Years ago, you could only enjoy the tropical sweetness of a banana if you lived in a port city, because the Malaysian delicacy was too fragile to transport over land. Today, even many gas stations have baskets of bananas available for weary travelers needing a nutritional boost. Because they’re so common now, it might be easy to overlook this fruit, but it’s still a vital part of a healthy diet.
Eating a raw banana might be the simpler choice, but consider new ways to add it to your menu. Sauté sliced bananas with a pat of fresh cream butter and cinnamon—the bananas will caramelize and provide you with a decadent dessert. Add chunks of bananas to a kabob packed with pineapple cubes, red peppers squares, and turkey sausage rounds for a delicious grilled meal. And when you’re in need of comfort, few midnight snacks come close to the taste of toasted whole wheat bread topped with peanut butter and sliced bananas and drizzled with honey.
The banana found in most grocery stores is the Cavendish, a bright yellow crescent found gathered four-to-seven in a bunch, or loose in a bin. A banana ranges in size from a small 4-inch length up to a large 10 inches.
Some specialty stores also carry the smaller Dwarf, Baby, or Finger varieties, which are only 3 to 4 inches long, and sweeter than the Cavendish.
The most common yellow banana, Cavendish, has a creamy sweetness, which varies based on the degree of ripeness and sugar content. Some people prefer the firm, slightly starchy taste to balance the sweet, while other people go for the puckering, nearly overripe sweet flavor. How you choose to eat bananas and what recipes you add them to really determines the profile.
Refrigerated transport allows for bananas to be readily available in all grocery stores.
Common yellow bananas are available all year long throughout the US and Europe.
Bananas continue to ripen off the vine, so buying green bananas is perfectly fine—they’ll just need an extra couple of days on your counter to arrive at your perfect taste. If you’re baking banana bread or other desserts, buying browned bananas is also fine, because while the fruit may be slightly overripe, it will add concentrated flavor to your sweet treats.
Avoid fruit with fuzz on the stem, or splits in the peel.
Some studies indicate that organic fruits have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised fruits. While most conventionally grown bananas don’t require pesticides, they are treated with fungicide to prevent mold, which is not an approved process for organic growers.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue, so the fruit is less affected than the exterior. Bananas rank at #35 on the EWG produce list, placing them a little closer to the EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list. However, choose organic fruit if fungicide exposure is a concern for you.
The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Bananas keep well at room temperature for up to one week. If your bananas are slightly green, you can encourage ripening by wrapping them in newspaper or placing them in a paper bag.
Do not store unripe bananas in the refrigerator, as the starch will never convert to sugar. However, you can keep ripe bananas in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The peels may darken, but the fruit is still good.
Consider freezing ripe bananas as well to maintain freshness for baked goods and smoothies. Store them in a freezer-safe plastic bag for up to six months.
Bananas keep it simple: just peel and eat! Slice as needed to add to your favorite dishes. If you’re making a fresh fruit salad, you can prevent the banana slices from browning by spritzing them with fresh lemon juice.
Amino acids and lipids are the main nutrients metabolized by vitamin B6, helping to promote proper energy levels throughout the body. It is also an important aspect of the formation of hemoglobin and neurotransmitters, protecting both the cardiovascular system and brain.
Far more than protecting the body from the common cold, this immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Builds muscle, and maintains normal body growth, as well as heart and respiratory health.
Magnesium is responsible for promoting cardiovascular health, muscle contraction and relaxation, energy production, and proper bone formation. This essential nutrient may also be helpful in regulating healthy blood-sugar levels, decreasing the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
Bananas are renowned for high levels of potassium and manganese, but they’re also a superfood because of more than 30 percent of your daily requirement of B6, which aids in heart and brain health, and revitalizes energy. The resistant starch of bananas may also act as a prebiotic, encouraging proper digestive health. Some studies purport this same starch might also improve metabolism.
There are also properties in banana peels that help relieve the discomfort of insect bites, poison ivy, scrapes, and burns.
- The most common banana in supermarkets is the big yellow Cavendish, but keep an eye out for other varieties in specialty markets such as Burro, Blue Java, Red, Orinoco, and Finger.
- You can use the inside of banana peels to polish silver, leather shoes, or the leaves of houseplants.
- Bananas float in water.