Most of us are familiar with the concept of “banana strings,” but what you may not realize is that there’s a scientific name (and purpose!) for these often-unappetizing banana appendages.
They’re called phloem bundles, and biologically, they’re a special kind of tissue that transports nutrients to all of a banana’s cells. They’re actually enjoying quite a moment in the spotlight, mainly because by tossing them into the trash, we may be missing out on one of the most nutrient-dense parts of our banana snack. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Phloem?
Along with xylem (which transports water throughout the plant), phloem delivers important nutrients to plant cells. Following this logic, then, phloem bundles (banana strings) are full of nutrients that plants need to grow and thrive — nutrients that humans, also, can benefit from if they’re consumed.
Nutrients in Phloem
While this sounds like a plausible theory, it’s still unproven whether or not banana strings definitively have higher levels of nutrients than other parts of your fruit. The case, however, seems solid.
“Although we have not specifically tested phloem bundles, it is likely that there would be a difference in its nutritional value. Since they are intended to do a specific job, and as such likely have a defined structure which supports that job, they would be expected to have a different compound profile to the regular edible banana flesh,” Dr. Nicholas D. Gillitt, PhD, told the Huffington Post.
One caveat though: You’d have to be eating quite a lot of phloem to really notice a difference.
“They are, however, present in such small amounts compared to the rest of the banana, that unless you eat a large amount of them individually, they would not be expected to impact the overall nutrition profile of a banana,” says Gillet.
How to Eat Banana Strings
If the texture of phloem bother you but you’d still rather not squander its nutritional benefits, consider eating your bananas via a smoothie. Blending the strings in with the rest of your drink will make them completely unnoticeable.