We know bananas are super healthy: A medium banana provides 9 percent of your recommended Daily Value (DV) of potassium as well as fiber, magnesium and folate. Plus, its natural casing allows for the fruit to act as the perfect on-the-go snack or pre-workout fuel. But that begs the question: Can you eat banana peels?
It turns out, the peels are pretty nutritious, too. But before you turn your nose up at the idea, let's take a closer look at the potential nutritional benefits and the best way to go about eating the peel.
Read more: Is Eating a Banana a Day Healthy?
The Benefits of Eating a Banana Peel
The good news is that eating banana peels is not dangerous, although there are some steps you'll want to take before doing so (more on that below). So what are the benefits?
1. Banana Peels Contain Antioxidants
First off, the peel itself is a source of great source of phenolics, which are plant compounds with potential health benefits. To date, there have been 40 different compounds identified in the banana peel, as reported in a January 2018 study published in Journal of Functional Foods.
One of the major benefits of the phenolics found in the peel is that they have antioxidant properties. So, what does that mean? Antioxidants protect your body from something called "free radicals," which may play a role in the development of some diseases like heart disease and cancer, the Mayo Clinic explains.
Read more: OK, But What Are Antioxidants Really?
2. It Contains Fiber
We know that fruits and vegetables can be great sources of fiber, especially when you eat the peel, as you commonly do with apples, pears and potatoes. So it makes sense that eating the fibrous peel of the banana would provide a boost in fiber, too. An older July 2008 study published in Bioresource Technology confirms that banana peels are a source of fiber, specifically pectin, which is a type of healthy soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. What's more, only preliminary research on pectin specifically has shown that the fiber may have anticancer benefits along with the ability to improve diarrhea and cholesterol levels, per the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
3. Banana Peels Pack in Phytosterols
Phyto-what? Phytosterols are a compound found only in plants and, according to the Cleveland Clinic, they look similar to cholesterol so they actually compete with cholesterol in your body for absorption. If less cholesterol is absorbed by your body, then your cholesterol levels can decrease.
A December 2018 study published in Food Quality and Safety found that the banana peel is a rich source of phytosterols, specifically stigmasterol, campesterol, 24-methylene cycloartenol, cycloeucalenol and cycloartenol.
4. It Can Minimize Food Waste
Did you know that the peel accounts for one-third of the entire banana, by weight? And to think we're throwing all of that nutritional goodness into the trash every time we eat a banana.
Aside from missing out on some serious antioxidant, fiber and phytosterol benefits, we're also adding to the growing garbage problem. About 40 percent of all of the food we produce ends up in our landfills — that's about 1,250 calories per person! — according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That's a serious issue because rotting food produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
How to Eat a Banana Peel
Bear in mind that on their own and in raw form, banana peels can taste rather bitter. But there here are a few tips and tricks to make them tastier.
- Give it a good rinse. Just like any other fruit or vegetable, you'll want to give the peel a good rinse. This will help remove any dirt or other residues.
- Let it ripen. Just like the actual "flesh" of the fruit itself, as the peel ripens, it too becomes sweeter. If you're adding the peel to a smoothie or a baked dessert, you can let the banana ripen until it begins to show brown spots.
- Throw it in a smoothie. If you have a high-powered blender, you can try adding part of the peel into your smoothie. Start with half or a quarter of the peel, and go from there.
- Cook or boil the peel. To soften the peel, you can bake or boil or cook the peel any way you like. You can do this beforehand or as you're making a recipe like a stir-fry or baking bread.
If you're looking for more ways to incorporate banana peels into your diet, try adding them into these already banana-rich recipes:
Can Dogs Eat Banana Peels?
If you live with pets, you might occasionally feed them food scraps or pieces of produce destined for your garbage can. Human foods like peanut butter, plain chicken and pieces of cheese are great treats for your pet — and bananas are OK for dogs to eat, too. But you'll want to skip feeding your dog the banana peel.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that bananas are healthy for dogs to eat in moderation, as they are healthy treats that can provide your pup with potassium and vitamins C and B6. However, the AKC recommends against dogs eating banana peels — the peels aren't toxic to canines, but many dogs find them difficult to digest which could cause an upset stomach or even an intestinal blockage. So it's best to avoid feeding the peel to your pet.
- FoodData Central: "Bananas, Raw"
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Phenolic Compounds Within Banana Peel and Their Potential Uses: A Review"
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy Lifestyle - Antioxidants"
- Bioresource Technology: "Dietary Fibre Components and Pectin Chemical Features of Peels During Ripening in Banana and Plantain Varieties"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Pectin"
- Food Quality and Safety: "Bioactive Compounds in Banana Fruits and Their Health Benefits"
- Natural Resources Defense Council: "Wasted"
- American Kennel Club: "Human Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Methane"