While banana beer might sound like something being concocted by the latest craft brewery, it’s actually an East African staple. Why bananas? Simple, they’re plentiful and can ferment like any other fruit.
The process of making banana beer seems simple on the surface: you ferment bananas but it’s actually a bit more involved and time consuming. Though there isn’t one strict way to make the concoction, the basic process entails leaving unpeeled bananas in a pit for several days to ripen. The meat is then removed from the skin, kneaded, juiced, filtered, and diluted. Next, wild yeast is added to the mixture in the form of millet, maize, or sorghum – a type of grass also used to make baijiu. Once that yeast eats the sugar – the process we call fermentation – you have banana beer.
So what does it actually taste like? Unfortunately not like the Giffard Banane Du Bresil liqueur that’s haunted my dreams. Canadian news producer Jim Handman tasted the “wild beer” several years ago in Rwanda, where he had the pleasure of sampling the “thick, opaque, yellowish-brown liquid” made by nuns – that’s right, Nuns were brewing the beer. The taste? “Both sweet and sour, with a very strong alcohol flavour….a bit like unfiltered apple juice combined with a healthy dose of vodka.” So more gritty moonshine than decadent flavors of banana and toffee.
But in East Africa, banana liqueur isn’t the goal, and for many, banana beer will do just fine. It’s not only a dietary staple, but one with much cultural significance with health benefits like the following:
2. Increased Energy
Sports drinks, energy bars and electrolyte gels are extremely popular nowadays, however you often see professional athletes eating bananas just before and even during their sports.
I’ve experimented with this myself – working out with, or without a banana – and seem to consistently do better when I have one before training. Bananas’ natural sugars balanced with soluble fiber give me a slow, stable energy release when eaten half an hour before I hit the gym.
Some people are worried about bananas spiking blood sugar, but tests show they actually have a glycemic index of around 52, with 24 g of available carbs (lower the less ripe they are).
3. Good Source Of Fiber
Most of us don’t get nearly enough fiber in our diets. Fiber is needed to help food travel smoothly through the digestive tract. It also improves your bowel movements. Bananas are a great source of dietary fiber.
4. Cure for Ulcers & Heartburn
Bananas are a known cure for heartburn. They help balance your stomach’s pH and enhance the protective mucus layer, relieving pain. The fiber content also moves food through your digestive tract faster – preventing reflux.
5. Vitamin B6
Bananas are particularly high in vitamin B6. This vitamin is important for creating hemoglobin for healthy blood.
B6 is also involved in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, synthesizing and breaking down amino acids and producing antibodies for a stronger immune response in your body.
6. Skin Conditions
Even the banana’s skin has its uses. It is great for treating skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.
Rub the freshly peeled inside of the banana skin gently over the affected area and leave the residue to be absorbed. The fatty acid content of the banana skin helps relieve a variety of skin conditions, as well as having a strong moisturizing effect.
7. Other Vitamins & Minerals
In addition to the high levels of potassium and vitamin B6 mentioned above, bananas also have high levels of vitamin C, magnesium and manganese.
They are also a source of most of the other B vitamins and smaller amounts of trace minerals like iodine, iron, selenium and zinc.
8. A Cancer Fighter?
Recent Japanese animal research linked bananas that are fully ripe (with dark spots) to production of a compound called TNF–a. This is a cytokine believed to have the potential to increase white blood cell count, thus enhancing your immunity and combating cancerous cell changes.