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Weird fact about me: I can’t stand bananas. That said, they still have their uses, like banana bread, as a sleep aid, and to ward off aphids from roses. Wait… what?? Seriously, banana peels have a few surprises up their sleeves.
What’s in a Banana Peel?
Banana fruit is high in carbs, potassium, and vitamins C and B. The peel also boasts an impressive health profile. Here’s a breakdown of the nutrients:
- Phenolic compounds
- Carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein
You’ll also find trace amounts of some inert metals, including strontium. Our body naturally has some strontium, which may help strengthen teeth and bones.
We need carotenoids for healthy vision. A 2012 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at carotenoid’s role in eye protection. Researchers reported lutein helps our eyes filter light and protects the tissues from sun damage. Lutein and other carotenoids rich foods do the same with skin and can help protect from sun damage.
Health Benefits of Banana Peels
Different cultures have used banana peels for centuries to help address health concerns, and now we have established science backing it up.
Like elderberry syrup, oregano, and other plants, bananas are high in antioxidant phenols. Not only that, bananas have potent germ-fighting properties. Researchers found compounds in banana peels fight a variety of microbes that cause wound infections. In one study it was shown effective against the yeast Candida albicans.
In 2011, researchers looked at the antioxidant capacities of different peels. They found unripe, green peels have more antioxidants than riper peels. The higher the antioxidant levels, the more free radical scavenging it can do.
That’s not to say ripe peels don’t have their benefits… they are better at inhibiting nitric oxide activity. Nitric oxide works as a signaling molecule in the body and plays an important role in certain body functions. However, too much nitric oxide in the body leads to inflammation and chronic diseases. Researchers are exploring how inhibiting nitric oxide could lead to more positive outcomes in diseases.
Liver and Prostate Support
The carotenoids and antioxidants in bananas can also help other organ systems. In a 2016 study in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, researchers looked at banana peels for liver protection.
Polyphenols from bananas increased glutathione, the body’s main detox hormone. The peels also reduced inflammation and protected liver cells.
As men age, it’s common for the prostate gland to enlarge, causing bladder problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. Research indicates banana peel extract may support prostate health.
A Yummy Way to Detox
Scientists are exploring banana peels as a way to purify water. They’re thought to act as an adsorbent and bind to heavy metals and pesticides, like charcoal.
In 2013, scientists used banana peels to remove pesticides from the water. A 2020 article in BMC Chemistry also found banana powder removes the toxic heavy metal chromium from water.
So what does all of this mean for us? While I won’t be shoving banana peels in my water filter anytime soon, eating the peels could help with detox.
Banana Peel for Better Sleep
Both the banana and the peel contain amino acids that our body needs to make melatonin, the sleep hormone. According to an article in Forbes:
“Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP is then converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.”
How to Use Banana Peels
The big question of course is how do we harness the benefits of banana peels? Fortunately, you don’t have to chow down on raw, unpeeled bananas to see results. You can even use them in an organic garden or for pets.
Bananas for the Garden
Since bananas are so high in nutrients, they have some handy uses in the garden. Here are some ways to incorporate the peels into your gardening routine:
- Seedling food- Add peel pieces to the hole when planting seedlings. This gives them a nutrition boost when they’re first starting off.
- Deter aphids – Place banana peels around the base of rose bushes and other plants aphids like (see this post for more). Cover with a little soil to avoid foraging animals from making a visit.
- Fertilizer – Mix dried, ground peels into the soil or spread on top. Worms also love chowing down on them.
- Attract butterflies – Add some banana peels to a butterfly garden to attract these beautiful insects.
- Garden tea – Make a compost tea with peels and warm water. After steeping for a few days, use the banana tea to water the plants in your garden.
- Banana vinegar – Some plants, like blueberries, thrive in more acidic soil. You can ferment banana peels then dilute the resulting mixture with water. Use the mixture to water acid-loving plants. The method is the same as making apple cider vinegar, but with banana instead of apple peels.
- Compost – Like all fruits and veggies, bananas enrich compost. Here’s how to get started.
Go Bananas for Animal Food
Because they’re so high in nutrition, scientists are studying peels for animal feed. Researchers found banana peel could safely replace up to 100% of the rabbits’ typical grain-based diet.
You can also add banana peels to chicken feed. While some chicken owners feed their brood banana fruit, you can also use the peel. Chickens may not go for whole peels, but it can be chopped, dried, and added to their normal feed.
Banana Peel Recipes
It’s important to note that most bananas are heavily treated with pesticides, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. While they don’t make EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, they’re definitely not clean. Since the peel is the part getting sprayed it’s best to opt for organic bananas here. Fortunately, they’re widely available and very affordable.
Here are some more ways to incorporate more banana peels into your diet.
Dried and ground banana peel makes an antioxidant-rich flour. Add it to almost any baked good to replace some of the flour in the recipe. Too much banana flour though can add a bitter taste, according to 2018 research in the Journal of Science and Food Agriculture.
You can make your own or get banana peel flour here. This antioxidant-rich powder works well in muffins and cakes like:
Tea – One of the simplest ways to get more banana peel in your life is to make banana tea. Chopped fresh or dried banana peel will work. Keep in mind that green peels have more antioxidants, but they’re also more drying. Here’s a banana peel tea recipe.
Bacon – Yes, this is really a thing! Soaked in a marinade and then cooked, banana bacon is sweet, smoky, and chewy.
Chutney – Common in tropical cultures, banana chutney is a great way to get more mileage out of your bananas. Here’s a recipe for an authentic banana peel chutney.
Smoothie – This one is nice and simple: You can add some peel (along with the fruit!) to a smoothie recipe.
Unusual Uses for Banana Peels
As you can see, banana peels have many amazing uses for gardens, plants, insects, and of course humans. Packed with nutrition and health benefits maybe now we’ll think twice before throwing that peel out!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
What banana peel uses are you going to try out first? Any other tips we missed? Drop us a comment and let us know!
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