THEY are traditionally tossed aside, consigned to the rubbish and long forgotten.
But, rather than deserve their reputation as a slippery hazard, the butt of cartoon jokes, banana skins are, in fact, good for us.
Whether you’re partial to a green, yellow or browning fruit, the peel is packed with nutrients that can prove beneficial to the body,
While it may strike you as an alien concept to use banana skin in your daily diet, in many parts of the world, notably India and the Caribbean, the peel is used to add flavour and substance to dishes.
And, there is now a growing consensus, which suggests the nutrients, compounds and minerals hidden away within the skin could help aid weight loss, and boost your mood.
Nutritionist Ella Allred told Daily Mail Online while “at first the peel may seem like an odd choice of food, investigate further and we realise there are nutritional benefits.”
She said: “The extra fibre in banana skins will certainly help with bowel regularity. The nutrition profile of magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and B6 is not something to be sniffed at.”
Laura Flores, a San Diego-based nutritionist agrees. She told LiveScience: “It contains high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium, and some fibre and protein.”
Furthermore, according to a 2011 article in the Journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, banana peels also contain ‘various bioactive compounds like polyphenols, carotenoids and others’.
The skins are packed with vitamin A, which aids in healthy teeth, bones and soft tissue.
While B6 aids the body’s immune system, promoting brain and heart health. It also regulates blood sugar levels, and so can help boost your mood.
And B12, also helps the brain and nervous system. Furthermore, B vitamins and the antioxidants lurking in the skin help stoke the metabolism and can therefore prove useful for those trying to lose weight.
And when it comes to being diet friendly, the peel adds no calories to your daily diet, only extra sustenance.
Vitamin C aids the body in healing, growing new tissue and ligaments, while fibre can help you feel fuller for longer, making the skin diet-friendly.
The peel is also high in the mood-boosting hormone serotonin – a neurotransmitter derived from tryptophan.
As well as helping to give you a life, tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is often prescribed to help treat sleep problems.
Past research has found fibre helps to lower cholesterol, in turn protecting against heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
High levels of lutein contained within the peel can help protect your night vision.
The compound has also been found to play a role in preventing cataracts and macular degeneration – one of the leading causes of blindness.
Allred said while banana peel is ‘perfectly edible’, they are often heavily sprayed with pesticides. “So if banana skin is going to be your new food, ensure that you buy only organic, and scrub them well,” she told Daily Mail Online.
She added: “I can’t imagine that eating a raw banana peel is particularly pleasant, easy to digest or widely socially accepted. If we look at our primate ancestors, they too leave the banana skin, as though it is not normal or natural to consume them.”
So, how best can we benefit from the nutrients and minerals in banana skin?
Allred advises: “It’s best to leave the skins for fermentation, dips and other beneficial uses such as whitening teeth, soothing insect bites and stings.”
Typically, banana peels are served cooked, boiled or fried.
They can be added to the blender to add extra fibre to a smoothie, but they are not as sweet as the fruit’s flesh, though the riper the banana, the sweeter its skin.
Furthermore, she added, the banana is not alone in having hidden benefits lying within its peel.
“The skins of fruits such as oranges and limes are not really easy to digest, but can be beneficial. They’re perfectly edible, and in small amounts digestible. The thick peels will need to be blended if consumed in large amounts, though it can leave a bitter taste. The skins of apples, pears, that are traditionally eaten are full of fibre, and just under the skin is the area of most nutrition.
“If you removed the skin, you also remove the valuable nutrition.”
And it’s not just apples, pears, and citrus fruits that join bananas in offering added benefits in their skins.
Allred said “It is a shame’ that the skins of kiwi fruits are not often eaten by people. It is high in fibre, and eating kiwi skins will boost your nutrient intake,” she added.
“Ensure that you always buy organic however, the little hairs are perfect for trapping pesticides. It is also far more convenient and easy to eat the kiwi whole, instead of bothering with a knife and spoon.”
However, some experts are skeptical of the fruit peel’s ‘superfood’ qualities. David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University told NBC News: “People are always looking for a magical food. This carries with it the idea that the root of all happiness lies in food. Food is essential, but it’s not the magic answer to any problem.”
TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL USES FOR BANANA SKINS
Used inside out, the peel of a banana can be used to treat warts, according to a study by Indian experts. They advise covering the wart by taping the skin down.
Once the peel turns black, remove it and replace it with a fresh piece to get relief from the wart.
The skin of a banana has also been used to treat poison ivy rashes. Rubbing the peel inside out over the rashes is said to soothe the skin and provide a cooling effect.
In the case where a person’s skin is very sore, so much so that a rubbing action may aggravate the pain, you can use the blunt side of a knife to scrape the insides of the banana peel to remove a thick grainy paste.
Gently applying this paste to the affected portions of skin can help reduce the irritation and inflammation.
Banana peel can be used if you have bruised yourself. Tape it overnight to see the positive results in the morning. If the bruising is rather severe, you can use this method twice or three times a day to help reduce the discoloration and speed up the healing process.
Make sure that you rinse and dry the area gently before applying a new piece of banana peel to your skin as this will increase the effectiveness of this treatment.
Rubbing banana peel inside out is also said to be the best remedy for mosquito bites, according to the Traditional and Medicinal uses of Banana, published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry.