Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory

A Banana Peel a Day Keeps the . . .

October 15, 2015

What you need to know about some zany food claims

by Jennifer Anju Grossman

“Banana peels are good for you.”

“Better to nosh on the peel than the actual fruit, which contains lots of fructose.”

“Banana peels are the best weight-loss weapon ever.”

Most busy people have no idea what to believe anymore about what is — and isn’t — good for us to eat. Every week seems to bring a new “respected” study that disproves the study released the week before.

Dole BananasThen to make matters more confusing are the wild online claims such as the ones listed above. They have no scientific basis in fact but are so off the wall they wouldn’t be proffered if they didn’t have some merit… correct? 

Guess again!

It remains an open question whether banana peels are good for you. Banana bloat is bogus nonsense. Even with three natural sugars — sucrose, fructose and glucose — bananas pack a paltry 100 calories beneath the peel. And the benefits of bananas are real. They’re a very good source of potassium, are low in salt, can help lower blood pressure and can protect against heart attack and stroke.

While banana peels were once regarded as little more than the punch line of a clichéd joke, they are being investigated for potential health benefits.

Researchers at the Dole Nutrition Research Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina, have shown the peel from one medium-size banana has higher polyphenolic antioxidant value than a cup of blueberries.

Nick Gillitt, who runs the lab, found an interesting side observation during a study he did on bananas as an energy source. “Our most recent work suggests compounds like dopamine could speed up recovery after exercise. So bananas might not only supply the best fuel for doing exercise, they could also supply what you need to recover from it, too,” Gillitt said.

“We know there is approximately 300 times more dopamine in the peels that the flesh, so could they help in recovery? We are trying to find out,” he said.

Gillitt’s team of scientists used liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry to show that about half of the antioxidant value comes from a molecule called dopamine, which functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and a hormone in the blood. Dole scientists have also found the peels are nutrient dense, containing 2.3 times the fiber, 2.4 times the beta-carotene and 8.4 times the calcium of regular banana flesh.

Gillitt’s boss, Dole Chairman David H. Murdock, the 92-year-old fish vegetarian, is already adding a bit of banana peel to his smoothies. That’s how much he believes in the power of the peel.

But should you?

While it’s OK to add a bit of banana peel to smoothies and juices, they’re not exactly tasty — plus their latex content raises issues.

The hidden potential in peels could someday add value to other foods. Meanwhile, the projected power of the peels shouldn’t overshadow the very real benefits right now that are reaped by eating actual bananas every day.

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