What Is A Banana?
A banana is a curved, elongated, and palatable fruit that is produced by several kinds of flowering plants in the genus Musa. This fruit is variable in color, size, and firmness, with soft flesh covered with a rind. It grows in clusters hanging from the top of the plant.
Musa species are native to Southeast Asia and are grown in many warmer areas of the world. These are grown in more than 150 countries for their fruit, to make fiber, banana wine, and banana beer, and also as ornamental plants.
Bananas are among the most important food crops in the world and in terms of monetary value, they are ranked fourth amongst the world’s food crops. The largest producers of bananas in the world are India and China.
Bananas are a very good source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, fiber, and numerous other phytonutrients. They provide benefits for digestion, weight loss, and heart health. Their consumption also can help lower blood pressure and may reduce the risk of cancer.
Research has proven that the levels of nutrients increase in bananas as they ripen. According to a study published in 2009 in Food Science and Technology Research, it was found that as compared to green-skin bananas, dark-spotted bananas are eight times more efficacious in enhancing the power of white blood cells (WBCs). (1)
What Are The Types Of Bananas?
Grown in more than 150 countries, over 1000 types of bananas exist in the world. Their names are highly confusing, even within a single country.
Bananas are classified as either dessert bananas (these are sweet and eaten raw), or cooking bananas (these are starchy and usually boiled, grilled, or fried). These cooking bananas are also referred to as plantains.
These are sweet and eaten raw, but vary in size, shape, color, and flavor. Below, I am explaining to you 9 common varieties of dessert bananas.
The scientific name of this species is Musa acuminata. These are the most widely exported banana in the world. The Cavendish bananas are eaten raw, used in fruit salads, and complement foods.
The outer skin of the fruit is partially green and turns yellow when the fruit ripens. When the fruit reaches its final stage, brown or black spots develop, and when it overripe, the skin turns black.
2) Gros Michel
It is also known as Big Mike. The thick peel of Gros Michel makes it resilient to damage during transport and the dense bunches that it grows in, make it convenient to ship; these properties of Gros Michel make it superb export produce.
This variety has a similar size and taste as Cavendish.
It was the top-exported banana to Europe and North America until much of the Gros Michel plantations in Central America were wiped out by a fungus in the 1950s. Now, there are successful hybrids of Cavendish and Gros Michel that display a resistance to this fungal infection.
3) Blue Java
These are also known as ice-cream bananas as they taste like vanilla ice cream. They have bluish-silvery skin that turns pale yellow when ripe.
Blue Java bananas are cold-tolerant and wind-resistant cultivars and can grow to a height of 4.5 to 6 meters. Their leaves are silvery-green in color.
Its fruit bunches are small, having seven to nine hands. The fruits are 7 to 9 inches in length and have soft and sweet aromatic flesh.
These are also famous as ornamentals and shade plants because of their large size, blue coloration, and tolerance to temperate climates.
4) Lady Finger
These are also known as date bananas and are small, thin-skinned, and sweet.
These can grow to a height of 7.5 meters and has a heavy root system, which makes them resistant to wind damage. The fruit is 4 to 5 inches in length with thin, light-yellow skin and sweet, creamy flesh.
Ladyfinger bananas are sweeter than the Cavendish-type and are eaten fresh or used in desserts.
These are also known as apple bananas and are short and chubby fruits with thick yellow skins which turn completely black when ripe.
The fruits have a slightly acidic, apple-like flavor.
These plants typically reach a height of 10 to 13 feet and require full or partial sun exposure.
It is the most popular dessert variety in the tropics but is also cultivated as an ornamental plant.
Red bananas have reddish-purple skin. When ripe, they have a cream to light pink-colored flesh.
This variety has more vitamin C and beta carotene content than yellow bananas. The redder the fruit, the higher the vitamin C and beta carotene levels it contains.
These are frequently eaten raw, and added to desserts and fruit salads, but can also be toasted, baked, and fried.
This is a newer variety developed in Honduras.
Goldfinger takes longer than other varieties to mature but is cold-tolerant, wind, and disease resistant. it grows to a height of 4.3 meters.
The fruit has a sweet and slightly apple-like flavor and doesn’t turn brown when cut.
8) Praying Hands
You will identify this variety by the two adjacent hands that grow merged together, giving the fruit its name. It is relatively less sweet than other types and has an exceptional vanilla flavor.
This variety is grown in and around Mysore district and Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka, India. It is natively called Nanjangud rasabalehannu.
