Bananas have been a highly cultivated fruit for thousands of years. Many species of primate consume the entire banana, peel and all, which may have led indigenous peoples to follow suit. Although not common practice in the West, peoples of Asian countries eat banana peels, but they are usually cooked in some capacity. They are not nearly as sweet as the flesh, but they are rich in some nutrients, especially potassium, and can be used for a variety of other health benefits.
The flesh of the banana is a rich source of many nutrients and considered high in carbohydrates. The sugar content in a banana is highest when the skin has turned completely black, which indicates that the starches have all been converted to sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose, as cited in "Biochemistry of Human Nutrition." The flesh is high in vitamins B-6 and B-12, magnesium and potassium, but also contains some protein and fiber. In general, the peels of fruits contain additional nutrients and fiber that complement the inside flesh. The peels of apples, oranges and kiwis are good examples and more commonly eaten in Western countries, although banana peels seem to be better appreciated in India and Southeast Asia.
Nutrients in Banana Peels
Banana peels are also rich sources of potassium and contain much more soluble and insoluble fiber than their flesh. Dietary fiber promotes digestion and bowel movements and can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Banana peels also contain tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the body and affects mood, much like the drug Prozac does. According to "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," researchers in Taiwan discovered banana peel extract can ease depression because of its effect on serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for balancing mood and emotions. Others found that eating two banana skins a day for three days increased blood serotonin levels by 16 percent. Further, banana skin contains lutein, a powerful antioxidant that protects the eye from free radicals and harmful frequencies of UV radiation from the sun. Lutein has been proven to reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration, as cited in "Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition."
Eating Banana Peels
Banana peels can be eaten raw, although they are purported to be ropey and have an unpleasant taste. Waiting for the fruit to ripen makes the skin much thinner, a little sweeter and easier to chew, according to "Contemporary Nutrition." Some people prefer to boil the peel for 10 minutes or so before eating it, putting it through a juicer or blending it with other fruits. In Asian countries, banana peels are cooked with their flesh or fried on their own. Cleaning commercially grown bananas before you eat the skins is essential due to all the spraying that bananas are subjected to.
Other Health Uses
In addition to eating banana peels, they can be used to rub on your skin to stop itching, reduce inflammation, remove warts, smooth out wrinkles, get rid of acne, control psoriasis, and improve skin tone and texture. These are anecdotal claims, of course, but it's worth a try and certainly economical.