Fermented Bananas: A DIY Probiotic Delicacy
Bananas are healthy and delicious. They are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, choline, manganese, and vitamin B6. Bananas are amongst the most widely consumed fruits on the planet and, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, America’s favorite healthy snack. Fermented bananas take all the goodness bananas have to offer and add the additional benefit of probiotics to the mix. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits fermented food and probiotics, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Health Benefits of Fermented Foods
One of the main reasons to ferment your food is the probiotic benefits. However, the living bacteria in the fermentation process also adds enzymes and vitamins to the food being processed. Probiotics are live bacteria, or “good bacteria”, and yeasts that are superb for your overall health, especially your digestive system. Probiotics help move food through your gut, balance good bacteria in your body, and help facilitate good digestion. They are a cornerstone of wellness.
Fermented foods are used as natural supplements that help a variety of conditions, such as detoxifying the liver and bringing it back to a healthy state. Some of the probiotics in different fermented foods and drinks may even play a role in preventing major gastric conditions and cancer.
Fermented foods are also helpful for many health problems associated with Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), a common condition caused primarily by stress. AFS can cause a multitude of symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, inability to lose weight, feeling anxious, allergies, and brain fog. This works by helping regulate the inflammation circuit and detoxification process of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, the system the body uses for addressing this stress.
Aside from their health benefits, fermented foods just taste good. The flavors in fermented foods are very complex. The fermentation process is slow and gradual, allowing for flavors to develop naturally over time. It has been said that the difference in flavor between a quick-pickled food and a slow-fermented food is equivalent to the difference between a $8 bottle of wine and a 40-year-old, aged bottle.
Benefits of Probiotics
More and more scientific research has been conducted on the benefits of probiotics. They help with a wide variety of conditions, including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
- Adrenal fatigue symptoms
Health Benefits of Bananas
In general, bananas are extremely nutritious. They provide an abundance of health benefits and are packed with goodness.
- Heart health. Hands down, bananas are good for the heart. Their potassium is a mineral electrolyte that keeps electricity flowing throughout the body and keeps the heart beating. This protects the entire cardiovascular system and helps fight against high blood pressure.
- Lifts mood. Due to their high levels of tryptophan, bananas are often the food of choice for diets of those dealing with mild feelings of depression. Tryptophan converts into serotonin, which is a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter in the brain. In addition, the B6 and magnesium help induce sleep and relaxation. It is also great for those who suffer from anxiety due to adrenal fatigue.
- Digestion. With their high levels of fiber, bananas keep your digestion flowing regularly.
- Weight loss. Bananas are a great weight loss food because they are sweet and help curb cravings. Many people with AFS add bananas to their diets to assists with this problem.
- NEM Stress Response. Bananas also help boost metabolism, which in turn governs the body’s inflammatory response and improves the body’s ability to detoxify.
- Blood sugar levels. The B6 and magnesium in bananas protects against type 2 diabetes. Bananas also help sustain blood sugar levels during workouts.
- Vision. Carrots have always taken all the credit for helping the eyes, but bananas can help in that department as well. With their small vitamin A content, they protect eyes, maintain vision, and assist in night vision. Bananas also help prevent macular degeneration.
- Bones. Bananas contain an abundance of non-digestive carbohydrates called fructooligosaccharides that encourage digestion friendly probiotics and enhance the body’s ability to absorb calcium. This process is exemplified with fermented bananas.
- Cancer. Bananas may be helpful in preventing kidney cancer because of their high levels of antioxidant phenolic compounds. On average, women who consumed four to six bananas a week significantly cut their risk of developing kidney cancer.
A Few Ways to Eat Bananas
Eating a banana plain, just as it is, peeled and ready, is in itself a sweet snack. However, if you’d like to get a bit creative, there are many ways to enjoy bananas. You can put a banana in your smoothie or protein shake for flavor and texture. You can add banana slices to yogurt, oatmeal, or cold cereals. To add flavor and nutritional value to children’s diets, put banana slices on peanut butter sandwiches. Bananas can also be frozen and pureed in a food processor for a fresh, all natural sorbet. They are also delicious cooked and served over ice cream for a special dessert. Any way you eat them, bananas are sweet and healthy.
Fun Banana Facts
- Archaeologists have found evidence of banana cultivation in New Guinea as far back as 8000 B.C., making bananas one of civilization’s first cultivated fruits.
- Bananas are mostly tropical and subtropical fruits found in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia.
- The banana is considered a berry, and the plant itself is grown on a tree-like perennial herb.
- A bunch of bananas is called a hand; a single banana is called a finger.