This fruit is famous for its distinctive taste and aroma and it is said that this unique taste and aroma is due to the distinct method of organic cultivation and the black clay alluvial soil found in and around Nanjangud. This tropical plant is restricted to the region of 30N to 30S of latitude. A dry and humid climate is known to be the best condition for its growth.
Cooking Bananas Or Plantains
These bananas have a neutral taste and are usually boiled, roasted, or fried. these have a softer texture when cooked, but can be eaten raw when ripe.
These are a major staple food in Central and West Africa, Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean islands.
The term plantain is roughly applied to any banana that is generally cooked before eating. but there is not any botanical distinction between bananas and plantains. Ripe plantains can be eaten raw, as their starches get converted into sugars in the ripening process.
In botanical usage, the term plantain is used only for true plantains, whereas the term cooking bananas are used for other starchy cultivars. Most plantains are hybrids derived from the cross of two wild species, Musa balbisiana and Musa acuminata.
Below, I am explaining to you 5 common varieties of cooking bananas.
Bluggoe bananas are large, starchy plantain with a straight shape. These are primarily used for cooking but can be eaten raw.
Orinoco bananas have thick fruits with an angular shape and salmon-tinted flesh.
These are comparatively starchy, but develop a delicious sweet flavor and soft texture when fully ripened.
Sometimes these are also called burro and can withstand cold climates and winds. These are mostly used for cooking as compared to eating raw.
Fehi bananas have orange, copper-colored, or red skin with orange or yellow flesh inside. These are usually cooked rather than eaten raw.
These have been described as nutritious and delicious when baked or boiled, but are unpleasantly astringent when eaten raw due to the higher proportions of starch and lower proportions of sugar than other varieties of banana.
13) Rhino Horn
Rhino Horn bananas, also known as African Rhino Horn or Rhino Horn plantains, are from Africa.
Its fruits are strongly curved and elongated and can grow up to 2 feet in length, the longest among all banana cultivars.
Rhino horn plantains can grow to a height of 12 to 20 feet. They are also grown as ornamental plants due to their attractive coloration.
14) Macho Plantain
Macho plantains are most popularly grown in the United States and are particularly common in Florida. These have a sweet-sour taste and are perfect to fry or roast.
How Many Calories Are In Various Sizes Of Bananas?
Friends, bananas are extremely healthy and contain various important nutrients. Different sizes of bananas contain different amounts of calories. Below I will tell you how many calories are there in various sizes of bananas (14):
|Size of banana||Approximate length||Weight (in grams)||Calories|
|Extra-small||Less than 6 inches||81||72.1 (or 302 KJ)|
|Small||6 to 7 inches||101||89.9 (or 376 KJ)|
|Medium||7 to 8 inches||118||105.0 (or 440KJ)|
|Large||8 to 9 inches||136||121.0 (or 507 KJ)|
|Extra large||9 inches or longer||152||135.0 (or 565KJ)|
93% of the calories of bananas come from carbs, 3% from fat, and 4% from protein.
How Many Carbs Are In A Banana?
This fruit is mainly composed of water and carbs. People who exclusively watch their carb intake might be interested in knowing the carb content of bananas. Below I will tell you how many carbs are there in various sizes of bananas (14):
|Size of banana||Approximate length||Weight (in grams)||Total Carbs (in grams)||Dietary fiber (in grams)|
|Extra-small||Less than 6 inches||81||18.5||2.1|
|Small||6 to 7 inches||101||23.1||2.6|
|Medium||7 to 8 inches||118||27.0||3.1|
|Large||8 to 9 inches||136||31.1||3.5|
|Extra large||9 inches or longer||152||34.7||4.0|
Depending on their size, bananas also contain 2-4 grams of dietary fiber. So, to obtain net carbs in a banana you should subtract dietary fiber from the total carbs present in the banana (i.e. net carbs = total carbs – dietary fiber). Its ripeness may also affect its carb content. Usually, unripe fruit contains fewer amounts of digestible carbs than ripe fruit.
Nutritional Facts Of Bananas
Bananas are high in various nutrients and have many health benefits. They contain lots of carbs, fiber, and some necessary vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, these are low in fat and protein.
Nutritional facts of medium-sized banana (118 gram) (14)
|% Daily value|
|Energy||105.0 calories (or 440 KJ)||5%|
|Dietary fiber||3.1 grams||12%|
|Vitamin A||75.5 IU||2%|
|Vitamin C||10.3 mg||17%|
|Vitamin K||0.6 μg||1%|
|Vitamin E||0.1 mg||1%|
|Vitamin B-6||0.4 mg||22%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.4 mg||4%|
Apart from various nutrients bananas also contain several types of bioactive compounds, like:
Catechin. Several antioxidant flavonoids most notably catechins are present in bananas. Catechins have been linked to various health benefits, such as the reduced risk of cardiac diseases.
Dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, but dopamine present in bananas doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier to affect your mood.
The glycemic index (a value used to measure how much a specific food increases blood sugar levels) of unripe bananas is about 30, whereas the GI value of ripe bananas is about 60. The average value of all bananas is 51. This means they have a low glycemic load and they will not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.
What Are The Uses And Health Benefits Of Bananas?
These are among the world’s most popular fruits and have numerous health benefits. Here I am explaining to you the 18 most important uses and health benefits of bananas:
1) Contains Many Important Nutrients And Antioxidants
Bananas are rich in several nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Each medium-sized ripe banana has about 110 calories, 28 grams carbs, 15 grams naturally occurring sugars, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fiber, and 450 mg of potassium and mainly consists of water, and carbs.
The carbs in unripe bananas mostly consist of resistant starch, but as the banana ripens this starch turns into sugar (fructose, glucose, and sucrose).
Packed with a good amount of vitamins and minerals, bananas are indeed one of the world’s best superfoods.
Furthermore, bananas contain numerous types of potent antioxidants, including catechins and dopamine. These antioxidants may help in reducing damage from free radicals and reduce your risk of some diseases such as heart disease and degenerative illnesses.
2) Bananas Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is one of the world’s leading causes of premature death.
Potassium, a mineral is very essential for your heart health and helps to maintain normal blood pressure.
Also, the heart being a smooth muscle depends on potassium for proper contraction and expansion. Low potassium levels (also called hypokalemia), can cause heart palpitations.
Bananas are high in potassium and a medium-sized banana will provide around 450 mg of potassium, which meets about 10% of your daily potassium needs.
Moreover, bananas contain a good amount of magnesium, which is also very important for heart health. (4)
3) May Moderate Blood Sugar Levels
Being aware of carbs in the diet is very important for diabetic patients. This is because carbs raise blood sugar levels faster than other nutrients.
Here you might be thinking that how bananas are good for diabetics as they contain a good quantity of carbs and about 93% of the calories in bananas come from these carbs?
Well, the answer is that bananas are rich in pectin, a type of fiber that imparts the flesh, its spongy structural form. Also, the unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which acts like soluble fiber and escapes from digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine.
Both pectin and resistant starch can help slow down the digestion and absorption of carbs. This may prevent blood sugar level spikes and control blood sugar.
Furthermore, the glycemic index (a value used to measure how much a specific food increases blood sugar levels) of unripe bananas is about 30, whereas the GI value of ripe bananas is about 60. The average value of all bananas is 51. This means they have a low glycemic load and they will not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.
But patients with diabetes should avoid eating a lot of well-ripened bananas and if they eat, then they should monitor their blood sugar levels carefully.
4) Unripe Bananas May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that plays an important role in controlling many bodily processes.
Insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance are two sides of the same coin. Its resistance is when your cells stop responding to insulin.
One thing you must know is that if you are sensitive to insulin then you will have low insulin resistance and conversely if you have insulin resistance, you have low insulin sensitivity.
Insulin resistance is a risk factor for two very common conditions metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.
A study has shown that dietary supplementation of 30 grams of resistant starch per day can improve insulin sensitivity. (5)
Unripe bananas are a very good source of resistant starch. Thus, they may help in improving insulin sensitivity.
5) May Aid Weight Loss
Also, the unripe bananas contain a good amount of resistant starch, thus they tend to be very filling and may lower your appetite. (8)
Bananas are low in calories and are high in nutrients and fiber, and hence aid weight loss.
6) Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is associated with various health benefits, including improved digestion. Since bananas are rich in fiber they help in improving digestive health.
Unripe bananas contain resistant starch, which escapes from digestion in the small intestine and gets fermented by beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Resistant starch confers benefits to human health through the production of short-chain fatty acids, and the promotion of butyrate-producing bacteria.
The smooth functioning of your digestive tract also depends on normal peristalsis (a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract)
7) Enhance Brain Health
Bananas improve brain health and are also referred to as brain food because
- Bananas are rich in vitamin B-6 which improves cognitive function.
- The magnesium present in them eases the electrical activity between the nerve cells in the brain.
- The cells in your brain utilize fresh glucose as fuel. Bananas release their sugar slowly into the bloodstream and thus provide a steady supply of glucose to the brain.
- Potassium in them keeps the oxygen levels in your brain cells normalized.
