Nourishing the Body: The Banana

You said you wanted more nutritional information about the ingredients in our drinks.  So this month, we launch a regular column devoted to the fruits, vegetables, herbs and other natural goodies we use to make our beverages.  We’ll include nutritional information, maybe a little history or lore, food factoids—whatever suits the fruit, so to speak.  First up:  that year-round tropical wonder, the banana.

There’s more than one way to peel a banana:

What it’s made of:  The average six-inch-long banana has 100 grams of pulp, with a remarkably low calorie count of 85 per fruit.  In a ripe banana, 75 percent of the pulp is water, which is held in a particular molecular structure by fiber and pectin, giving theBanana fruit a fatty texture similar to that of the avocado.  Nevertheless, the fat content of the banana is practically nil at 0.2 of a gram.  A little more than 20 percent of the banana is sugar, and the remainder is apportioned among starch, crude fiber, protein and ash, the last yielding alkaline mineral residues beneficial to digestion.

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which plays an important role in muscle function, as well as regulating blood sugar and blood pressure.  Bananas provide some vitamin C, famous for repairing cells and boosting the immune system.  They’re also rich in B6, which has been proven to aid in brain function.  They also supply an adequate amount of calcium, niacin, iron, phosphorus and other trace minerals.  And some studies have shown bananas to have a generally beneficial effect on the stomach lining, minimizing the occurrence of ulcers and other irritable conditions.

It’s really a berry:  Like currants, grapes and tomatoes, the banana is called a berry because of the fleshy pulp that surrounds the seed.  What seed?  Evidently, the original bananas, born in Southeast Asia, had seedy pits so hard they could chip a molar.  While few of those banana varieties are still around, most of the yellow, curvy “berries” we know and love have had the seeds knocked out of them, either by evolution or hybridization.

No such thing as a banana “tree”:  The fruit grows from a kind of herb, a plant without woody tissue that has a single flowering period.  However, this “herb” is the largest on earth, often soaring to heights of 40 feet.  The complex female flowers develop into fruits, called a “bunch”; each row of fruit is a “hand”; and each fruit, a “finger.”

We are bananas over bananas.  If all the bananas imported into the U.S. were placed end to end, the chain would make a loop twice the distance from the earth to the moon.

Archive:  Published in Odwalla’s employee newsletter,
The Squeeze.

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