Whether as a quick snack, cut up and tossed in the blender for a fruit shake, or used to make fries or pancakes, most people enjoy bananas. Bananas are such a staple food that most of us don’t stop to think about their tropical origins or their nutritional values. Next time you enjoy a banana, consider these.
Banana plants are herbaceous perennials. They are mostly foliage, with stems made of rolled leaf layers. The plant leaves, which are up to 9 feet long and 2 feet wide, unfurl from these stalks. Banana plants are a common fruit crop. In some areas, gardeners grow them for ornamental reasons. But banana leaves also offer nutritional and medicinal benefits in addition to having other value.
Fresh green banana leaves are very beneficial for the body, especially in skin care. Here are some of the benefits of banana leaves for the skin.
- Juice of banana leaves treat a small wound on the skin and other skin disorders such as dandruff and eczema. You can also soak the leaves with cold water and dab on sunburned skin.
- Banana leaves have medicinal properties that can relieve poisonous insect bites, bee stings, spider bites, rashes, skin irritation. The leaves are popularly known as a natural eraser.
- Cosmetic creams and lotions contain expensive active ingredient called Allantoin which are found on banana leaves. Allantoin helps faster healing, kills germs, and stimulates new skin cell growth.
- Natural ointment made using fresh banana leaf extract, olive oil, and a little beeswax can be an effective medicine for infants. This natural ointment can heal diaper rash and mosquito bites.
- Ice cubes rolled up in banana leaves can be massaged into the skin. This relaxes the skin and reduces stress.
- Banana leaves are also available in capsule form (supplement/liquid extract). It may be taken every day for protection from stains, and for a glowing skin.
For Meals: The wrapped banana leaves that form the plant’s stem contain starch, which is extracted through a fermentation or cooking process. People in some parts of the world use the resulting flour for baking. The starch is also cooked into glue.
For Healing: As a home remedy, banana-leaf poultices help to heal burns and other skin irritations, according to Purdue University, which adds that individuals suffering from, ulcers, diarrhea or dysentery may ingest the leaf ashes as a treatment for their condition. Check with your doctor before trying this approach.
For Protection: People in South America and other areas of the world use banana leaves as umbrella during rain and to provide protection from the hot sun, according to Purdue University.
For the Garden and Beyond: Chopped up banana leaves, including the plant’s stem, serve as mulching material. Whole leaves protect other crops from the hot sun. People fold banana leaves into planters, use it as heavy-duty paper or use the fiber to make rope, string and baskets. Ecuadorians use the leaves for seat cushions; West Africans make fishing lines with the fiber. In the Philippines, people weave banana leaves into clothing; in Ceylon, they use the leaves to make the soles of shoes.
For Cooking: Steaming rice, vegetables, fish or meat in banana leaves can preserve the food’s flavor and moisture without adding fat or calories. Fresh or frozen banana leaves are available in Asian markets. Cut the leaves to the desired size, removing veins or other toughened areas. Leaves will be softer and easier to roll if you quickly pour boiling water over them before wrapping the food, registered dietitian Nancy Berkoff advises. Frozen leaves may become soggy if you thaw them for longer than five minutes. To infuse food with the flavor of banana leaves, Berkoff recommends holding the leaves briefly over the burner of your stove for no more than a few seconds.
Here are some health benefits of banana peel, so do not throw it away the next time you plop a banana in your mouth.
1. Skin Treatments – The banana peel is good in treating the skin if you are allergic to any sort of food. All you have to do is rub the skin on the affected part of the body and wash it off when it is slightly dry. Using it in the night is more appropriate. The health benefits of banana peel can also be used to get rid of acne.
2. Psoriasis – This is the most common skin ailment. The healing power of banana peel is such that when the peel is rubbed on the skin, it gets healed naturally. You will notice your skin turning red when you first apply the peel but gradually on regular use you will find the difference.
3. Warts – It is said that to get rid of these nasty marks on the skin, applying banana peel is the best way. It will help get rid of warts in about 10 days.
4. Wounds – The next time your child falls down and gets his/her knees injured, all you have to do is to rub the banana peel over the area. Banana peel helps the wound to get dry faster with the scab formation. It also prevents the wound from leaving a mark.
5. Headaches – Surprised? Yes, it can treat headaches too. The banana peel has to be mashed properly and applied to the forehead to cure aching headaches.
6. Mosquitoes – There are some people who when bitten by a mosquito gets a small wound on the area. This is commonly found in new born babies for they tend to scratch as it itches. Apply banana peel on the bite and you will see in a short while that it no longer itches.
Nutrients in Banana Peel
Banana peels are also rich sources of potassium and contain much more soluble and insoluble fiber than their flesh. Dietary fiber promotes digestion and bowel movements and can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Banana peels also contain tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the body and affects mood, much like the drug Prozac does. According to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” researchers in Taiwan discovered banana peel extract can ease depression because of its effect on serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for balancing mood and emotions. Others found that eating two banana skins a day for three days increased blood serotonin levels by 16 percent. Further, banana skin contains lutein, a powerful antioxidant that protects the eye from free radicals and harmful frequencies of UV radiation from the sun. Lutein has been proven to reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration, as cited in “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition.”
Eating Banana Peels
Banana peels can be eaten raw, although they are purported to be ropey and have an unpleasant taste. Waiting for the fruit to ripen makes the skin much thinner, a little sweeter and easier to chew. Some people prefer to boil the peel for 10 minutes or so before eating it, putting it through a juicer or blending it with other fruits. In Asian countries, banana peels are cooked with their flesh or fried on their own. Cleaning commercially grown bananas before you eat the skins is essential due to the pesticide spraying that bananas are subjected to.