By Pooja Jha, Ritika and Murlidhar Meghwal*
Banana is the most common and widely consumed fruit in the world. It possesses delicious sensory characteristics, nutritional and potential health benefits. Under the monetary value, banana ranked fourth among the world’s most important crops after rice, wheat and maize. Banana belongs to herbaceous and perennial crop of the Musaceae family. Its leaves behave as a stem and because of this it also called as pseudo stem plant. Presently, Banana is cultivated in warm tropical area between 30 degree from both north and south of the equator.
Banana is an extensively cultivated plant in the world, mainly for its fruit. While harvesting plant for its fruit banana, other parts of plant like leaves, flowers, thrown as waste. These wastes turn in into lignocellulosic biomass. There would be 2 scenarios with lignocellulosic biomass, either it left on the ground or taken to open dump but in both cases the risk of transmission of disease and production of greenhouse gases are high.
To reduce the wastage we can use whole banana plant in many ways. The banana tree known as kalpa-vruksha, since ancient times; every part of the tree can be utilized for our benefit such as fruits are eaten, leaves are utilized as plates and, pseudo stem and flower as functional food due to its high nutrient content.
The flower is widely known as Banana blossom or Banana heart. Banana blossom has the potential to be called as a super-food attributed by its high nutrient content such as fibre, protein, vitamin A,C and E, minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and antioxidants.
The banana blossom is a by-product of banana cultivation, can be included in diets as it has much health benefiting and therapeutic properties that can be turned from waste to health products (food).
Therapeutic Properties of Banana Blossom (flower)
For diabetic people
Banana flowers and pseudo stem have high content of fibre potent antioxidant materials with low glycemic index value which helps in lowering blood sugar level. It also has good amount of iron which help in the production of red blood cells.
For women during their menstrual cycle
From the ancient times, Banana blossoms have been utilized in traditional treatment to treat the excessive blood loss during the menstrual cycle. Banana blossoms have ability to regulate the progesterone hormone that can be helpful to reduce the painful bleeding and lower the muscle cramp. Besides this, magnesium content of the blossom help in reducing the anxiety during the menstrual cycle.
For lactating mothers
Banana blossom helps in boosting the milk production in lactating women.
For heart and gastrointestinal health
Banana’s flower is a good source both soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, it possess heart and gastrointestinal protective properties. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form gel which help in easily movement of food through the GI tract to support the gastrointestinal health and besides this, it also helps to reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Whereas insoluble fibers in banana’s flower, being water insoluble, help in adding bulk to undigested waste products in the GI tract which is beneficial for constipation.
Helpful for patients having ulcers
Ulcers are open sores/ wounds alongside the intestinal linings caused by excessive breakage in the skin or mucous membrane which fail to heal. A Vitamin C rich diet is always suggested by doctors as vitamin C plays major role in the healing process of wound by assisting the collagen production in the skin. Banana blossom is a good source of vitamin C and can be helpful in neutralizing the gastric juices, thereby reducing the irritation cause by ulcers which helps in ulcer management.
Helpful in preventing and treating infection
Banana flowers contain many bioactive compounds having antimicrobial activities which have been very effective in treating infection condition in humans. Banana flower’s bioactive compounds extract exhibited antibacterial properties against bacteria (Bacillus). The Flower extract has wound healing power, especially in children and preventive properties against malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum as the extract helps to prevent the parasite from growing and developing in the body.
Good source of antioxidants and phytochemicals
Banana flower has significant antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Banana flower is rich in phytochemicals such as flavonoids, vitamins and proteins which makes it beneficial for treating bronchitis, constipation and stomach ulcer. Banana flower extracts can be utilized for various industrial applications as it possesses high flavonoids and phenolic content. Due to these properties, banana flower can be incorporate in health supplement category.
Helps in mood elevation and anxiety reduction
Banana flower has mood boosting properties for persons having mood swings and anxious nature. This mood elevation and anxiety reduction properties of banana flower can be attributed to its magnesium content which acts as an antidepressant.
Helpful in weight management
Banana flower is helpful in weight management because of its dietary fiber content as it makes you feel full and satisfied for longer period to avoid frequent and overeating.
Bbanana flower can be used as a functional food and incorporated in our diet. Banana blossom h as various potential industrial applications. This byproduct of the banana plant can create market demand in functional foods and Nutraceutical category. Till now, it has been used in traditional recipes only, but at industrial level it goes as waste. From a future prospective, by exploring the potential opportunity of the banana flower, the wastage related to this flower can turn into a wealth enhancer.
* Author, Department of Food Science and Technology, NIFTEM Kundli, Sonepat, India