Bananas are the most consumed fruit globally. They are nutritious and easy to carry. They come closed in their own protective covers. Bananas grow natively in South and Southeast Asia. Unlike the West, in these parts of the world, the other parts of the banana tree are used traditionally.
A banana tree is unique in many ways as, theoretically, it is a plant since it lacks a woody trunk. Similarly, it has larger, starchy, nutrition-rich flowers that mature into hundreds of bananas.
More interestingly, banana flowers are edible. They have been traditionally consumed in South India and Southeast Asian nations like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and so on. They are not just a source of nutrition but also have many health benefits due to their content of bioactive compounds.
Excellent source of nutrition
When compared to other vegetables, banana flowers could be regarded as one of the nutritious options. It contains about 2% protein, which is not high but not as low as compared to other vegetables. It is low in carbs and thus has a low glycemic index. It is pretty high in dietary fibre, which may sometimes exceed 50% of its content. High dietary fibre consumption is good for metabolic health and gut health. Additionally, it contains micronutrients like iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E according to various studies.
Rich in antioxidants
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the contents of antioxidants in various foods. This is because antioxidants help neutralise reactive oxygen species/ free radicals. Free radicals are a by-product of metabolic activity and are highly damaging to body cells. Thus, high antioxidant consumption may help slow down ageing and prevent the development of chronic ailments.
Studies show that banana blossoms are exceptionally rich in polyphenol and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. Therefore, banana flowers may help protect the body from chronic diseases, lower inflammation, and prolong life.
Helps in diabetes management
Diabetes is the most common metabolic disorder in India and globally. In urban regions of India, 10-15% of adults are living with diabetes. Diabetes is best managed with the help of lifestyle interventions like dietary measures.
It is suggested that regular intake of banana flowers may help lower blood glucose levels. According to a study, it reduces insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and reduces advanced glycation products. It may also have benefits due to its high dietary fibre and antioxidants content.
Some early studies have also shown that the intake of banana flowers may also help reduce sugar levels due to its anti-amylase activity, i.e., it may slow down the digestion of carbs and prevent postprandial spikes in blood glucose levels.
It may also have a role in preventing diabetes. Although at present, most evidence comes from observations and lab experiments. Nevertheless, it would be safe to say that it is a healthy food for regular consumption by those living with diabetes.
Increases breast milk production
Regularly consuming banana blossoms is good for breastfeeding mothers as it helps boost milk production. Studies show that it contains a lactagogum compound, a type of milk production stimulant. One of the clinical studies done in Indonesia on 122 breastfeeding mothers found that it could considerably boost milk production.
Prevents pregnancy-related nausea & vomiting
Banana blossoms may help prevent pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Managing the conditions is incredibly challenging as many medications are contraindicated in the pregnancy. However, clinical studies show that regular intake of banana flowers may help manage this condition safely.
Good for gastrointestinal health
Gastrointestinal issues are relatively common in India. In many cases, these issues tend to be chronic. Gastrointestinal problems are not always due to infection. Studies show that the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is relatively high in India. IBS causes vague kinds of symptoms like increased bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, and so on. It is often challenging to manage.
Studies show that high dietary intake may help counter IBS symptoms. Dietary fibre helps regulate gastrointestinal motility and may also have a role in improving gut microflora. Since banana flowers are high in dietary fibre, they can help considerably. However, it is pretty likely that many of its benefits on gut health may be due to other bioactive compounds, too.
Helps fight infections
Banana flowers may help fight infections in many ways. It is effective against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. However, it appears to be especially active against gram-negative bacteria like B. cereus and E. coli. Therefore, it may lower the risk of intestinal infections.
It may also help fight infections in other ways. For example, due to its high dietary fibre content, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds, it may help normalise immune response to infections. Thus, it may have a role in reducing the risk of systemic diseases, too.
Promotes weight loss
Banana flowers are high in dietary fibre, help normalise intestinal motility as well as low in calories. It also has a positive impact on satiety. It may also reduce the absorption of carbs due to its anti-amylase activity. It may not be a potent weight loss remedy, however, it is definitely a healthy food for those living with overweight or obesity.
Helps in cancer prevention
The banana flower suppresses the growth of cancer cells in lab experiments. It could be due to its content of vitamins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. However, its impact on cancer cells could be due to some unidentified organic compounds. Whatever be the underlying mechanism, consuming banana flowers regularly appears to reduce the cancer risk.
Some researchers describe the banana flower as a superfood. Moreover, it has been a part of various traditional cuisines in certain parts of the world. However, despite the popularity of bananas, their flowers or other parts of the plant are not widely consumed.
Keeping in mind the numerous health benefits, there is undoubtedly a need for promoting banana flowers as a food item. Moreover, banana flowers grow rapidly in some parts of the world, and so, they can considerably be added to the local food security. Interestingly, bananas have a low carbon footprint as well in comparison to other crops.
Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.