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Why Do Bananas Turn Brown?

Updated April 17, 2017

A typical banana contains about 90 calories and is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. India is the world's top banana-producing country, with the United States and the European Union being the main buyers.

General Overview

A typical banana contains about 90 calories and is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. India is the world's top banana-producing country, with the United States and the European Union being the main buyers.

Browning

Unripened bananas are a light green colour that begin to yellow as they ripen. A temperature above 57 degree Fahrenheit accounts for the ripening of the bananas and subsequent colour change. The warmer the temperature, the sooner bananas will ripen and get darker in colour. Thus, refrigerated bananas will darken much more slowly. Bananas left outside will begin to turn brown within a few days. This occurs because bananas contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase that reacts with oxygen and coats the banana with a sort of rust that accounts for the dark brown colour. This enzyme is also found in apples, potatoes and pears.

Slowing the Reaction

The reaction of the enzyme with oxygen can be prevented by treating the fruit with an acid such as lemon juice that counteracts the oxidising process. Another way to prevent the browning of the banana is to heat it, which causes the enzyme to inactivate. Finally, one of the best ways is to reduce the amount of oxygen that comes into contact with the fruit by vacuum-packing it in an airtight container. Adding certain sulphuric preservatives can also slow the process of oxidation.

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About the Author

Maggie Hira has been writing professionally since 2006. She has written for numerous websites and print publications, including "LA.Direct Magazine" and The Budget Fashionista. Hira holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.