Regular consumption of bananas improves nerve function and intelligence, and boosts concentration as well.
8) May Improve Bone Health
Bananas improve digestive health and a strong digestive system is essential for absorbing the nutrients from the diet your body needs to build bones.
Vitamin B-6, vitamin C, copper, manganese, and potassium are present in good amounts in bananas and these nutrients are necessary for bone health. Below I will explain how these nutrients support bone health.
- Vitamin B-6 helps in the production of glutathione (a potent antioxidant), which protects bone cells from damage.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body and bones from oxidative damage and is also essential for collagen synthesis.
- Copper helps your body construct connective tissue throughout the body, including bones. Severe copper deficiency is associated with reduced bone mineral density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Manganese is required for bone health, including bone development and maintenance. It is necessary for the production of collagen, which makes up most of the bone matrix. Manganese, when combined with the nutrients calcium, copper, and zinc, supports bone mineral density.
- Potassium is an alkalizing mineral, which produces alkali in the body to maintain the acid-base balance. When your body’s pH balance becomes too acidic, acidosis occurs, and your body responds by rapidly draining alkalizing minerals from bone to correct the imbalance. Potassium can prevent this by providing means to balance the pH without damaging the bone matrix.
9) Strengthen The Immune System
Bananas have a good source of vitamins and minerals that impact the immune response and boost your immune system.
Boosting your immune system means either re-establishing a weakened immune system back to optimal health or maintaining its normal ability to fight diseases and germs.
Friends, the immune system needs a sufficient amount of essential fatty acids, protein, and at least 11 vitamins and minerals that work together and keep your immune system healthy. One medium-sized banana provides nine of these nutrients that are essential for a normal immune response. Read below and you will know how it can strengthen your immunity:
- One medium-sized banana provides 30% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B-6. This vitamin is required for the production of cytokines (substances that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis) and antibodies (Y-shaped proteins that bind to the body’s foreign invaders and target them for attack by white blood cells).
- This fruit also provides vitamin C that stimulates the production of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Vitamin C, in its role as an antioxidant, also protects the white blood cells from the chemicals they release to kill pathogens. One medium size of this fruit provides 11% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
- One medium-sized banana gives you 13% of the recommended daily intake of copper. This mineral is a functional component of enzymes that metabolize iron, and iron is also vital for the immune system. Copper, as an antioxidant, also supports immunity by protecting the cells from damage during chemical reactions.
- Folate is necessary for the synthesis of proteins such as cytokines and antibodies. And one medium-sized banana contains 6% of the recommended daily intake of folate.
- Ripe bananas also contain a protein called banana lectin (also termed as BanLec), which reads sugar outside both cells and viruses. BanLec has binding specificity for mannose and mannose-containing oligosaccharides. A study conducted in 2010 reported that BanLec was a potent inhibitor of HIV replication. (9)
- Magnesium and potassium present in bananas also enhance immunity.
10) Treat Hangovers
Alcohol consumption leads to the blockage of the production of a hormone that helps your body to hold water, causing dehydration and loss of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Bananas being rich in potassium help replenish your body’s stores.
vitamin B-1 and B-6 are other two nutrients whose levels fall after alcohol consumption and bananas being rich in these can improve their levels and can help improve hangover symptoms.
11) Reduce Stress
This fruit is rich in carbohydrates and B-vitamins (like folate and vitamin B-6), and these are key to the production of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
Potassium helps to regulate electrolyte balance and manage blood pressure. Thus eating potassium-rich foods like bananas may alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.
12) Improve Eye Health
A study has found that eating a banana daily is likely to improve eye health and prevent vision-related diseases. Researchers have found that bananas have carotenoids that are converted into vitamin A (an important precursor for eye health) in the liver.
13) Relieve Menstrual Pain
Potassium can work as a muscle relaxant and relax the uterine muscles during periods. Thus, this fruit being rich in potassium relieve menstrual pain. Also, potassium prevents water retention in the body and has proved to be beneficial for women.
Most women complain of deprived sleep during the menstrual cycle and this is because of uneasiness and stiffness of the muscles. Here, bananas play an important role by relaxing the muscles and making it easier for women to have a good sleep at night.
The menstrual cycle can also cause diarrhea in some women. Fiber, potassium, and magnesium present in bananas help in improving bowel movements of your stomach, and thus, eating this fruit helps a lot in diarrhea.
14) Can Help You Sleep Better
Bananas help you to sleep better in the following ways:
- The high levels of potassium in bananas help relax muscles and reduce nighttime cramps. Since potassium helps in balancing sodium and other electrolytes in the body, thus it reduces the likelihood of developing nighttime muscle cramps.
