Over 96% of American households buy a banana at least once a month, mostly just for the pleasant taste. But what most people don’t comprehend is that bananas are actually far healthier than people give them credit for, and far healthier than you could grasp from a mere nutrition table.
In Thailand pregnant women routinely eat half a banana before giving birth as it is said to improve delivery chances. Tons of people rub banana peels on their mosquito bites to lessen the inflammation and it’s even said that bananas can whiten your teeth…
The important news for us is that common bananas have some quite strong acne-curing properties. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from merely looking at the food’s vitamins and minerals though.
A single medium banana is a good source of the following acne nutrients…
Vitamin B6 – 41% of the recommended daily allowance.
Vitamin C – 17% of RDA.
Manganese – 16% of RDA.
Potassium – 12% of RDA.
Magnesium – 8% of RDA.
Folate – 6% of RDA.
Riboflavin – 5% of RDA.
That’s nothing special at all, especially not compared to other fruits like the strawberry, which boasts a vitamin C content of nearly 100% of the daily allowance. Bananas do have a good amount of vitamin C themselves, and that can help your acne by causing old acne to heal faster and by reducing stress. However for other classic acne nutrients bananas are very weak…
A medium banana contains just 2% of the RDA for vitamin E, the ultimate acne vitamin, zinc, the ultimate acne mineral, and again 1% for vitamin A, the second best acne vitamin. It’s a good source of potassium but bananas don’t even have as much as their reputation suggests. Potatoes have much more. From its acne nutrition alone you would say that the banana is certainly a decent fruit to eat, but you wouldn’t recommend it in place of others.
Bananas – full of hidden acne powers
However, the real star of the banana show is not its basic acne micronutrients, but rather the large volume of smaller plant compounds that can be found within it.
A universal truth in nutrition is that you can’t judge a food, and a plant food especially, simply by looking at its nutritional table and that especially applies to bananas. They contain a ton of acne-clearing enzymes, antioxidants and other compounds including bromelain, kaempferol, tryptophan, rutin and quercetin….
Rutin is a particularly acne-busting one as it is renowned for its anti-inflammatory effects. This means that consuming a banana will calm your immune system down, preventing it from attacking the p.acnes bacteria in your skin pores as ferociously, and reduce the extent to which your pores swell up and become acne.
Rutin is a complex antioxidant that is found in many foods but it happens that banana is one of the best sources. Rutin’s anti-inflammatory power has been backed up by several studies:
- In this 2000 study conducted by a University in Argentina, scientists fed rutin to rats along with other compounds such as quercetin. They were impressed with what they saw; they found that while all the compounds exhibited anti-inflammatory effects on the rats, rutin was the strongest.
- In this study scientists were attempting to cure asthmatic symptoms in guinea pigs. They found that administering rutin did precisely that, and their explanation was that it prevented the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine.
The results of those studies are both very promising for rutin’s anti-inflammatory effects, and its presence means that eating bananas could reduce the redness and swelling of your acne significantly.
I have also seen claims on the internet that rutin can actually enhance the effects of vitamin C. I haven’t seen any evidence, the study must be lurking in the depths of the web somewhere, but if it’s true then it would mean that bananas are even more useful for increasing vitamin C’s acne healing powers in the body.
The two studies above also used quercetin, another antioxidant that banana is a great source of. They both found that quercetin was anti-inflammatory as well, although not quite as strongly as rutin. Like rutin, quercetin is found in many different foods but is particularly concentrated in bananas.
Bananas slash your stress levels
- In this study, scientists held several rats underwater in order to frighten them and thus set off a stress response. They fortunately kept their heads above water and after three hours they released the poor chaps, and tested their levels of various stress biomarkers. At the same time they had administered quercetin to the rats. They found that administering the compound severely blunted the release of cortisol into the rat’s bloodstreams.
That’s great news for acne patients because high cortisol levels are a big cause of insulin resistance, which in turn leads to high sebum production and oily skin. A banana a day is thus a good way to keep your body relaxed and keep your face from suffering the classic signs of stress that most of us acne-prone people are familiar with…
The best news is that bananas have other anti-stress compounds as well. In fact the banana is a cortisol-crushing juggernaut. Out of all fruits, the banana is the one that is highest in tryptophan. This is an amino-acid that is used by the body to make serotonin; it first gets converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan, and it is then this which gets converted to what is known as the “happiness hormone”.
That’s a misleading name because serotonin is not actually a hormone. What is true is that serotonin relieves the symptoms of depression, and in some cases, that can bring your stress and thus cortisol levels down to levels safer for acne. Combine that with the quercetin and the vitamin C, and bananas are an excellent food to eat if your acne is triggered by stressful times.
