November 20, 2006

Banana - Just a sweet fruit?


The banana plant, often erroneously referred to as a "tree", is a large herb, with succulent, very juicy stem (properly "pseudostem") which is a cylinder of leaf-petiole sheaths, reaching a height of 20 to 25 ft (6-7.5 m) and arising from a fleshy rhizome or corm. Suckers spring up around the main plant forming a clump or "stool'', the eldest sucker replacing the main plant when it fruits and dies, and this process of succession continues indefinitely. Tender, smooth, oblong or elliptic, fleshy-stalked leaves, numbering 4 or 5 to 15, are arranged spirally.

I am not going into into detailed description of the it. But what really interest me is what this plant does to the body. let take a brief look at some of it.

There are many varieties of bananas, each with a distinctive flavour, colour and sizes. Colour ranges from different shades of green, light to deep yellow, reds. The green banana is put to mature; unripe fruit are made into curries and vegetable dishes. Sliced raw banana (plantain) fried in oil makes very tasty wafers. Ripe bananas contain carbohydrates in the form of sucrose, fructose and glucose, which are readily digested.
The fruit, Banana requires a special mention. An average banana weighs about 150gms. It supplies more calories than any other fresh fruit.
1.2gms of protein
78 mcgs of carotene
88mgs of potassium
27.2gms of carbohydrate
116 k calories
0.4gms fibre
Cholesterol and fat content is minimal in banana. Cooked or ripe bananas are very well digested and the nutrients are absorbed well. The fruit is a fair source of B vitamins and calcium. It contains appreciable amounts of many trace minerals as well as fibre. Apart from this, the fruit has many important acids, enzymes and physiologically important chemical compounds.
Banana is a good source of potassium, which is a vital mineral for muscle and nerve function. Potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure. They also contain a high level of natural sugar in both their fresh and dried form, which they release quickly into the blood stream. This explains why many athletes especially tennis players often eat banana before and in between competition.
Ripe bananas are so easy to digest and rarely cause allergic reactions. Babies can digest them as early as the third month. Because of all this they are a popular solid food for babies. Mashed banana with milk and sugar can be an excellent supplementary or weaning food for children. Gruel made of banana flour is a commonly used infant food.
They are also good for treating child hood stomach upsets. BRAT diet comprising of banana, rice, apple, and toast are used for children with diarrhoea. Bananas contain no gluten hence their value in coeliac disease of children and adults. They are also a useful food for convalescence after any severe illness.
Ripe bananas have a mild laxative property and hence are very useful in children's dietaries particularly as a remedy for constipation. At the same time the fruit is helpful to combat diarrhoea and dysentery heals intestinal lesions etc. They are also used in the diets of children being treated for severe malnutrition. Experiments have shown that intake of banana helps children to retain many minerals.
Bananas are common ingredient in many salad dishes, icecreams and milkshakes. Ripe bananas are used to make several confectioneries malted milk drinks and even alcoholic beverages. But the best way to eat it is straight after peeling. When ripe, the fruit cannot be preserved for many days as it spoils easily. Sudden cooling also spoils the fruit and gives off flavour.
Diet is of utmost importance in the treatment of ulcer. The diet should be so arranged to provide adequate nutrition to afford rest to disturbed organs to maintain continuous neutralisation of the gastric acid, to inhibit the production of acid and to reduce mechanical and chemical irritation. The plantain or banana has an alkaline ash, therefore it has the ability to correct acidosis caused by acid forming diets. There fore they may be used in the treatment of peptic ulcer. Many sufferers of stomach ulcer report that it is a soothing food because of its blandness. The medicinal impact of banana and plantain on stomach ulcers claims that bananas stimulate cell and mucus production in the stomach lining by thicking the stomach.
The fruits of some varieties of bananas, besides having medicinal properties possess power to increase resistance to diseases. Bananas are rich in phosphorous, hence its combination with milk helps to calm down the nerves. For young children bananas mixed with tulsi or basil leaves activates the brain. The fruit can be prescribed for gout, a type of arthritis, constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion, eczema, hypertension, and even insomnia.

To be continued...