- Almost all bananas sold in stores are cloned from the Cavendish banana plant, native to Southeast Asia.
- Bananas are the same as plantains. Banana is the sweeter form of the fruit, while plantains are a starchier fruit that is often cooked.
- There are nearly 1000 varieties of banana.
- India is the leading producer of bananas in the world and accounts for 23% of the total banana production.
Recipe for Fermented Bananas
Fermented foods are the original probiotics. Although you can get them from health food stores, or in foods such as yogurts and chocolate, they can be expensive due to the time required for fermenting. Do-it-yourself fermenting is one of the least expensive ways to stay healthy and has been around for thousands of years. It requires no special equipment or electricity and can be done with just a few basic items.
It is always recommended to use all organic ingredients for the fermenting process, as pesticide residues can slow and even halt the growth of the good bacteria. The entire process may initially be intimidating, but do not fear. There is an extremely accurate “smell test” that you can use to ensure you have a good product!
This fermented banana recipe makes a tart, fizzy, and slightly sweet snack, resulting in enriched bananas that taste moist and soft as if they’ve been slow cooked.
- 1 banana
- 1 tall glass
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of organic brown sugar
- 1 probiotic capsule
- Plastic wrap and a rubber band
- Cut banana into medium slices and set aside.
- Fill a tall glass with room temperature dechlorinated or filtered water.
- Add a tablespoon of organic sugar to the water.
- Add a pinch of sea salt to the mixture.
- Add the contents of one probiotic capsule which acts as your starter for future fermenting processes.
- Stir all the ingredients together until well combined.
- Drop the banana slices into the glass, and make sure there is approximately 1-1.5 inches of room left at the top as the fermented bananas will expand.
- Cover the concoction with plastic wrap and seal it closed with a rubber band.
- Let the mixture sit in a dark place for 5 days.
- Conduct a smell test. If it smells good, then eat and enjoy! ( It if did not process accurately, the bad bacteria, yeast, and mold will take over and cause a distinct odor.)
For larger portions, increase the sugar in direct proportion to the additional banana and water. Instead of a probiotic capsule, you may use a small portion of the liquid from your first fermenting process. You may find that your fermentation time needs adjustment due to using the more potent probiotic leftover liquid. Many people leave the salt out completely once they have a system established.
With larger batches, put the fermented bananas in a bigger container, such as a wide jar with a locking lid. Always use glass, as ferments can grow extremely acidic and corrode plastic containers, leaching toxic chemicals into the mixture.
Also, if you live in a warmer climate, your fermented bananas may not need as much time to set. Overdoing will result in a more alcoholic, less sweet fermentation.
You can add your successfully fermented bananas to yogurts, oatmeal, or ice creams for a healthy dessert, or enjoy plain!
Other Foods You Can Ferment
- Onions, chilies, and garlic – You can use these items to make a super spicy sauce to add onto tacos, rice, or burgers.
- Crushed grapes and berries – Fermenting these fruits makes for a great topping on yogurt and oatmeal.
- Ginger beer – A healthy drink alternative.
In conclusion, when eaten in moderation, some fermented foods, bananas, and fermented bananas are an excellent and nutritious choice in food. They are a great addition to anyone’s diet both for their preventative health benefits and for a proactively healing diet.
However, as with many such fruits when eaten in excess, caution needs to be exerted. Eating too many bananas may trigger headaches and sleepiness, as the amino acids found in bananas are known to dilate blood vessels, and the tryptophan is a well known muscle relaxant. Because banana are a sugary fruit, if proper dental hygiene is not practiced, tooth decay can result. Bananas do not contain enough fat or protein to be a complete meal on their own, and should not be used as a post-workout recovery food.
Eating bananas in large quantities can increase your risk of serious health ailments. If you eat dozens a day, you can overdose on vitamins and minerals. Potassium overconsumption can lead to hyperkalemia, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, and temporary paralysis, although you would have to eat 43 bananas in a short period of time for that to happen. The high potassium levels in bananas can also cause issues for those with AFS. Though the risk is minimal, it is always a good idea to present any lifestyle or dietary changes to your nutritionist, dietician or primary health care provider.
In moderation though, making fermented bananas can be a delicious way to get the best of both worlds – the benefits of this nutritious fruit and the gut-healing power of probiotics.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Are there any risks associated with fermented bananas?
The only risk is if your fermented banana goes bad. If the bad bacteria, yeast, or mold take over instead of the good bacteria, you will want to stay away from this concoction. This will be extremely evident by the look and smell of your final results, so don’t worry too much about that problem. Bananas would need to be eaten in extremely large portions in short periods of time to pose any other risks.