Even better, serotonin is the main precursor behind melatonin, AKA the all-important sleep hormone. Bananas can thus help you sleep better, which is excellent because sleep deprivation is one of the great hidden causes of acne.
That’s not it for bananas either. Bananas are also a good source of bromelain, a compound which may or may not help with acne but has numerous other health compounds, such as the ability to reduce joint pain.
Bananas also contain kaempferol, which is a strongly anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Kaempferol can turn down your whole pro-acne inflammation system as it reduces your body’s levels of NFkappa-B, a substance which directly controls the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Then there’s the likelihood that we haven’t even discovered all the compounds in bananas yet. It’s highly likely that bananas can reduce acne in further unknown ways, given that they have such varying health effects as reducing morning sickness, aiding digestion, relieving acid reflux, improving depression, reducing the symptoms of type 2 diabetes…
Any nasty surprises in bananas?
One medium banana contains around 14 grams of sugar, which is high compared to 6 grams in the same weight of strawberries. Sugar is a very evil substance when it comes to acne.
Potentially, some of the anti-inflammatory effects of the various compounds could be cancelled out by the sugar. However the good news is that there are tons of studies showing that bananas themselves are extremely healthy. It’s possible that because bananas contain good amounts of fiber, that slows the sugar down and renders it much safer for acne.
Moreover, there is a very simple trick to dramatically reduce the sugar content down to levels safe for acne. All you have to do is eat your bananas when they are barely ripe. When a banana ripens it is not simply a process of it tasting better and the skin changing colour. There are highly significant changes in the food’s nutritional content.
As a banana ripens, the amount of complex carbohydrates (starch) begins to fall, as they break down into simple sugars. A medium banana always contains about 27 grams of carbohydrates, but the riper it is, the more the balance will shift in favour of sugar. Maybe you have noticed that riper bananas are sweeter; I always wondered why that was for many years.
Therefore the glorious acne solution is to simply eat your bananas when they have only just become mostly yellow. Basically you want to eat them as soon as you can manage without hating the taste. If you actually like them green, then that’s fine, and you’ll actually get a ton of resistant starch at the same time, which feeds your acne-friendly gut bacteria.
Basically, the sugar content of a banana is not a problem for acne unless the rest of your diet is absolutely loaded with sugar. Therefore you simply need to learn to avoid the masses of sugar that the modern lifestyle contains.
The only other way in which bananas might give you acne is if you are allergic to them. Bananas seem to be one of the more common fruits for giving people the kind of allergic reaction that can worsen acne. However it’s safe to say that the vast majority of acne patients will not experience this problem.
Organic vs non-organic bananas
It’s not as critical for acne as other fruits like apples or strawberries, but if you can afford it I recommend that you buy your bananas organically. Why?
Well firstly, banana companies are subject to endless lawsuits from the workers in their fields. In a lawsuit brought in 2004, thousands of banana pickers sued chemical manufacturers based in Los Angeles, claiming that the usage of DTBT on banana fields in Costa Rica had left them with reproductive problems.
In a similar case back in 1992, banana giant Dole ended up paying over $20 million in compensation to 1000 Costa Rican banana farmers who once again, had become sterile after decades of work.
The companies were allegedly using dibromochloroproprane, a toxic chemical that had been banned worldwide by the World Health Organisation decades earlier. One has to only take a trip to the fields of Costa Rica to find children with horrible birth defects, and polluted ecosystems thanks to the agricultural chemicals washing into the rivers and polluting everything downstream. The life expectancy of banana farmers is reportedly far lower than their fellow countrymen…
As for official tests, whatsonmyfood.com says that the USDA pesticide detection program has found 11 agrochemical residues on bananas. 48.1% of samples contained Thiabendazol, a fungicide applied to bananas after harvest to prevent fungal rot. This chemical has been linked to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and possibly carcinogenic effects. Almost all carcinogen chemicals cause tons of acne by increasing oxidative stress.
Another banana chemical is imazalil, also known as Enilconazole, found on 32.7% of samples. Imazalil is also used for killing fungi during storage after harvest. It is classed as a moderately toxic chemical and lab animals fed the chemical have reportedly experienced “muscle incoordination, reduced arterial tension, tremors and vomiting”.
When chimpanzees are given organic or non-organic bananas, they always peel the non-organic bananas before eating them. With the regular ones they just bite into them without a thought.
Make no mistake then – bananas are a heavily sprayed product.
According to some gurus, bananas are actually a rare conventional fruit that’s completely safe. Their pesticide count of 11 is way lower than apples, at 47 different chemicals, and blueberries at a massive 52. You might think that the agrochemicals sprayed onto bananas are in fact harmless for acne, because you peel them off with the thick skin. Certainly peeling does remove a sizeable portion of them.
