Global Food Myths #5: Do bananas turn brown because of its iron content?

Thomas Münzel, Global Food Myths #5, Banana, Iron

LSG Group experts clarify food myths from around the world – Episode 5 is about bananas and its iron content.

Bright yellow bananas are a decoration for every fruit basket, but as soon as the fruit turns brown, the ideal look disappears – and the taste follows quickly. What causes this color change? In India, many believe that it is due to the high iron content in bananas. Thomas Münzel, who as Development Executive Chef EMMA at LSG Sky Chefs is also responsible for the Indian market, explains.

“(It’s) a total misconception,” says Münzel, invalidating the assertion on two fronts. First, the iron content of bananas, at 0.4 mg per 100 g, is clearly lower than that of other fruits and vegetables which don’t turn brown when overripe. Ginger and peas, for example, provide 11.1 mg and 5 mg respectively. Dates (2.5 mg), black currants (1.3 mg) and mangoes (1.2 mg) also clearly outperform bananas.

Secondly, it is not iron but rather the plant hormone, ethylene, that is responsible for ripening and browning. It is produced by the banana itself and causes starch to be converted into sugar. The amount can be controlled: storage near other fruits or that form ethylene stimulates bananas to release more starch.

Placing bananas next to apples, melons or tomatoes is therefore unfavorable, just like it is to store them in the fridge. Low temperatures lead to stress in bananas, which also causes them to react with an increased production of ethylene, mature faster and turn brown.

The “Global Food Myths” is an ongoing series. We will drill down on a specific urban legend about food, drinks or table culture every Friday. Stay tuned for more!

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