Organic Bananas: Are they Better?

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So, what’s the deal with organic bananas?

They’re a little more expensive than conventionally grown bananas but are they worth it?

Or, could you just stay with regular bananas?

All and all, which ones are better for you?

In this article, we take a closer look at the differences between organic and conventional bananas.

Keep reading to find out which banana is better for you. 

This article may contain affiliate links and if you make a purchase, we may get a commission at no cost to you. This helps us provide high-quality information.

What Are Bananas?

Bananas are the fruits of the herb, Musa spp which includes over 80 species including bananas and plantains.

The yellow bananas most of us know from the supermarket are largely of the Cavendish variety.

So, then, are Cavendish bananas organic?

Sure, they can be, but they’re also largely conventionally farmed.

Although bananas have been grown for centuries in Southeast Asia, they’re now produced in as many as 150 countries.

Today, bananas destined for US grocery stores are primarily grown in the Caribbean, Central, and South America.

What Are Organic Bananas?

Organic bananas are grown on organic farms without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers.

Organic farms are generally smaller and built to encourage biodiversity and ecological health.

Furthermore, organic farmers work with the natural biological cycles of the land while maximizing local resources.

To be considered organic, certain standards have to be met including certification by a third party.

Growers supplying the US can choose to abide by a combination of standards set by private organizations and the USDA.

Certification typically involves:

  • Adoption of organic practices over three years
  • Inspection of the production, quality, and finished products

How Do You Identify Them?

You can easily identify an organic fruit by the use of a special PLU code, sign, wrap, or sticker in the marketplace.

For example, an organic banana may have a sticker or wrap stating USDA Organic or a PLU code starting with the number nine.

Organic bananas with PLU codes,  stickers, and wrap.
Organic bananas with PLU codes, stickers, and wrap. Photo Credit: NatureFriend | Pixabay.

Where Are Organic Bananas Grown?

According to the Packer, US organic bananas are primarily grown in Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia. 

And because of surging demand for organic produce, organic bananas are available in most grocery stores.

Common brands are Dole, Chiquita, and Del Monte.

To find organic fresh or dried bananas where you live, try a simple Google search for organic bananas near me.

Many online vendors offer organic fruits and vegetables.

Pro tip: Check if free shipping is included.

Are Organic Bananas Sprayed with Pesticides?

Yes, even organic bananas are sometimes sprayed with a type of milder pesticide.

Because bananas are farmed in moist and warm climates, they’re prone to decimation by pests and diseases.

Thus, to protect their crops, farmers spray their fields and plants with pesticides.

However, there’s a big difference between conventional and organic use of pesticides.

Typically, organic farmers will use a combination of methods to achieve a healthy crop and combat pests.

Those include using covering plants, rotating crops, irrigating, and using biofertilizers and biopesticides.

So, what are biopesticides?

Well, they’re a group of approved organic pesticides that are less toxic than traditional pesticides.

And, according to the EPA, that’s because they’re:

  • Specific, that is, they target a specific pest or disease
  • Effective and used in smaller quantities
  • Broken down more quickly

Typically, they’re made from botanical oils or biological substances derived from bacteria, fungi, or worms. 

As such, they work by using parasitic, predatory, or chemical means to repel pests.

Are Organic Bananas Genetically Modified?

No, organic bananas aren’t genetically modified.

USDA guidelines state that genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) aren’t allowed in organic products.

So, to meet organic standards, organic farmers:

  • Must show that they protect their products from contact with prohibited substances from farm-to-table
  • Can’t use GMO seeds

However, since pests and diseases are such large problems in banana farming, research into GMOs has increased in recent years.

Thus, if plants were more resistant to pests and diseases, it could result in lower pesticide use.

What Are Conventional Bananas?

Conventional or regular bananas are typically grown on larger-scale farms with heavy use of toxic chemicals.  

And, conventional bananas of the Cavendish variety are primarily grown in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

Are Regular Bananas on the Dirty Dozen List?

No, regular bananas aren’t on the Dirty Dozen List, meaning they’re not sky-high in pesticide residue. 

And that’s because bananas are protected by their peel.

However, regular banana farming does depend on heavy year-round use of chemicals.  

And, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers are commonly applied by plane or by hand.  

Some pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, are banned in the EU and revoked in the US because of their health and environmental impact.

However, they’re widely used by conventional banana growers in South and Central America.

So, the banana may be OK, but the plants, environment, workers, and residents are being regularly doused. 

As a result, conventional workers potentially have a higher cancer risk compared to those handling organic food.

Organic Bananas vs Regular Bananas

Ah, the organic conventional banana conundrum!

Which is better?

Do they taste the same? Is the organic bananas nutrition more favorable?

Should you spend the extra money on organic bananas?

Does conventional farming harm the environment?

Let’s start answering that by digging into the organic bananas vs regular bananas nutrition facts.

Nutrition

Firstly, organic bananas calories are largely the same as that for regular bananas.

That is, all bananas are low in calories, and also fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Furthermore, they’re packed with fiber and nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium.  

Per the USDA, one medium banana, whether organic or regular, contains vitamins and minerals (table 1). 

NUTRIENTS% DAILY VALUE, 1 MED BANANA
Vitamin B620
Vitamin C17
Manganese15
Potassium12
Copper10
Magnesium8
Table 1. Nutrients in 1 medium banana, percent Daily Value based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

But bananas are also rich in a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as ferulic acid and beta-carotene (table 2).

PHYTOCHEMICALSEXAMPLES
Phenolic AcidsPolyphenols (ferulic and vanillic acid)
Flavonoids (epigallocatechin, quercetin)
CarotenoidsAlpha- and beta-carotene
Zeaxanthin, lycopene
Biogenic AminesDopamine, serotonin
PhytosterolsCampesterol, stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol
Table 2. Phytochemicals in banana.

Health Benefits

The health benefits attributed to bananas come from the nutrients in the fleshy part. 

Since they are virtually the same for all bananas, organic bananas benefits are the same as regular banana benefits.   

The two following tables detail macronutrients and phytochemicals and their health benefits (tables 3-4).

For example, soluble fiber can help lower blood sugar levels and prevent cancer (table 3).

NUTRIENTSHEALTH BENEFITS
FiberPromotes gut health
Lowers inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol
Prevents cancer
Vitamin B6
Copper
Important for white blood cells
Vitamin CStrong antioxidant
Magnesium
Potassium
Promotes heart health
ManganeseStrong antioxidant
Lowers inflammation and blood sugars
Table 3. Health benefits of nutrients in banana.

And carotenoids, a group of phytochemicals, are strong antioxidants that fight inflammation and cancer (table 4)

PHYTOCHEMICALSHEALTH BENEFITS
Phenolic Acids
Flavonoids

Carotenoids
Strong antioxidants
Fights inflammation and cancer
Biogenic AminesAntioxidants
Supports immune function and fights cancer
PhytosterolsLowers inflammation Protects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
Table 4. Health benefits of phytochemicals in banana.

Taste

Taste is very much a personal preference, but the general perception among people is that organic foods taste better.

However, very little research compares organic bananas vs regular bananas taste.

But taste can also differ based on region, soil, climate, rainfall, temperature, and ripeness of the banana.

To decide for yourself, get a couple of organic and conventional bananas from a few different grocery stores, and try them.

Of note, it’s best to do a blind taste test.

By blind-tasting you give each piece of banana a unique code so you can keep track, yet stay objective.

Then, enjoy your favorite banana in one of our smoothies.

Our gift to you.

Price

Why are organic bananas more expensive?

We’ve all seen the organic bananas vs regular bananas price difference in the grocery store.

Well, they’re more expensive because it costs more to grow them organically.

That is, practices like crop rotation, seeding, biopesticide application, and handling are typically more labor-intensive.

In addition, the yield is typically smaller and more irregular resulting in less competitive pricing.

Lastly, getting and maintaining the USDA organic certification is an ongoing costly affair.

Are Organic Bananas Better?

Well, whether organic bananas are better depends on which parameters are more important to you.

If you’re concerned about nutrition and health benefits, conventional and organic bananas are pretty similar.

But from a pesticide standpoint, we do have some concerns with conventional bananas.

Even though bananas are low in residue, conventional farming does impact the land and the people where they’re grown.

Then, if taste is your criteria, some people prefer organic, although it’s probably also affected local growing conditions.

Lastly, if you’re watching your wallet, conventional bananas do come at a few cents less per pound.

Final Thoughts

Organic bananas are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers.

Organic and regular bananas alike are low in calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and packed with fiber and nutrients. 

And from a health benefit standpoint, they’re pretty similar.

Conventional bananas on the other hand are grown on larger-scale farms with heavy use of toxic chemicals.  

But regular bananas aren’t typically high in pesticide residue because of the thick banana peel. 

However, the effect on local flora and fauna of conventional farming is concerning.

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