However, many commonly used pesticides are lipophilic – they can penetrate the peel and travel deep into the flesh of the fruit in a matter of minutes. That applies strongly to fruits like apples and pears – you can’t just wash the pesticides off in the sink. Also, the whatsonmyfood.com page doesn’t distinguish between bananas with or without the peel. The debate is very complicated and murky, more so than for any other fruit.
For that reason I’m currently buying organic bananas for my acne and my health and I have no urge to stop.
If you can’t afford organic bananas then you probably won’t explode with acne; the fruit never appears on the annual dirty dozen list of heavily contaminated fruits and vegetables. If you have to choose between a magnesium or vitamin D supplement and buying your bananas organically for acne, pick the supplements for acne any day. Likewise if you’re choosing between bananas or a more heavily contaminated fruit, like strawberries (which should ALWAYS be bought organically).
Nevertheless, organic bananas are one of the cheaper organic foods out there, partly because bananas are the number one consumed vegetable in America and demand is pretty high. It’s better safe than sorry. You don’t want to end up like the infertile farmers in Costa Rica. If you’re determined to clear acne I say buy them.
Banana flour – an acne-friendly wheat flour alternative
The fact that bananas are a relatively problem free carbohydrate source has led to the creation of banana flour, an increasingly profitable trade borne in the sunny isles of Jamaica. Banana flour is basically bananas that have been processed into a cooking flour.
To make 1KG of banana flour, farmers will first enter their crop fields and gather roughly 8-10KG of bananas. They will then chop up each banana into small pieces, and then leave them to dry. They typically accomplish this by oven cooking them, or more usually due to the cheapness and convenience of it in Jamaica, they will sun dry them. Finally they will pulverise the bananas into a fine flour using equipment or with a good old fashioned mortar and pestle.
The result is an acne-friendly, carbohydrate-rich flour that can be used as an alternative in bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, or just about anything that uses dough. The flour has been used in Jamaica and other Carribean islands for many decades (they have so many bananas that it was very cheap) but now it is beginning to spread to the rest of the world.
In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last decade, there’s been a huge increase in gluten free eating, and that’s helping banana flour to become an international business.
What does this mean for acne? It means that if your acne is sensitive to gluten, then you may now have a glorious alternative to any formerly wheat based products you used to love. Gluten sensitivity is actually a lot more common than people realise and it is a big cause of inflammatory acne.
Therefore if you were to switch to banana flour for all wheat based foods, you would both eliminate this acne problem and consume a lot of healthy compounds in one fell swoop.
Even the market is beginning to catch on as one company has been developing a banana flour based pasta. If you are celiac or concerned about wheat causing acne and you miss these foods then your saviour may have arrived. Eating this banana flour would be just as acne friendly as eating real bananas, possibly more so as it is typically green, less sugary bananas which are used.
The trends and developments in the market are very interesting to say the least and for all we know, banana bread and banana based pizzas could show up in shops near us at any time.
Update 26/02/2016. It’s happening! In the year since I wrote this article, the amount of online recipes for banana flour has exploded. Better yet, new companies are cashing in on the craze and developing new products.
It seems like only a matter of time before one of the major paleo kingpins launches a recommendation and the sales go through the stratosphere. There’s never been a better time than now to use banana flour in recipes to avoid the inflammatory gluten and lectins in wheat.
If you want to try it, this Wedo Gluten Free Banana Flour gets stellar reviews. If you head to their website, they also have tons of different recipes for pizza crusts, cakes, and biscuits, none of which use ingredients that cause acne, except for sugar, but you can use raw honey as a safe substitute.
One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that banana flour is also very high in resistant starch. That’s because it’s made from green bananas, which contain starch that hasn’t begun to degrade into glucose yet. Resistant starch is fantastic for your gut bacteria; because it’s hard to digest, it gets diverted to healthy bacterial strains and fermented instead and they use it to expand. In my eBook I cover how impoverished gut bacteria is one of the great hidden causes of acne.
Again, a good brand of banana flour is this Wedo Banana Flour.
Conclusion – bananas are a top notch acne fruit
When I first began to do research into the acne-curing properties of bananas, I didn’t expect to find much of interest at all.
However bananas seems to be, more than just about any fruit, a lot more complex than it first seems. To recap, they contain decent levels of acne nutrition, but their standout quality is the numerous smaller compounds that can reduce acne-causing inflammation in the body.
Bananas can also help your acne by being a powerful anti-stress food. If you are a fruit lover, and I do recommend that you eat two or three servings of fruit a day, then bananas are an excellent choice. I eat one every day and that generally makes me feel a lot healthier and more energetic.
Overall, bananas are a great food for acne that will most likely cause no problems for you.
Thanks for reading!