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A nutritionist said eating banana peels can help you lose weight and sleep better, but the truth is more complicated

Gabby Landsverk , Business Insider US
 Dec 05, 2019, 03:41 PM
Ripe bananas on blue background, flat lay.
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  • An Australian nutritionist claims that eating banana peels can boost your intake of fiber and important nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
  • However, bananas themselves are already good sources of those nutrients, so it's not necessary to eat the peel as well, although it's safe to do so.
  • Eating banana peels can expose you to contaminants or pesticides, so it's important to scrub them carefully if you happen to like the taste and texture.
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Bananas are among most popular fruits in the U.S., with Americans eating just over 14 pounds per person in 2017.

But experts are split on whether most of us are eating them all wrong by throwing away the peel, allegedly a rich source of nutrients like potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber

Most recently, the topic got attention when Australian nutrionist Susie Burrell wrote a blog post lauding the benefits of eating banana skins. While the post notes Burrell is a "brand ambassador" for the banana company that sponsored the post, other news outlets expanded on her statements, claiming banana peels can help with weight loss, better sleep, and clearer skin.

While in reality, you can eat banana peels, some experts say you may not want to. Here's why.

Bananas themselves are full of nutrients, though experts know little about peels

Burrell wrote peels are full of nutrients, but it's just as easy to get those by snacking on bananas themselves, according to Megan Meyer, a nutritional immunologist with the International Food Information Council. "I wouldn't say you are missing out too much from just eating the fruit," Meyer told Insider.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutritional database, which has information on more than 275,000 types of food, doesn't include banana peels, so the actual nutritional content of the peels in unclear, Meyer added. It's also hard to know how many (if any) calories the skins contain.

Journalist Dan Koeppel, who wrote the book, "Banana: the Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World," is also skeptical. "I've studied bananas for close to 15 years and traveled to every continent where bananas are grown and I have never seen anyone eat a peel," he told Today.

As for whether banana peels can help you lose weight, Meyer says that's far from proven. Dietary fiber is linked to feeling fuller with fewer calories, which may help with weight loss. But again, the fruit of the banana is a good source of fiber. So are beans, avocados, oranges, berries, and whole-wheat foods.

If you are going to eat banana peels, wash thoroughly

If you happen to enjoy the taste or texture of the peel, it's fine to eat them, Meyer said. People have tried all kinds of innovative culinary techniques to include peels in various recipes, from smoothies to banana bread, and even a vegan "pulled pork" made from banana peels.

Banana peels also play a role in certain cuisines, particularly Indian food, according to some reports.

Just be sure to take the proper precautions. One of the most convenient attributes of bananas is that they come with their own wrapper: The peel normally protects the fruits from pesticides and other contaminants, so eating it means you could be eating those too.

Meyer recommended rinsing and scrubbing bananas (and any produce) if you're going to eat the skin, to remove dirt, bacteria, and other unwanted ingredients, even though conventional bananas grown with pesticides and other additivies are well within the safe limits set by the USDA and other organisations.

Finally, if you're considering eating banana peels to cut down on food waste, there are other uses for fruit peels, some of which are even more creative than compost, like using banana peels to shine your shoes.

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