Make the most of bananas – eat food off its leaves or bite into its flowers, peels and stem for a dose of health – this plant is quite versatile and how!
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Chances are you’ve always thrown away the peels of your fave go-to power snack aka banana. But do you know that the banana is quite edible? Apart from the peels, the stem and flower, too, are edible. This humble fruit has a lot to offer, only if you are open to exploring and experimenting. Moreover, if you are someone who wants to adopt a sustainable approach in the kitchen by saying no to food waste, bananas should be your go-to.  Including the stem, flowers and fruit, both raw and ripe, in your diet helps you embrace all of the nutrients, which would’ve otherwise found its way into the bin. Say hello to mindful cooking with root to shoot – a practice that encourages you to cook with all parts of a fruit or vegetable.

Flower


Banana flowers don’t just look pretty, but these edible flowers are actually rich in fibre and antioxidants. Including them in your diet could be a healthy start for you. Dr. Rajeswari Shetty, Head of Dietetics, S. L. Raheja Hospital-A Fortis Associate explains, “Banana flowers are an effective home remedy for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as they can help reduce mood swings and depression, thanks to their high magnesium content.” The un-blossomed petals of the flowers, known as bracts, find their way into many Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. From soups, stir-fries, sabzis to salads, these flowers can be used in a variety dishes. However, make sure that you’ve soaked the bracts in lemon water for long enough to get rid of its natural bitterness. Try this crispy banana flower cutlet recipe or Mochar Chop to spice up your chai time.

Stem

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The stem of the banana plant is actually a flower stalk; and just like the fruit, is a rich source of potassium and vitamin B6. Dr. Shetty says, “The stem is packed with fibre, and can help slow down the release of sugar and fats stored in the body’s cells, thereby helping improve metabolism. Moreover, the stem is known to contain very few calories.” She adds that due to its high fibre content, the stem can also help in curing constipation and maintaining a healthy digestive system. The stem in itself has a crisp texture with a slightly bitter aftertaste. However, when mixed with other ingredients, it tastes really good. Try this easy-to-make Baked Undhiyo recipe for a taste of good health.

However, the best way to reap the goodness of the banana stem is by sipping on its juice. Though bitter, it is extremely beneficial and has a cooling effect on the body. Besides, banana stem juice is said to provide immediate relief from ulcers, acidity and blood coagulation, thanks to its astringent properties. Due to its diuretic property, the juice can also help prevent kidney stones. In Ayurveda, banana stem juice plays an important role in weight loss. To make the juice, blend together an equal proportion of chopped banana stem and water till it reaches a smooth consistency. To this you could add some salt or honey, to make it more palatable.

Peel


The next time you’re done eating a banana, save the peels. Why? Apart from helping whiten your teeth and polish your leather shoes, leftover banana peels can do so much more. Banana peels are known to have a high fibre content and loaded with essential antioxidants, which helps up your body to build immunity against diseases and infections. “Banana peels are equally healthy or may be healthier than the fruit itself. They can help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular diseases and strokes, ” shares Dr. Shetty. They can be eaten either raw or cooked and make for a super healthy food. Make sure you’ve cleaned the peels well before consumption. Apart from blending the peels into smoothies, you could make banana tea, chutney or use it in your stir-fried vegetable preparations. Just make sure to not overcook them. You could sauté them in a pan for a few minutes along with salt and your favourite spices.

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Leaves



The first thing one thinks of, of an Onam Sadhya or a Patrani Macchi, is the banana leaf. Apart from a biodegradable and all-natural plate, banana leaves can be used to cook and pack food. “The leaves are known to contain large amounts of polyphenols that are natural antioxidants. Food when served or cooked on the leaves tend to absorb these polyphenols, which in turn can help boost your body’s immunity towards a number of diseases and illnesses.” Dr. Shetty says adding that they also have anti-bacterial properties with the ability to possibly kill any germs in the food. Apart from adding flavour, the leaves also help increase the nutritional value of your food. The leaves also come into play in the making of certain desserts such as this Goan favourite, which is made especially during festivals wherein the dough is put inside small pieces of steamed banana leaves, then folded and steamed again using a steamer. If you’re craving for something more traditional-, this fish recipe is a must try.

Raw fruit


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Raw bananas are a perfect replacement for starch-heavy potatoes as they are a rich source of proteins and vitamins, and also low in calories. Raw bananas have come a long way in the kitchen with addictive chips, scrumptious koftas and vadas, and also biryanis. Made from green bananas, banana flour could also be used as an alternative to wheat flour. This gluten-free flour is a good source of vitamin E, zinc, potassium, fibre and also magnesium. Besides, it also lowers cholesterol, helps keep hypertension in check, promotes weight loss and is great for diabetics. You could start by saying no to maida or wheat flour and instead make your cookies, cakes, pancakes, and even chapatis with this healthier substitute.

Ripe fruit



The fruit makes for a healthy and delicious on-the-go or sit-down snack. Chop a few slices and add them to your morning oatmeal or simply fix yourself a protein-packed smoothie – so many different ways to use them. However, the benefits of this fruit go beyond an easy snacking option. Dr. Shetty says, “The fruit can help regulate bowel movement, aid digestion, treat constipation, prevent piles, improve vision, regulate blood pressure levels and keep the brain alert.” Besides, due to a high iron content, bananas are good for those suffering from anaemia, she adds. While there are many versatile ways you can make the most of this fruit, this gulab jamun recipe is a must try.

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