Bananas are very popular and you can find them anywhere. But, there are a lot of things you probably never knew about bananas. Here are some interesting banana facts for kids and adults alike. For more fun facts about food take a look at chocolate facts or read the famous legend of the candy cane.
What Are Bananas?
The banana is one of the most popular and widely-exported fruits in the world. With over 1000 types of bananas, subdivided into 50 main varieties, the banana is a widely diverse fruit. The history of the banana is an interesting one. Most of you may be familiar with the yellow, crescent-shaped variety found in your local supermarket, known as the Cavendish. But what you may not know is that the banana comes in an assortment of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures worldwide.
You may believe that bananas grow on trees, but the truth is that the banana plant is actually a large herb, the largest herb on the planet. Bananas grow in warm and humid regions of over 120 countries. In some countries, the banana is the primary source of food and income. Although 80% of the banana is water, they are very nutrient-dense, packed with vitamins and minerals that promote a healthy heart and well-functioning nervous system.
The banana has a long history on this planet, as evidenced by its existence in many ancient texts. Some horticulturists believe that the banana is the first fruit to ever grace the planet. Bananas were first domesticated in areas of Southeast Asia, mainly Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Southeast Asia and Africa have the greatest diversity of wild bananas. Recent discoveries by paleontologists indicate that bananas may have been cultivated in Papua New Guinea as far back as 8000 BCE. The word banana comes from a West African language known as Wolof.
Bananas are mentioned in ancient Buddhist texts. There are also references to bananas in Islamic texts beginning in the 9th century. Texts from Palestine and Egypt also make mention of the banana around the 10th century.
Who First Grew Bananas?
Europe first became aware of the banana around 327 BC when the armies of Alexander the Great made note of the then exotic fruit’s existence during a campaign in India. Alexander the Great is often cited as being the first person to bring the banana to the Western world. From 63 to 14 BC, cultivation of the banana was being promoted by Antonius Musa, who was Emperor Augustus’s personal physician.
There were several known banana plantations in the southern region of China around 200 AD. Beginning in 650 AD, cultivation of the banana began to spread rapidly as Islamic conquerors brought the banana to Madagascar and other regions of Africa. It is during this time period that a wider variety of banana species began to pop up as a result of several genetic mutations. It is also during this time period that the word banana was born.
Beginning in 1502 AD, Portuguese and Spanish traders were the first to bring the banana from Africa to the Canary Islands. Friar Tomas de Berlanga began bringing banana roots from the Canary Islands to Santo Domingo, and from there the banana quickly spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Once the banana made its way to England by way of China, the Cavendish variety began to flourish. It is this variety and its sub-groups that accounts for the majority of commercial banana cultivation.
It is around 1836 when the sweet yellow bananas that most of us are familiar with was discovered and cultivated. In 1876 bananas were promoted as a dessert to families in the United States after being introduced at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Since that time, bananas have become a staple fruit in the U.S., with the average American consuming 33 pounds of bananas per year.
Banana Nutrition Facts
Although the term “power food” is typically associated with more exotic fruits, the nutrition and health benefits of eating bananas could easily place them in the same category. Because bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world, and a staple in many countries, we may take for granted the life-extending qualities that are contained in one of the most convenient packages that nature has ever created.
The use of bananas dates as far back as 8000 BCE, when they were first cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and Africa. Since that time, bananas have shot to the top of the list of the most exported fruits. In fact, there are a number of countries for whom the banana is not only their primary source of food, but also their main source of income. Even if we disregard the nutrition facts, bananas play an important role in the functioning of our global society.
Bananas can come in many varieties. Most of you are already familiar with the banana as a sweet and tasty treat that is often the first source of solid food for growing babies. However, bananas also come in a more firm and starchy variety, known as “plaintains” and used in dishes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. These bananas often serve a purpose similar to the potato in Ireland. Regardless of how you choose to prepare bananas, the fact is that you will enjoy many health and nutrition benefits.
Fundamental banana nutrition facts, along with the ease of growing them in large quantities, makes the banana a rock solid source of sustenance for many people around the world. Most of you are familiar with the banana’s distinctive yellow skin, but you may not be aware that this yellowing of the banana doesn’t occur naturally. For most banana-producing nations, bananas are brown or black in color. When bananas are shipped to the U.S., they are green in color. In order to ripen them up, they are placed in airtight rooms filled with ethylene gas. This ripening process is how bananas get their bright yellow color. Fortunately, this process does not affect the banana nutrition facts or reduce any of the health benefits of eating a banana.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of the banana. In outlining this nutritional information, we will be using the serving size of 1 banana. Due to variations in portion size for bananas, nutrition facts such as calories and carbohydrates should be taken as very rough estimates.
- We are going to assume that a banana weighs about 3.5 ounces.
- Total Carbohydrates – About 22 Grams
- Fiber – 2.5 Grams
- Sugars – 12 Grams
- Fat – .3 Grams
- Protein – 1.09 Grams
- Nutrients and Minerals
- Magnesium- 7% – 27 Milligrams
- Potassium – 8% – 350 Milligrams
- Iron – 2% .25 Milligrams
- Calcium – 1% Less then 5 Milligrams
- Zinc – <1% about .15 Milligrams
- Phosphorus 8% – Around 350 Milligrams
Considering the nutrition facts, bananas offer a variety of benefits. Here are just a few:
Because the banana is rich in potassium and fiber, it is a heart-healthy fruit that decreases your chances of stroke or high blood pressure.
The high amounts of Vitamin C in the banana enhances your body’s natural healing processes.
The high amounts of Vitamin B6 found in bananas makes your immune system stronger and keeps your nervous system in tip-top condition.
The carbohydrates found in bananas are an excellent source of energy for your body, as well as your brain, improving your overall endurance and focus.
Bananas are a perfect source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
Banana Health Facts
Banana health benefits are often overlooked, possibly because bananas have become such a staple in our lives. We naturally assume that a “miracle cure” can only be found in exotic fruits from remote locations. But as each new “power fruit” eventually fizzles out in favor of the next fad, the banana stands strong as a proven provider of nutritional benefits. In fact, there are entire countries who count on the banana as their primary source of sustenance. In this article we are going to explore just a few of the many benefits of bananas.
Banana Health Facts – More Energy
Ripe bananas are an excellent source of quick energy as well as energy that lasts throughout the day. This is because bananas are abundant in simple carbohydrates. These carbohydrates consist of both glucose, which is a fast-burning sugar, and fructose, which is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly. This is why you will often find both long-distance runners as well as runners who do quick sprints eating a banana before a race.
The notably high levels of potassium found in bananas are also excellent for muscular endurance, as potassium has been shown to reduce dehydration as well as muscle cramps and fatigue.
Banana Health Facts – Excellent Heart Health
For those who are at risk for high blood pressure, strokes, or heart attacks, bananas should be a part of your everyday diet. The potassium in bananas helps to maintain a stable blood pressure, preventing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Bananas are also high in fiber, which has been proven to prevent various forms of heart disease.
Banana Health Facts – More Brain Power
The potassium levels of bananas also contribute to your brain being more active and alert. In fact, a research study conducted with 200 students in England found that they were able to make higher grades on their exams by making bananas a part of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Bananas also help your brain because they are high in tryptophan, a protein that the body is able to convert to serotonin, which stabilizes your mood and keeps you relaxed and happy. And the high amount of B vitamins in the banana helps in stabilizing your nervous system.
Here are a few more benefits of eating bananas that you may not have been aware of:
- The high iron levels in bananas help reduce the risks of developing anemia.
- The fiber in bananas helps regulate your digestive system and avoid constipation.
- Bananas have been shown to have an antacid effect that soothes heartburn.
- Although bananas are low in calories, they also reduce food cravings, which assists in any weight. loss efforts.
- Banana skin has been shown to eliminate a wart, when held in place with surgical tape.
The banana fruit is an all-natural nutrient-dense food that offers more benefits than could be listed in one article. With so many proven banana health benefits, bananas are a “power fruit” that will outlast the latest exotic fads.