Throughout South-east Asia, Banana leaves are used extensively to cook, serve food and as a decorative tool. Especially in South India, food is extensively served in banana leaves as it is considered hygienic, environmental friendly and known to provide health benefits.
But have you ever wondered why and how a simple leaf came to dominate the meal time? Well, here’s your answer.
Why Are Banana Leaves Healthy?
Banana leaves are packed with plant-based compounds called polyphenols. Especially a specific kind of polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. Polyphenols are natural antioxidants found in many plant-based foods.Epigallocatechin gallate actually belongs to the family of catechins. It contains 3 phenol rings and has very strong antioxidant properties. Epigallocatechin gallate is the main active component of green tea leaves as well.
There are many claims about the health benefits of Epigallocatechin gallate mostly due to the potent antioxidant activity. It is believed this protects our cells from oxidative damage from free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the stressors that our modern life puts on our bodies. A number of chronic diseases have been associated with free radical damage, including cancer, arteriosclerosis, heart diseases and accelerated aging.
Epigallocatechin gallate can protect the DNA in the human cells from ultraviolet and visible radiation-induced damage and is effective in promoting fat oxidation and lowering body weight. So the banana leaf being packed with Epigallocatechin is a very beneficial ingredient in a skin rejuvenation treatment.
Of course, if it’s so healthy, why don’t they eat the leaves too you may ask. But banana leaves are not easy to digest if eaten directly for humans. In fact, since in ancient India many people had cows in their homes, they would eat the food and give the leaves as food for the cows. This was nutritious to both parties and made good economic sense too.
You may ask if one is not eating the banana leaf, how can it be nutritious. Well, the warm food stimulates the polyphenols in the banana leaves which gets absorbed in the food. Additionally they also have anti-bacterial properties and contain Vitamin A, Citric acid, Calcium and Carotene.
Benefits Of Eating Food On Banana Leaves
Eating food in banana leaves is very healthy because when hot food is served in banana leaves, the various nutrients mix with the food.
- The chlorophyll in the leaves prevents intestinal ulcer and skin disease.
- It cleanses the blood.
- It stimulates appetite and helps digest food.
- Eating food on a banana leaf can benefit your skin health.
- It soothes the mucous lining in the stomach and cures ulcer.
- It is a good remedy for kidney stones and other bladder related diseases.
- It boosts Immune system.
Why Eat Food On A Banana Leaf?
1. Imparts Great Flavour
Banana leaves have a waxy coating on them which has a subtle but distinct flavour. When hot food is placed on the leaves, the wax melts and lends its flavour to the food, making it taste better. Steaming or cooking food in banana leaf also adds a sweet flavor and imparts astringency to the food.
2. Environment Friendly
People use plastic and Styrofoam plates as disposable plates which cause great harm to our environment and the animals. Banana leaves are eco-friendly and can be eaten by other herbivorous animals.
3. Clean And Hygienic
Banana leaves do not require a lot of cleaning – they just need to be rinsed with a little water and they are ready to use. If you are eating at a place where the hygiene standards are questionable, you are much better off eating from a banana leaf than from a plate that has not been cleaned properly.
Even with a dishwasher, if you are using chemical soaps and detergents which are environmentally damaging, they can affect you too. These traces of toxic chemicals may still remain on your plate and cause havoc. Banana leaves carry no such harm.
Because of their waxy coating, banana leaves can be used to serve gravy, curries, and slightly soupy preparations without turning soggy. They are also a great alternative to aluminum foil and can be used to pack lunches for picnics
Other Benefits Of Banana Leaves
Apart from using it as an eco-friendly plate to eat your meals, it can be used to treat various other ailments.
1. Use juice of a fresh banana leaf to treat minor skin wounds and other skin disorders such as dandruff, eczema, and sunburn.
2. Soak banana leaves in cold water and apply it on the sunburnt area.
3. Banana leaves have medicinal properties that can relieve poisonous insect bites, bee stings, spider bites, rashes, skin irritation.