- A high magnesium diet is linked to lower anxiety and stress levels. Magnesium affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain, that controls the pituitary and adrenal glands (responsible for stress), and thus reduces symptoms of mild anxiety. (10) Stress is one of the most common causes of insomnia. Since bananas are a good source of magnesium, so they may help to reduce stress before bed.
- Melatonin is a hormone mainly released by the pineal gland that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Without adequate melatonin, it may be difficult for you to fall asleep. The vitamin B-6 present in this fruit helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin, which controls melatonin levels in the body.
- Magnesium also reduces the symptoms associated with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). This disorder can result in an uncontrollable need to move the legs. And people who suffer from this disorder experience trouble sleeping and often have chronic sleep deprivation. Studies conducted by Mayo Clinic on RLS suggested that magnesium is able to curb the symptoms of RLS. (11) Since bananas are high in magnesium, they are effective to reduce the uneasiness associated with RLS.
15) May Help You Feel More Full
Resistant starch found in unripe bananas is a type of indigestible carb that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. You can easily estimate that the greener the banana, the higher is its resistant starch content. On the other hand, ripe or yellow bananas have lower amounts of resistant starch. One of the benefits of resistant starch is that it increases the feeling of fullness.
This starch is digested slowly that’s why it causes less gas than other fibers.
16) Have Benefits For Exercise
Bananas are also referred to as the perfect food for athletes because of their easily digestible carbs and mineral content. This fruit provides excellent nutrition before, during, and after endurance exercise. (12)
Consuming bananas may help to reduce exercise-related muscle cramps and soreness affecting the majority of the population. (13)
17) Bananas’ Benefits For Skin
This fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and is also beneficial for your skin.
Moisturize your skin
Bananas are very good natural moisturizers for your skin. Vitamin A present in this fruit restores your skin moisture and repairs dry and dull skin.
For this, you can mash a ripe banana and apply it to your dry skin, avoiding contact with the eyes. Leave it on for 20-25 minutes, and then wash it off with lukewarm water for instant moisturized, soft and supple skin.
The antioxidants present in this fruit help you to fight wrinkles and keep your skin youthful.
To get its anti-aging benefits, you can mash 1/4 banana with 1 teaspoon of rosewater. Apply it to your face and neck, and then wash it off after 30 minutes to get soft and youthful skin.
Treat dry feet
The moisturizing benefits of bananas can be used to get rid of dry and cracked heels. For this, mash 2 ripe bananas and apply them to your dry feet. Leave it on for 10 minutes and then rinse your feet with lukewarm water.
The nourishing fruit pulp will give you soft and supple feet.
Help to treat tired and puffy eyes
This fruit can also help to calm the blood vessels under your eyes and can reduce puffy eyes. For this, all you need to do is mash half of a banana and apply it around the affected area. Let it on for 15 minutes and then rinse it with water.
It will draw out the excess fluid from under the skin and give you a bright, refreshed look.
18) Bananas Benefits For Hair
Bananas offer many benefits to improve hair health.
This fruit contains folic acid that makes your hair shine. It also helps to keep your hair moisturized and well hydrated.
One of the main nutrients present in bananas is potassium, which promotes hair growth as it helps in controlling dandruff.
Bananas contain silica, which is an element that helps your body to synthesize collagen and may make your hair thicker and stronger.
These are the reasons that banana has become a well-known ingredient in homemade hair masks used to condition and soften your hair.
Bananas are among the world’s most commonly consumed fruit and contain many important nutrients and antioxidants.
Grown in more than 150 countries, there are over 1000 types of bananas in the world. But these are classified as either dessert bananas or cooking bananas (or plantains).
It is a relatively low-calorie and nutrient-dense fruit. Different sizes of bananas contain different amounts of calories and nutrients.
This fruit may boost your digestive, heart, bone, and brain health. It may also improve insulin sensitivity, aid in weight loss, and strengthen your immune system when consumed regularly as part of your diet.
1) Food Science and Technology Research
2) US National Library of Medicine
3) US National Library of Medicine
4) US National Library of Medicine
5) US National Library of Medicine
6) US National Library of Medicine
7) US National Library of Medicine
8) US National Library of Medicine
9) US National Library of Medicine
10) US National Library of Medicine
11) Mayo Clinic Proceedings
12) US National Library of Medicine
13) US National Library of Medicine
14) Nutrition Data
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Any information associated with this article should not be considered as a substitute for prescriptions suggested by local health care professionals.