Measuring Nutrients in Bananas as They Ripen

Jenn Hoskins
12th April, 2024

Measuring Nutrients in Bananas as They Ripen

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In São Paulo, a study found that as bananas ripen, their flavonoid levels increase, offering more antioxidants
  • The highest mineral content in bananas is at stage 4 of ripening, when the skin is mostly yellow
  • Ripening reduces green chlorophylls while increasing yellow carotenoids and potentially health-beneficial anthocyanins
Bananas are a staple fruit enjoyed worldwide for their taste and nutritional value. They're packed with essential vitamins and minerals and are known for their antioxidant properties. A recent study conducted by researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP)[1] delved into the nutritional changes that bananas undergo as they ripen, focusing on the "Nanicão" variety, which is widely consumed. The importance of this study lies in the global need to understand how the nutritional content of food changes with ripening. This knowledge can guide consumers, especially in regions where dietary deficiencies are common, to select fruits at optimal ripeness to maximize health benefits. The UNESP study specifically measured the levels of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), flavonoids, pigments, and minerals in bananas throughout the ripening process. Flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects. The researchers found that as bananas ripen, the level of flavonoids increases, particularly in the ripe and overripe stages. This suggests that eating bananas at these stages may offer more antioxidant benefits. Minerals are crucial for numerous bodily functions, and bananas are a significant source of these nutrients. The study showed that the mineral composition in bananas was highest at stage 4 of ripening, characterized by a yellow skin with minimal green. This stage is crucial for those looking to increase their intake of minerals. In terms of pigmentation, the study observed a decrease in chlorophylls a and b, which are responsible for the green color in unripe bananas. Conversely, there was an increase in carotenoids and anthocyanins, which are pigments that give ripe bananas their vibrant yellow and potentially purple hues. Previous research has indicated that anthocyanins are not only responsible for color changes but also have roles in plant defense and human health[2]. They are sensitive to various factors such as pH and light, and their stability is a key consideration in their use in food industries. The findings from the UNESP study align with earlier research on the biofortification of plants, such as the study on Brassica oleracea[3], which showed that zinc supplementation could increase the concentration of beneficial nutrients in plants. Similarly, the study on bananas and plantains[4] highlighted the importance of selecting genotypes with high levels of functional compounds, such as resistant starch and polyphenols, which are beneficial for human health. Moreover, the UNESP study contributes to the understanding of how the ripening process can be used to enhance the nutritional profile of bananas. By identifying the stages where flavonoids and minerals peak, the research offers a practical application: consumers can select bananas at stage 4 ripeness to maximize their mineral intake and choose ripe or overripe bananas for higher flavonoid content. This study not only builds on previous findings but also provides practical guidance for improving dietary health through the consumption of bananas. It demonstrates the dynamic nature of fruit ripening and its impact on nutritional composition, offering a simple yet effective strategy for addressing micronutrient deficiencies. In conclusion, the research by São Paulo State University (UNESP) sheds light on the nutritional evolution of bananas during ripening, emphasizing the importance of choosing fruits at particular stages to optimize health benefits. This work underscores the potential of natural foods in enhancing dietary nutrition and supports the ongoing efforts in biofortification and functional food research.

FruitsNutritionPlant Science


Main Study

1) Quantification of flavonoids, minerals, and pigments present in "Nanicão" bananas during the ripening process.

Published 11th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Anthocyanin Pigments: Beyond Aesthetics.

3) Zinc biofortification improves phytochemicals and amino-acidic profile in Brassica oleracea cv. Bronco.

4) Nutritional value and antioxidant compounds during the ripening and after domestic cooking of bananas and plantains.

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