They start off green and end up black and are mostly eaten when yellow. Yes, the humble banana the world’s most popular fruit, (well unless you count tomato’s). There is good reason for this. Not only are they nutritious but they are a hardy fruit and quite easy to grow in the right climates. They are also robust with their strong outer peel making them easy to transport and store.
So, they start of green and eventually turn black and somewhere in between end up with brown spots but when exactly should we be eating our bananas? Well the nutrient composition of our banana changes as it ripens and it turns out those brown spotted bananas are probably just about perfect but let’s have a look and see why
The vast majority of bananas are picked while they’re still green. This is because they are often shipped long distances and it ensures they are not overly ripe when they hit our shops and markets. But can we eat green bananas? Well of course the answer is yes, but let’s look at the obvious differences straight away.
The first and most obvious thing is that green bananas are harder to peel while ripe bananas are easy to peel. Green bananas are also much less sweet, this is because they are much higher in starches and lower in sugars.
As bananas ripen and turn yellow, the starches transform into sugars. Green bananas are much firmer than yellow bananas and the flesh can have an almost waxy like composition. And the benefits of green bananas? Well the high starch low sugar content is great for anyone looking to avoid high sugar content food.
Green bananas also contain a probiotic bacteria that helps with good colon health. In addition, green bananas are high in pectin a dietary fibre which helps with improved blood sugar control and better digestive health. Because of their high fibre content green bananas are also filling with fibre-rich foods providing bulk and promoting satiety.
Brown Spotted Bananas
Ok, hands up if you have thrown away bananas if they have “to many” brown spots? I know I used to but actually brown spotted bananas are really good for you. Brown spotted bananas are more easily digested because the starch has mainly turned to sugar, they also have higher levels of antioxidants as they ripen.
In fact, overall eating bananas with brown spots is pretty much the ideal time in terms of nutrition. Of course, it is possible for them to become too ripe. The browner a banana gets the more its micronutrients diminish. In terms of nutrient density and digestibility, the perfect time to eat a banana is pretty much when they look like this.
Why Do Bananas Go Brown?
It is estimated that around 90% of all bananas are exported. This means that they are picked when unripe and the peel is still green. Over time, the amino acids start to transform into ethylene gas which causes the fruit to ripen as the acids in the fruit get broken down.
Most fruits only produce a tiny amount of ethylene as they ripen. Bananas however produce a large amount which is why eventually they over ripen by producing too much. As they ripen there are 3 major changes that take place.
- The colour of the peel changes from green to yellow and eventually brown. Bananas begin their journey with a green peel which they obtained from the chlorophyll in the plant, an essential element of the photosynthesis process. During ripening, these green pigments are broken down and are replaced with the yellow colour of the traditionally “ripe” banana. As we have said because bananas produce so much ethylene, they will eventually over ripen and become dark brown or even black
- The flesh becomes softer As the banana ripens the fruit changes from firm and solid to soft and mushy inside.
- The sugar content increases. As it ripens the levels of starch which were as high as 80% will reduce to as low as 1%. Conversely it will become much sweeter as it ripens, causing it to become up to 80% sugar.
Brown Spotted Bananas – What Are The Benefits?
So why should we eat our brown spotted bananas and not throw them? Well let’s look at a few reasons. As a banana reaches the brown spotted stage its concentration of antioxidants increases. Because a brown banana is mostly simple sugar it’s easy to digest which can be good for those with digestive problems like IBS .
Bananas also contain dopamine and serotonin and the content increases after the banana ripened. And finally, a Japanese study published in Food Science and Technology Research
found that the black spots produce a substance called Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF), which can break down abnormal cells, including those that cause cancer. I’m not suggesting for a minute that bananas can cure cancer, but consuming them may well help boost your immune system.
So, whether green or brown lets remind ourselves of some of those banana benefits
Potassium – Bananas contain potassium an essential mineral that is required for muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses as well as the proper functioning of both the heart and kidneys. Potassium along with other minerals also helps regulate water balance and blood pressure in cells.
Antioxidants – Bananas contain several different antioxidants including amongst others dopamine and catechism. They are linked to many health benefits particularly catechins, which have been shown to help reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Fibre – We have already mentioned fibre and how important it is for digestion feeding the good gut bacteria. An average size banana contains around 3.1 grams . Don’t forget though that as the banana ripens, the flesh turns from starch to sugar, although even ripe bananas have a relatively low glycaemic index (GI).
What To Do With Our Brown Bananas
It may be that you still prefer to eat your banana while it is a bright and vibrant yellow. It may be that you will now try to wait a little longer until the first brown spots appear. Either way we always seem to end up with some suddenly appearing with brown spots whether we want them to or not.
So, what can we do with these brown spotted bananas other than eat them. After all, if your anything like me you’ll probably have a whole bunch ripening at the same time. So, let’s look at a few options to make sure your brown spotted bananas don’t go to waste
1. Freezing Bananas – Without doubt one of the best ways to preserve bananas once they ripen is to freeze them. This was one of our tips in our article, is being vegan cheaper a look inside our kitchen. What you must do is make sure you peel the bananas before freezing. Trust me trying to peel a frozen banana just doesn’t work. Also try to keep them away from each other in the freezer or they will stick together.
So, what can you use them for. Well I love making vegan ice cream. Just put the frozen banana in a slow blender with whatever other seasonal fruit you have and blend on a slow speed until you have the desired texture. And viola you have a complexly natural vegan ice cream! Of course, you can add them to smoothies or milkshakes in fact all in all they are pretty versatile and by freezing there really is no need to waste them
2. Banana Deserts – Ripe bananas are actually much better to use for baking than unripe due to their higher sugar content. They are ideal for banana bread, banana muffins in fact a whole range of banana deserts. How about a quick baked banana? Just slice a banana along its length and cut into pieces. Then sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar and microwave for about 45-60 seconds. Sound good? well if you want more ideas like click here
3. Banana Chips – And finally, how about banana chips. Just slice your brown spotted bananas place them on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 225 degrees for about 90 minutes. Allow to cool and you have great banana chips. The other option of course is a to use a dehydrator but not everybody has one, but if you do this would be my preferred option
Brown Spotted Bananas – We Love You
Well hopefully you can see that your brown spotted bananas deserve more than being thrown in the bin. They are nutritious, tasty and versatile. So, it doesn’t matter if you decide to eat, freeze or bake your bananas, just don’t waste them. So when to eat bananas? Well that’s really up to you! What do you do with your brown spotted bananas? Do let us know in the comments below.