Special Advantages Of Bananas
( Originally Published 1913 )
There is probably no more nourishing fruit, or one whose cultivation would be more valuable for mankind, than the banana; it has been stated that the fortunate individuals who have planted them in San Salvador, Brazil, and Java obtain returns 43 times greater from them than from potatoes. This wonderful plant has a remarkable resisting power against in-jury of any kind, and is seldom affected in any way. In addition to these advantages bananas possess others even more interesting for us—their nourishing qualities and easy digestion. In the fresh state the banana contains from 16 to 22 per cent. of carbohydrates, thus even more than the potato; when dried in the sun they contain, according to Balland (referring to Tahiti bananas), about 70 per cent. of sugar and some varieties from Surinam even more. As far as their digestibility is concerned, I have personally observed that when eating a perfectly ripe banana it will almost melt in the mouth, when simply turned around several times, without any actual mastication, and only the few stringy fibers in the middle of the fruit will remain. In this way 2 or 3 large bananas may be eaten with-out there being any feeling of discomfort in the stomach. I once saw a young American lady from the West who could eat 26 bananas one after the other without experiencing any discomfort. Of course, bananas are only thus digestible when quite ripe; those still somewhat green are less so, especially when they feel hard on the outside, although when very well masticated they are easily dissolved. When they are quite yellow and already have a few black spots on the outside they can be best digested; they are then softer and also sweeter. The sweetest and best-tasting bananas come from the Canary Islands; next come the red bananas of the West African coast, and then those from Surinam and the West Indies, and the Congo and Brazilian varieties. In Java there are also some sweet "pisangs," as the bananas are there called, but they are not much exported into Holland. The cold-storage rooms which are to be placed in the vessels of the Nederland Steam, ship Company may perhaps bring about a great change in this respect. Bananas are not only nutritious owing to their carbohydrate content, but also because of the albumin they contain; in the fresh fruit there is very little, but when dried there is more. In the tables submitted below, the one by Schall and Heisler gives the nutrient contents of the fresh bananas, while Balland gives those of the dried fruit.
The sugar content of fresh fruit is greater when it is fully ripe. The nutritive value of this fruit is shown in a table by Schall and Heisler, which gives the following quantities of nutrient substances in a banana weighing with the skin loo grams and 70 grams without: Albumin, 0.68 gram; fat, o.1 gram; carbohydrates, 12.4 grams, making, in all, 55 calories.
In 6 bananas, a number which I frequently ate after a meal, 330 calories are furnished.
The dried banana is especially nutritious, representing about 3000 calories per kilo. I myself found—as I frequently ate those sent from Herrenhut, in Saxony, and also the dried Surinam variety so popular in Holland—that they were so sweet as to make my teeth fairly ache. I could eat five or six of these dried ones without experiencing any difficulty. After they have been left soaking in water for about half an hour they are still very sweet; so the sugar content seems to be natural in the fruit. Undoubtedly these dried bananas are a very nutritious food, which is also easily digested when not too much is taken at one time. The fresh banana could really fill about the same place in a purely vegetable diet as does the potato in a mixed diet, and all the more so since the carbohydrate content is about the same. Bananas, however, have the great advantage that their use does not involve an increase o,f salt in the body. To be sure, when one wishes to have the sweetest kinds at the lowest price, it will be necessary to travel to London. There one may buy two very large, sweet ones for 4 cents or even less; they are, however, diminishing in price in this country (Austria), as the demand for them is growing greater.
Bananas may be prepared in various ways ; they can be fried and baked, and those not yet quite ripe are in this way rendered more digestible. Cut in slices they may be baked in pastry and also be used in omelets. Bananas are likewise very useful in the form of flour; this is also easily digested, although it is made from the unripe fruit. This flour contains as much as 8o per cent. of carbohydrate. When a very ripe banana is laid upon a hot stove in the skin it develops a wonderful aroma, and the fruit becomes partially dissolved. Such a remarkably useful fruit is surely deserving of greater attention in Europe. It is often used for medicinal purposes; in the French colonies in Cochin China it is prepared in the form of a purée, to be used in cases of severe and prolonged diarrhea. It has the same effect on the intestine as any very sweet vegetable food, namely, it reduces decomposition through a lactic acid fermentation. This action was observed by Collin in 20 cases, in which, in-stead of giving milk, which cannot readily be obtained in that country, he used a banana diet. It is thus endowed with a remedial action which is not only beneficial in intestinal affections, but in a healthy person as well.
In much the same way as a rice diet and the use of much sugar in general, banana has an antiseptic action upon the decomposition products in the intestine, and may also prevent their development. But simply on account of its digestibility and great nutritive value the banana is a very healthful food. It contains also an appreciable quantity of phosphorus--0.11 per cent. in the fresh substance, with o.27 per cent. of phosphoric acid.