#GoodFoodSeries – Banana

“Banana,” watercolor.

Time to show the cousin of the plantain some love! The banana. Did you know that it’s considered a “high herb” that’s also related to ginger?! The banana plant’s stem is a succulent rather than wooden so that’s why it’s not really a fruit. Originally, the banana peel would have allowed it to be considered a fruit since it houses the seeds of the plant, but due to commercial farming a lot of banana plants’ seeds are so tiny it causes the plants to be sterile, negating its fruit property[1].

Here’s a recap of the banana’s origins from The Plantain post:

The banana plant has many varieties. Its origins have been traced to Southeast Asia (~500 B.C.) and was introduced to African countries via traders. From there its reach spread to Europe and then to the Caribbean via Portuguese Franciscan monk, Friar Tomàs de Berlanga [2].

More than 1000 varieties of bananas exist today that have been divided into ~50 groups. The most common and commercially produced one is the Cavendish banana (see my painting above). Other types you might find in markets or internationally (like the apple banana, lady’s finger banana, red bananas, cooking bananas *these are really similar to plantain,* etc.).

Banana Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Bananas have many nutritional benefits as well. Here’s a little of what Live Science has to say about the herb:

Depression and mood
Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression “due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter,” Flores said. Plus, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles. Additionally, the tryptophan in bananas is well known for its sleep-inducing properties.

Digestion and weight loss
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against Type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss, according to Flores. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings.

Bananas are particularly high in resistant starch, a form of dietary fiber in which researchers have recently become interested. A 2017 review published in Nutrition Bulletin found that the resistant starch in bananas may support gut health and control blood sugar. Resistant starch increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which are necessary to gut health[3].

Lastly, I couldn’t not get to this portion of the post and put a recipe for a banana dish that wasn’t banana pudding! It’s my personal favorite dessert ever. This version is caramelized and done by Chef Millie Peartree of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food in the Bronx, NY. Check out how to make Caramelized Banana Pudding here or in the video below.

[1] “8 Things You Didn’t Know About Bananas,” PBS News Hour. M., Andrew. R., Carey.

[2] “Banana (Musa sp.),” School of Integrative Biology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[3] “Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts,” Live Science. S., Jessie.

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