If you’ve ever let a batch of bananas go bad, you’ve probably lamented over the waste of both food and money. Those bright yellow peels covered with so many brown spots make for an unappetizing, overly sweet and squishy mess. Better to just toss them and be done with it, right? Wrong! You may think upon looking at an overripe banana that it’s past it’s prime, but that’s the very best time to eat it.
We don’t eat oranges when they are green, and we wait for avocados to be brown or even black. We do these things because we know the fruit is not yet ripe, and not only does that affect the taste, it makes the fruit much harder to eat. So why is it that we are in such a hurry to eat bananas when they aren’t ripe yet?
This practice most likely has to do with appearance and texture. Brown spots look unsightly, and when it comes to fruit, most of us have generally been taught that squishiness or the presence of spots typically indicate that the fruit is past the point of safe consumption. However, while a brown and black spotted banana may not look all that appetizing, the truth is, the ripening process activates a lot of the nutrients of the banana that aren’t ready, or at their highest levels, when it is green, or even pure yellow.
Of course, bananas are well known for their potassium. Potassium is a mineral the body needs to help protect and strengthen the heart. It works to counter sodium in that it reduces heart disease by making blood vessels more flexible. This cuts down on blood pressure, because the heart can more easily pump blood through the body. Potassium also prevents buildup in the arteries, which decreases the odds of a blockage. What you may not know about potassium is that it is also beneficial for preventing muscle cramps. These are all good things, but bananas are beneficial for so much more than just potassium.
Consider, for example, tumor necrosis factor(TNF). This essentially does exactly what it sounds like. Essentially, it is a protein that helps to regulate the immune response, which allows it to contribute greatly to the destruction of tumors and other harmful entities in the body. Those black and brown spots you find on ripened bananas are indicators the strong presence of TNF proteins. Why not give your immune system a boost?
Bananas provide many other benefits as well. Consider the following:
Bananas, like many fruits, have high levels of antioxidants, which as the name might suggest, help to protect cells from damage caused by oxidation. Put simply; antioxidants limit the damage your cells take, which also reduces the odds of cancer and similar complications.
Bananas are also an effective source of energy. The average banana contains just over 100 calories and roughly 27 grams of carbohydrate. This makes it the perfect snack for ongoing energy.
You might read that previous note and think that those carbohydrates, along with the sweet taste of a ripened banana makes them a blood sugar nightmare. This, however, is not the case. Bananas are something of a diabetic friendly food. This is because, upon consumption, the types of sugar in bananas help to regulate the carbohydrate digestion, which allows the blood pressure to remain stable.
Bananas also contain around three grams of fiber, which helps with digestion; somewhat unique to bananas, however, is the type of fiber they possess, called pectins. Put simply, this form of fiber is digested later at the bottom of the digestive tract, which helps to better balance the bacteria in your gut (re: more ‘good’ bacteria). A better balance of bacteria leads to better digestive health, and a better you.
Vitamin B6 is also well supplied by bananas. Essentially, B6 facilitates the metabolizing of various bodily processes, perhaps most notably the production of energy. It’s necessary for cardiovascular, muscular, nervous, and many other systems, to function properly. It is essential for healthy skin, hair, and organs.
Bananas, like most fruits, also are a good source of Vitamin C. In addition to its commonly praised (and true) role in boosting the immune system to defeat the common cold, Vitamin C is necessary for tissue growth and repair. It also helps prevent heart disease!
One benefit of bananas that may surprise you is the effect they have on your mood. Thanks to an amino acid known as tryptophan, bananas are a great way to improve your mood. Tryptophan does this by boosting the serotonin (one of the four ‘happy’ chemicals) in the brain, which can have you feeling brighter and more confident in no time.
Combined with calcium, manganese is a nutrient that helps the body build sturdy and healthy bones. Bananas are a strong source of manganese, as well as B and C Vitamins, which also contribute to bone health.
All of these beneficial nutrients are present at their highest levels when the banana as at its ripest; that is to say, the fruit is at its prime when covered in brown or black spots, packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. You may not be used to eating bananas at this stage, which can make it difficult to do so. Consider these recipe ideas to make the most out of your ‘bad’ bananas!
After reading all of this, are you excited to reap the rewards, but your bananas aren’t quite ripe yet? Try putting them in a tightly rolled paper bag! Bananas stems have a ripening agent called ethylene that they release into the air — keeping bananas in a paper bag confines the ethylene, causing the bananas to absorb more of it faster, speeding up the ripening process. You can also use bananas to ripen other fruits, such as tomatoes, avocados, or apples in this manner, which means you’ll be getting the very best in nutrient potential from both fruits!Related: 5 Foods That Have More Potassium than Banana
As you can see, the only bad banana is an unripe one!