Banana is the second most consumed fruit in the world, with more than 130 million tonnes of production yearly. It is a fruit loved by almost everyone due to its easiness of use – you just peel and enjoy! What makes it even more popular around the world is the ton of benefits and medicinal values it possess. It is especially beneficial in improving digestive function, relieving constipation, aiding weight loss, improving heart health, and preventing kidney disorders.
Botanical name: Musa paradisiaca, Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana
Botanical family: Musaceae
There are numerous varieties of banana, but almost all the modern edible bananas come from two wild species, Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Banana species are said to be native to tropical Indomalaya and Australia. They are grown in more than 130 countries, mainly for their edible fruits, and to a lesser extent as ornamental plants and fiber source. Bananas grow in bunches that may weight as much as 50 kg and contain as many as 300 pieces.
Bananas have a long history of use in medicine. Their astringent, emollient, laxative, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac, and demulcent properties make them to be used against numerous diseases and disorders. They are used to relieve constipation due to their laxative effect. They are also used to fight anemia due to iron deficiency.
Almost all parts of banana are used in traditional medicine. Its flowers are used to fight bronchitis, dysentery, and ulcers. Cooked ones are also given to the diabetics. Young leaves are made into poultice to fight burns and skin afflictions. The roots are administered to fight digestive disorders. The plant sap, which is astringent in nature, is used in cases of epilepsy, fevers, hemorrhages, leprosy, and diarrhea. The peel and pulp of fully ripe bananas are used as anti-fungal and anti-bacteria (1).
- Banana contains carbohydrates in high amounts, it represents about 22% of its total content. When bananas are cut off from their parent tree unripe, they are made up of primarily starch. When they become ripen, the starch converts to sugars such as glucose, saccharose, and fructose.
The starch presence in unripe bananas causes flatulence and indigestion. That is why consumption of raw unripe bananas is not recommended.
- Proteins and fats are contained in bananas in negligible amounts, representing about 1.09% and 0.33% respectively of its total content.
- Bananas are significantly rich in minerals. It contains reasonable amounts of potassium, iron and magnesium. The good amounts of potassium in bananas makes them among the best fresh-fruit sources for this mineral.
- Vitamins present in banana in reasonable amounts include vitamin C, and most B-group vitamins. Vitamin B6 is the richest vitamin in banana. Just three medium sized bananas can provide the daily recommended dietary allowance for this vitamin.
- Banana contains vegetable fiber in significant amounts both soluble and insoluble. The presence of this fiber is attributed to bananas cholesterol-lowering effect as well as its intestinal-soothing effect.
- Another important substance known as serotonin is found in banana. This substance is attributed to various properties of banana, such as relieving of pain in the spinal cord, and vasodilation of the arteries.
Evidence-based benefits and medicinal uses of banana
- Improves digestion and prevents digestive disorders
- Protects the cardiovascular system
- Fights arthritis and gout
- Prevents kidney disorders
- Fights iron-deficiency anemia
- Aids weight loss
- Fights stomach ulcers
Bananas have the ability to improve the overall functioning of the digestive system. This is due to their fiber content, which is present in both soluble and insoluble forms. Fiber on numerous occasions has been proven by scientist to have beneficial effects on the digestive system. It can stimulate the peristaltic action of the gut – which can help fight constipation by facilitating the movement of stool down the colon.
Fiber also stimulates the production of digestive juices, which help break down food particles. Its presence in the gut also improves the growth and proliferation of beneficial microorganisms, where the resistant starch found in it serves as food for these organisms (2).
So, the consumption of one or two bananas a day can help improve the way your body digest and assimilate food materials, since these fruits are significantly rich in fiber.
There are several reasons why banana is considered an ideal food for those suffering from cardiovascular disorders or even those who want to prevent it. The following are some reasons:
- Banana contains B group vitamins which are required for the production of energy within the heart muscle.
- It contains magnesium which stops arteriosclerosis and prevents heart attack (3).
- It contains high amounts of vegetable fiber which helps lower cholesterol level. Excess cholesterol in the body can buildup in blood vessels, and eventually block the flow of blood to vital organs such as heart and brain. Situations that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
- It contains high amount of potassium and low amount of sodium. Bananas are known to have the highest amount of potassium in ratio to sodium among all fruits and vegetables. As already known, a diet rich in potassium and low in sodium prevents arterial hypertension, stroke, arrhythmia, and cancer (4).
- It contains serotonin, which acts as a vasodilator, and helps prevent coronary disease.
Arthritis and gout
Bananas may be found beneficial in cases of uric arthritis and gout. Its consumption helps alkalize the blood, which in turn neutralize and eliminate the excess uric acid that causes arthritis and gout. Moreover, bananas contain significant amounts of folic acid, which also helps lower the level of uric acid in the body.
Bananas also contain reasonable amounts of vitamin C, which has been associated with a reduced risk for gout by numerous scientific researches (5).
Just as magnesium is important for proper functioning of the heart, potassium is needed for a healthy kidney function and blood pressure control. Also, bananas may be found very beneficial in cases where treatment requiring a very low sodium diet is called for. Thus, people suffering from kidney dailure, edema, and nephrosis may find bananas even more beneficial.
The consumption of bananas may be found beneficial in cases of iron-deficiency anemia. As seen above, banana contains significant amounts of iron which can be an ideal source of iron for the body. Moreover, banana contains copper. Iron is directly involved in the production of red blood cells, while copper and vitamin C assists its absorption into the body.
The relationship between copper and iron is very profound. In fact, there are cases where iron-deficiency anemia cannot be relieved by the consumption of iron but can be successfully treated by the consumption of copper (6).
Bananas have been recommended by numerous health experts to aid weight loss. This is probably due to their low calorie and fat content, and also high fiber content. Bananas have just the perfect characteristic of a weight-lose food. Fiber has been found by numerous researches to help reduce total food intake, due to their satiating effects on the human body (7).
Bananas have been appreciated for their antacid effect for a very long time. They can soothe the stomach lining and suppress acid secretion. They also contain a flavonoid known as leucocyanidin, which has been found to significantly increase the thickness of the stomach’s mucous memebrane (8).