Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Healthy Fruit: Banana

Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red. In popular culture and commerce, "banana" usually refers to soft, sweet "dessert" bananas. By contrast, Musa cultivars with firmer, starchier fruit are called plantains. Many varieties of bananas are perennial. Refer to the Musa article for a list of the varieties of bananas and plantains.
They are native to tropical Southeast Asia, and are likely to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Today, they are cultivated throughout the tropics. They are grown in at least 107 countries, primarily for their fruit, and to a lesser extent to make fiber and as ornamental plants.
Although fruit of wild species have large, hard seeds, virtually all culinary bananas are "seedless", have only tiny seeds. Bananas are classified either as dessert bananas (meaning they are yellow and fully ripe when eaten) or as green cooking bananas. Almost all export bananas are of the dessert types; however, only about 10–15% of production is for export. The United States and European Union are the dominant importers.
The banana plant is the largest herbaceous flowering plant. Plants are normally tall and fairly sturdy and are often mistaken for trees, but their main or upright stem is actually a pseudostem that grows 6 to 7.6 metres (20 to 24.9 ft) tall, growing from a corm. Each pseudostem can produce a single bunch of bananas. After fruiting, the pseudostem dies, but offshoots may develop from the base of the plant.

Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the banana heart. The inflorescence contains many bracts (sometimes incorrectly called petals) between rows of flowers. Banana fruit develop from the banana heart, in a large hanging cluster, made up of tiers (called hands) with up to 20 fruit to a tier. The hanging cluster is known as a bunch, comprising 3–20 tiers, or commercially as a "banana stem", and can weigh from 30–50 kilograms (66–110 lb). In common usage, bunch applies to part of a tier containing 3-10 adjacent fruits.

Individual banana fruits (commonly known as a banana or 'finger'), average 125 grams (0.28 lb), of which approximately 75% is water and 25% dry matter. There is an protective outer layer (a peel or skin) with numerous long, thin strings (the phloem bundles), which run lengthwise between the skin and the edible inner portion. The inner part of the common yellow dessert variety splits easily lengthwise into three sections that correspond to the inner portions of the three carpels. The fruit has been described as a "leathery berry". In cultivated varieties, the seeds are diminished nearly to non-existence; their remnants are tiny black specks in the interior of the fruit. Bananas grow pointing up, not hanging down.

Food and cooking
The Fruit, bananas are eaten deep fried, baked in their skin in a split bamboo, or steamed in glutinous rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Bananas can be made into jam. Banana pancakes are popular amongst backpackers and other travelers in South Asia and Southeast Asia. This has elicited the expression Banana Pancake Trail for those places in Asia that cater to this group of travelers. Banana chips are a snack produced from sliced dehydrated or fried banana or plantain, which have a dark brown color and an intense banana taste. Dried bananas are also ground to make banana flour. Extracting juice is difficult, because when a banana is compressed, it simply turns to pulp. Bananas fried with batter is a popular dessert in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. A similar dish is known in the United States as banana fritters.
Plantains are used in various stews and curries or cooked, baked or mashed in much the same way as potatoes. Seeded bananas (Musa balbisiana), the forerunner of the common domesticated banana, are sold in markets in Indonesia.
The Flower, banana hearts are used as a vegetable in South Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine, either raw or steamed with dips or cooked in soups and curries. The flavor resembles that of artichoke. As with artichokes, both the fleshy part of the bracts and the heart are edible.
Banana leaves are large, flexible, and waterproof. They are often used as ecologically friendly disposable food containers or as "plates" in South Asia and several Southeast Asian countries. Especially in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu in every occasion the food must be served in a banana leaf and as a part of the food a banana is served. Steamed with dishes they impart a subtle sweet flavor. They often serve as a wrapping for grilling food. The leaves contain the juices, protects food from burning and adds a subtle flavor.
Health benefits
Along with other fruits and vegetables, consumption of bananas is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and in women, breast cancer and renal cell carcinoma. Individuals with a latex allergy may experience a reaction to bananas.
Bananas contain considerable amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. The latter makes them of particular interest to athletes who use them to quickly replenish their electrolytes.
In India, juice is extracted from the corm and used as a home remedy for jaundice, sometimes with the addition of honey, and for kidney stones.
Banana, raw (edible parts) : Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 371 kJ (89 kcal) | Carbohydrates 22.84 g | Sugars 12.23 g
Dietary fiber 2.6 g | Fat 0.33 g | Protein 1.09 g
Vitamin A equiv. 3 μg (0%) | Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.031 mg (2%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.073 mg (5%) | Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.665 mg (4%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.334 mg (7%) | Vitamin B6 0.367 mg (28%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 20 μg (5%) | Vitamin C 8.7 mg (15%)
Calcium 5 mg (1%) | Iron 0.26 mg (2%)
Magnesium 27 mg (7%) | Phosphorus 22 mg (3%)
Potassium 358 mg (8%) | Zinc 0.15 mg (1%)
                    One banana is 100–150 g.
Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Source, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana


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