Bananas are delicious, nutritious, and versatile. They can be eaten raw, cooked, baked, frozen, mashed, blended, juiced, added to smoothies, and even used as a topping for ice cream.
But is banana a fruit or vegetable?
There’s a lot of confusion over whether bananas are fruits or veggies. Some people say bananas are fruits, while others insist they are veggies.
This article will cover what bananas are, how they’re classified, and their many benefits.
- Related article: How are Fruits and Vegetables Different?
Is Banana a Fruit or Vegetable?
The banana is a fruit, and while the banana plant is referred to as a banana tree, it really is an herb. The banana can accurately be defined as both a fruit and an herb, even if it is not used for culinary purposes as an herb.
By botanical definition, a fruit will contain a plant’s reproductive seed. A vegetable is the edible part of a plant which in the broader sense includes fruit. The banana plant is actually the largest herbaceous plant that produces blooms in existence.
The banana herb is related, albeit distantly, to ginger. The tree’s stem is a succulent and doesn’t have any woody tissue, so it’s not a true “tree.”
Considering the appearance, the herbaceous nature, and the fact that it doesn’t appear to contain seeds, are bananas herbs? Kind of, but they are also fruits.
The banana itself, or the yellow plant part that you peel and eat, is indeed a fruit. They grow in a formation known as a “hand” because it resembles one and is a part of a much larger stalk that is known as a “bunch”.
The fruit begins its life cycle in the heart of the banana plant with petals that gradually open, revealing flowers. The flowers become the hands of the bananas.
The banana grows from the ovary of the bloom. The tiny dark specks within bananas are the seeds, although they once were larger. What we eat today are sterile clones because these seeds are not used for banana plant propagation.
Do Bananas Have Seeds?
Yes, bananas are fruits because they contain seeds. Although, banana plants cultivated for commercial purposes are sterile.
The seeds have been reduced to nothing more than black specks inside through selective breeding. Humans have bred bananas to not contain mature seeds.
- Read more about the selective breeding process and how the Banana is a Man-Made Fruit.
For bananas with seeds, you’ll need to get a wild banana before you can see non-sterile seeds. Wild bananas feature very large seeds that make eating the surrounding flesh difficult.
The bananas produced today for commercial consumption are clones of a single breed of the plant known as the Cavendish.
They are propagated by removing suckers from the rhizomes found underneath the soil bed. The suckers are then replanted. A mature plant will develop from these and produce identical bananas. So, seeds have proved unnecessary for propagation.
- Learn more about Bananas and Seeds.
What Are Some Banana Varieties?
Cultivated in more than 150 countries globally, it is thought that more than 1000 banana varieties exist. These varieties are divided into 50 subgroups with the most common being the Cavendish.
The Cavendish banana variety is specifically cultivated for export sale and the kind that we most often find in grocery stores.
The original banana variety sold in North America and Europe was the Gros Michel in the late 1800s. Not long after, the highly virulent Panama fungus devasted crops and production came practically to a halt by the 1940s.
By the 1960s, most banana cultivators had replaced the Gros Michel with the Cavendish variety which exhibits natural resistance to fungal infection.
These are the most popular types of bananas around the world:
- Apple Banana – grown in Hawaii, these are sweet and pinkish.
- Blue Java – also referred to as the “Ice Cream Banana” with the blue outer skin and its inner creamy texture.
- Burro Banana – a banana featuring a lemony flavor when ripe and with sides that appear squared.
- Gros Michel – the original banana that arrived in the US in the late 1800s. Now this variety is mostly available in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
- Lady Finger – shorter and sweeter than the Cavendish we know and love.
- Macabu – a variety that turns black when it ripens and features a very sweet meat.
- Niño – a smallish banana the size of a finger.
Surprise! Bananas Are Berries
Fruit is broken down into 9 different subcategories:
- Aggregate fruit (raspberries)
- Berries (bananas)
- Capsules (orchids)
- Drupes (peaches)
- Grains (rice)
- Legumes (beans)
- Multiple fruits (pineapple)
- Pomes (apples)
- Nuts (acorns)
Bananas are classified as berries, just like blueberries. Berries are composed of a three-layer structure with:
- The outer skin named the exocarp
- A fleshy middle layer referred to as the mesocarp
- The inner layer with seeds known as the endocarp.
Berries are born from a single bloom with a single ovary and must contain at least two seeds. So, by its composition, the banana is a berry!
Banana Health Benefits
Bananas have been the subject of much discussion among nutritionists, with some favorable to including bananas in diets and some preferring other fruits. A banana is indeed relatively low in calories with a medium banana racking up only approximately one hundred calories.
On the positive side, the banana contains little or no cholesterol, fat, or sodium, and is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium.
On the negative side, they contain approximately 14 grams of sugar and 27 grams of carbohydrates that eventually also turn to sugar once they hit the bloodstream.
Still, medical research has indicated several health benefits.
Bananas May Lower Blood Sugar
Being rich in soluble fiber, this type of fiber forms a gel during digestion. Unripe bananas will feature resistant starch, making them not digestible.
When found together, they slow digestion and regulate appetite, so there won’t be any major spikes in blood sugar.
Bananas May Aid in Digestive Health
Bananas are an excellent source of fiber. A medium-sized banana has approximately 3 grams of fiber, which is known to improve digestion.
Also, the resistant starch found in bananas is a prebiotic, which will travel undisturbed to the colon where it becomes nourishment for good gut bacteria.
The Pectin fiber found in bananas will also help prevent and relieve constipation by softening stool.
Bananas May Help with Weight Loss
Bananas have low-calorie content, fiber, and resistant starch, so they are filling, reduce appetite, and don’t pack on the pounds. They are the perfect snack because they will help control your appetite and won’t make you feel more hungry.
Bananas May Protect Your Heart Muscle
Potassium is a crucial mineral when it comes to a healthy heart and the management of blood pressure levels. Bananas are a solid source of potassium providing 10% of the daily recommended intake.
Bananas also contain 8% of the DRI of magnesium, which is equally important to heart health. Without magnesium, you are at risk of elevated blood pressure and heart disease.
Bananas May Improve Kidney Health
Potassium is also fundamental when it comes to the health of your kidneys. Research has linked potassium to slowing down the progression of chronic kidney disease in people suffering in the early stages of the illness.
Bananas Are Nutritious and Full of Antioxidants
Filled with dietary antioxidants that fight free radical damage to cells, bananas contain flavonoids and amines. Free radicals are linked to degenerative illnesses and cardiovascular disease.
A standard banana of approximately 126 grams will contain many nutrients:
- Only 112 calories
- No fat
- 1 gram of protein
- 29 grams of carbs
- 3 grams of fiber
- 11% DV Copper
- 6% DV Folate
- 8% DV Magnesium
- 5% DV Niacin
- 10% DV Potassium
- 7% DV Riboflavin
- 12% DV Vitamin C
Is Banana a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts
Bananas are a nutritious fruit that contributes quite a bit to overall good health. They can satisfy your urge for sweets while boasting a lower calorie intake and fiber, vitamins, and minerals all to your benefit.
Read more about other fruits and vegetables: