Edible bananas originated in the Indo-Malaysian region reaching to northern Australia. They were known only by hearsay in the Mediterranean region in the 3rd Century B.C., and are believed to have been first carried to Europe in the 10th Century A.D. Early in the 16th Century, Portuguese mariners transported the plant from the West African coast to South America. The types found in cultivation in the Pacific have been traced to eastern Indonesia from where they spread to the Marquesas and by stages to Hawaii.
There are two main varieties of bananas, the fruit or sweet banana and the plantain. The fruit banana is eaten raw out of hand when it turns yellow and develops a succulent sweetness with a soft, smooth, creamy, yet firm pulp. The plantain, a cooking banana, is also referred to as the meal, vegetable or horse banana. Plantains have lower water content, making them drier and starchier than fruit bananas. Bananas and plantains are today grown in every humid tropical region and constitute the 4th largest fruit crop of the world, following the grape, citrus fruits and the apple. World production is estimated to be 28 million tons—65% from Latin America, 27 % from Southeast Asia, and 7 % from Africa. One-fifth of the crop is exported to Europe, Canada, the United States and Japan as fresh fruit. India is the leading banana producer in Asia. The crop from 400,000 acres (161,878 ha) is entirely for domestic consumption. Indonesia produces over 2 million tons annually, the Philippines about 1/2 million tons, exporting mostly to Japan. Taiwan raises over 1/2 million tons for export. Tropical Africa (principally the Ivory Coast and Somalia) grows nearly 9 million tons of bananas each year and exports large quantities to Europe.
There is a wealth of information available on various uses of banana. The present article is organized to serve as a guide to various benefits of this amazing present from the plant kingdom to human kind.
The Banana is one of the most popular fruits, ideal for any age group. They are natural no fuss, sealed in their own wrapper providing a versatile fruit for a snack, dessert, cooking or for blending into nutritional milk shakes. Banana is eaten in many ways and has plenty of nutritional and medicinal benefits. The ripe banana is utilized in a multitude of ways in the human diet—from simply being peeled and eaten out of-hand to being sliced and served in fruit cups and salads, sandwiches, custards and gelatins; being mashed and incorporated into ice cream, bread, muffins, and cream pies. Banana puree is important as infant food. There are plenty of mouth watering banana recipes available for those who relish the taste of this fruit / vegetable.
Because of their impressive potassium content, bananas are highly recommended by doctors for patients whose potassium is low. One large banana, about 9 inches in length, packs 602 mg of potassium and only carries 140 calories. That same large banana even has 2 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. No wonder the banana was considered an important food to boost the health of malnourished children
Those reducing sodium in their diets can’t go wrong with a banana with its mere 2 mgs of sodium. For the carbohydrate counters there are 36 grams of carbohydrates in a large banana.
The other banana nutrition facts are also quite impressive. Vitamins and minerals are abundant in the banana, offering 123 I.U. of vitamin A for the large size. Banana also has a full range of B vitamins with .07 mg of Thiamine, .15 mg of Riboflavin, .82 mg Niacin, .88 mg vitamin B6, and 29 mcg of Folic Acid. There is even 13.8 mg of vitamin C. On the mineral scale Calcium counts in at 9.2 mg, Magnesium 44.1 mg, with trace amounts of iron and zinc.
Putting all of the nutritional figures together clearly shows the banana is among the healthiest of fruits. The plantain, when cooked, rates slightly higher on the nutritional scale in vitamins and minerals but similar to the banana in protein and fiber content.
Medicinal Uses: All parts of the banana plant have medicinal applications: the flowers in bronchitis and dysentery and on ulcers; cooked flowers are given to diabetics; the astringent plant sap in cases of hysteria, epilepsy, leprosy, fevers, hemorrhages, acute dysentery and diarrhea, and it is applied on hemorrhoids, insect and other stings and bites; young leaves are placed as poultices on burns and other skin afflictions; the astringent ashes of the unripe peel and of the leaves are taken in dysentery and diarrhea and used for treating malignant ulcers; the roots are administered in digestive disorders, dysentery and other ailments; banana seed mucilage is given in cases of diarrhea in India.
Antifungal and antibiotic principles are found in the peel and pulp of fully ripe bananas. The antibiotic acts against Mycobacteria. A fungicide in the peel and pulp of green fruits is active against a fungus disease of tomato plants. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are also present in the ripe peel and pulp. The first two elevate blood pressure; serotonin inhibits gastric secretion and stimulates the smooth muscle of the intestines.
Alleged hallucinogenic effects of the smoke of burning banana peel have been investigated scientifically and have not been confirmed.
Some of the specific diseases known to be cured by banana are:Anaemia: High in iron, bananas are believed to stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anaemia.
Blood Pressure: Banana is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect food for helping to beat blood pressure. Even the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the ability of banana to lower the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
Brain Power: A study on 200 students at an English school showed that eating bananas at breakfast, break and lunch improved their brainpower. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.
Constipation: High in fibre, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.
Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.
Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.
Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.
Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
Overweight and at work: Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods such as bananas every two hours to keep levels steady.
PMS: It is recommended that eating a banana works much better in PMS than popping in the pills. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can positively affect your mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer, trypotophan.
Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking, as the high levels of Vitamin C, A1, B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body s water-balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.
Strokes: According to a research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!
Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a cooling fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.
Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that, if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!