Growing up, bananas were a regular part of my diet. My parents would insist I eat the fruit every day after lunch, for good health. To me it was only a delicious fruit, but little did I know that the banana tree is India’s most revered plant, owing to its nativity, affordability, medicinal benefits, and perennial abundance. Whether you are eating the fruit, blending it into a smoothie, or frying it up for lunch, bananas are delicious no matter how they are consumed.
According to reports, India leads the world in the production of bananas, with an annual output of 14.2 million tonnes. The fruit is considered to be the second most important plant in the country, next to mango.
The humble banana tree is consumable entirely – stem, flower, leaves, and fruit. In fact, did you know that in many parts of the country, it is a tradition to consume the banana stem?
Known as vazha thandu in Tamil Nadu, bale dindina in Karnataka, and unni thandu in Kerala, the stem is a herbaceous (non-woody) part of the plant. The hard outer covering is to be removed, and the interior pale-green portion is both flavoursome and nutritious. This fibrous stalk is usually consumed as a salad, juice, and sometimes in curries.
According to several reports, the banana stem is a rich source of fibre, vitamins, potassium and antioxidants. Consuming this regularly has proved to not only control diabetes but also promote weight loss.
A versatile plant
Each part of the banana tree is packed with different nutrients that offer different kinds of health benefits.
The raw banana, which is consumed as a vegetable, is an excellent source of fibre and a type of diabetes-resistant starch. Reports say that consumption of raw bananas has regularly proved to reduce cholesterol levels, and improve insulin metabolism and gastrointestinal health. However, it is important to note that bananas, when eaten as a fruit, contain a certain level of carbohydrates that can increase sugar levels in the blood.
In south India, the banana tree is considered auspicious and worshipped during festivals. The flowers, leaves, and fruits are used during wedding ceremonies as decoration, to serve food, and as the last course of a meal respectively.
Benefits of consuming banana stem
In other parts of the world, the banana stem is considered inedible once harvested. But owing to its high fibre content, it is used for making handicrafts including fabric, ropes and paper. It has also been reported to be used as a treatment for diarrhoea and inflammation. The juice extracted from banana stems is also used to treat deadly snake bites.
With a crunchy texture and earthy flavour, the banana stem is a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants such as gentisic acid, ferulic acid and more. Regular ingestion of these nutrients helps control blood sugar, reduce high blood pressure, and accelerate weight loss.
Dr Periyandavar, a Chennai-based diabetologist with over 30 years of experience advises his patients to eat banana stems every day.
He says, “It has phenomenal benefits for those struggling to reduce high blood sugar levels or weight. The stem has a low glycemic index, which means it has a low sugar-increasing capacity. It is also rich in fibre that helps ease bowel movements.”
Dr Periyandavar also adds that even urologists recommend banana stem juice to patients undergoing kidney stone treatment. The presence of potassium and vitamin b12 acts as a detoxifying agent. He says that while it is not a course of treatment, it is recommended to boost health.