banana fruit is 0.8% and the predominant minerals are: potassium (450 mg), calcium (10 mg), phosphorus (25 mg) and magnesium (40 mg) in 100 g edible portion. A Grand Naine fruit is rich in calcium with 140 mg. Banana fruits are very low in sodium content.
A medium size (100 g) banana fruit provides about 7.3 (20)% vitamin A, 8% vitamin B5, 20% vitamin B6, 12.5% vitamin B9, 50% vitamin C, 13% potassium and 23% calcium of Recommended Dietary Allowance of a day.
Nutritional composition (proximate level) of banana fruit (per 100 g edible portion)
Component Quantity RDA (ICMR)/Day % Daily Value
Sodium (mg) 1 2000 0.05
Iron (mg) 0.4 19 2.1
Zinc (mg) 0.15 11 1.4
Selenium (µg) 1.2 40 3
RDA - Recommended Dietary Allowance; ICMR - Indian Council of Medical Research
*Grand Naine fruit contains only 75 µg (3-carotene; **Red Banana and Nendran fruits contain 1000 lug /3-carotene. * Grand Naine fruit contains 140 mg calcium.
Banana has very high nutraceutical value. Banana fruit has two potent nutraceuticals viz., flavonoids and fructans. Flavonoids are antioxidant phytonutrients. A 100 g edible portion of fruit contains 60 mg flavonoids; however, peel is a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids with 310 mg.
The main flavonoids present in the banana fruits include, gallocatechin, catechin and epicatechin. Of these, gallocatechin has greatest antioxidant activity and the edible pulp contains around 10 mg gallocatechin and the peel, being the richest source of flavonoids, contains 55 mg. Flavonoids protect against coronary heart disease by reduction of low density lipoprotein, scavenging of free radicals, sequestrating of metal ions and reducing thrombotic tendencies.
Since peel is a richer source of natural antioxidants, it can be termed as a 'functional food' and should be utilized without discarding. Fructans (fructo-oligosaccharides) are soluble but indigestible non-starch polysaccharide that functions as dietary fiber. Banana fruit contains about 2.7 g dietary fiber and 0.3 g fructans in 100 g edible portion of the fruit. Fructans prevent internal intestinal lining from attracting bacteria that contribute to the inflammation in bowel and aids in normal bowel movement. The fiber decreases the accumulation of triglycerides and increases calcium and magnesium absorption in the intestine. It also prevents colon carcinogenesis and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Nutraceutical contents (proximate level) of banana fruit
Total flavonoids (mg) 60 310
Gallocatechin (mg) 10 55
Catechin (mg) 08 40
Epicatechin (mg) 08 45
Dietary fiber (g) 2.7 (0.3)
Value in parenthesis is fructo-oligosaccharides (fructans) content.
The important medicinal and therapeutic values of banana:
• Ripe banana is rapidly digestible foods and bioavailability of nutrients from banana fruit is very high and gives instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.
• Banana has natural antacid property that neutralizes over-acidity and it reduces heartburn and irritation of the stomach. It is suggested to be eaten as raw fruit without distress in over-chronicler cases.
• The high carbohydrate and low fat makes it suitable food of infants, obese and geriatric patients and people suffering from intestinal disorders.
• Banana is always the number one choice of athletes to maintain adequate levels of blood sugar for muscle action.
• Snacking on bananas helps to overcome morning sickness and high fiber content of bananas helps in normal bowel action.
• Tryptophan in banana is converted into serotonin and norepinephrin, which are neurotransmitters and have positive mood-enhancing effect. Apart from this, bananas are useful for the treatment of peptic ulcers, infant diarrhea and colitis.
• Banana has angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and arrest release of angiotensin-2 responsible for constriction of blood vessels and rise in blood pressure.
• B - vitamins of bananas help to calm the nervous system and Vitamin B6 present in banana helps in regulating blood glucose levels and emotional condition.
• Presence of Vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium in bananas help the people to give up smoking and recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
• Potassium-rich and sodium-poor bananas keep the hypertension and stroke under check. Potassium normalizes the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates the water balance of the body.
• Potassium reduction in the body due to stress condition can be replenished with potassium-rich bananas.
• Potassium-packed banana has excellent 'brain power', assists in learning and make strong mental alertness.
• It is known that the banana protein inhibits AIDS virus.
• Rubbing of banana peel is a home remedy for reducing the irritation and swelling of mosquito bites and warts.
• Banana is a 'cooling' fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of the expectant mothers.
Methodology for use:
• Banana can be eaten without any additions.
• Banana fruit sections are the best components of various types of fruit salads.
• Fresh "banana-milkshake" with sugar syrup is a great refreshing drink.
• Bananas have also been used to prepare fruit jams and wines.
• Grilled banana fruit can be served with cake/ ice cream in the desert.
• Banana chips are enjoyed as a snack (produced from dehydrated or fried banana or plantain slices).
• Mashed ripe banana fruits are added to cakes, casseroles, muffins, bread-pudding, etc.
• Plantains and raw unripe banana are used as a vegetable in recipes.
Author: Dr. Ashok S. Alur, Special Officer–Regional Office of University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkot