Saturday, October 26, 2013

Whether eating hot food on banana leaf is helpful to us in any way?

I sometimes wonder about the intelligent selection of leaves for taking food, prevalent in the many parts of India especially in South-East region.
Banana leaves are extensively used as plates to eat food; pack and cook food. Is there any science behind it? I asked one of my colleague to-day, she replied that it may capture antioxidants present in the leaf. Immediately, another colleague countered saying chlophylls do not get absorbed to body. Perhaps, both were correct; but, my question largely remained unanswered.
So, this article is an answer to my question,”Whether eating hot food on banana leaf is helpful to us in any way?”
As a surgeon, I know that sometime back, there were a lot of articles published in different journals highlighting the use of steamed banana leaves as cheap and effective burn wound dressing material. I have never used, but there is no doubt that it is a good and effective alternative.
Why the colour of banana leaf changes, when hot food is served on it and how the typical aroma comes out?

List of Malaysian dishes
List of Malaysian dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we know the green colour comes from the chlorophylls found on the leaves and tender stem that can be said as kitchen of the plant.
In addition to the chlorophyll, the banana leaf contains many phyto-chemicals or polyphenols . One of them is EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), similar that found in green tea, which is a very powerful antioxidant.
Chlorophyll is a dietary source of magnesium that comes out when it gets decomposed. If chlorophyll is reacted with a base, it forms a series of phyllins, magnesium porphyrin compounds. Treatment of phyllins with acid gives porphyrins. 
In addition, the other one of reaction product is chlorophyllin being a semi-synthetic mixture of sodium copper salts.  Chlorophyllin is a water-soluble salt obtained by alkaline Chlorophyll; and chlorophyllin can form complexes  with certain chemicals like aflatoxin-B1 found in powders and extracts of many spices, herbs and higher plants that can cause cancer; or bind to some heterocyclic amines found in cooked meat, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in tobacco smoke. 
The formations of these complex structures may interfere with gastrointestinal absorption of potential carcinogens, and the amounts of carcinogenic substances in susceptible tissues may be reduced.
Green leafy vegetables, young cereal grasses and chlorella are alkaline-forming foods. They promote healthy pH levels in the body in particular the gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive.
Banana leaf meals are eaten with hand. Banana leaf meal etiquette also dictates that, after the meal, the guest must always fold the banana leaf inwards as a sign of gratitude to the host, even when the host is the proprietor of an eatery.
However, when meals are served at funeral wakes, the leaf is folded outwards as a sign of condolence to the family of the deceased. Due to this, folding the leaf outwards is considered rude in any other circumstance.
In Malaysia, some Malaysians of non-Indian origin sometimes fold their banana leaf outward as a sign of dissatisfaction with an eatery's banana leaf meal. This is due to the erroneous belief that folding the leaf inwards or outwards is a way of rating the meal.
So, it can be said without any hesitation that our ancestors have experimented and found out the beneficial effects of taking food served hot on banana leaves.

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