Nutrition is in the eye of the beholder

EC: Brown Bananas Are Healthier Than You Think
Credit: Photo by Jörg Mikus / EyeEm via Getty Images

In a culture where breakfasts are curated for that perfect Instagram shot, food people think is ugly doesn’t get much love. The hypothetical lifespan of a banana is a prime example. Think about it: Somewhere along the line, seeing brown spots on a banana meant you should use it for homemade bread. It’s a form of foodie damage control, fueled by the perception that brown bananas aren't good. For some, it is enough to spark a trip to the trash and a moment of silence. These habits disregard the possibility that brown bananas might actually be healthier than less-ripe bananas. As a result, overripe bananas aren’t deemed worthy of our cereal bowls and parfaits.

Let’s take a few steps back. It is no secret that bananas are nutritious. They’re full of heart-healthy potassium and fiber; the latter keeps your bowel movements... well, moving. Bananas are also a source of vitamin A, a nutrient that improves your immune system and eye health. To top it off, this tropical fruit is jam-packed with antioxidants like dopamine. These substances protect your cells from damage, further boosting your immunity.

It’s easy to think that an overripe fruit loses its properties. The truth is that bananas actually get better with age—just like wine. Over time, enzymes cause a natural ripening process, stimulating the breakdown of the banana’s molecules. Subsequently, antioxidant activity increases, revealing itself as brown spots. The protein content also increases during ripening, while vitamin A and fiber stay consistent. How awesome is that?

There is one caveat, though. Ripening also breaks down the starches, forming simple sugars that are easier to digest. This yields a sweeter banana, thanks to the increase in overall sugar. And while it makes for a super moist banana pancake, it may be bad news for Type 2 diabetics. In this case, yellow bananas are the better choice.

Otherwise, if sugar intake isn’t your biggest concern, brown bananas are pretty darn healthy. So the next time life gets crazy, and you forget about the bananas, don’t worry. That last-minute banana bread may be healthier than you think.