Banana peels are a great snack for your rabbit if the banana is organic.
Otherwise, you can give your rabbit the banana fruit, the part of the banana that you eat, and just put the rest of the peel in the trash or the compost bin.
What’s the Appeal of a Banana Peel for Rabbits?
For humans, the most nutritious part of a banana is the fruit inside.
For rabbits, the whole banana is nutritious, but the peel has more of what rabbits need than the interior of the banana.
Banana peels are about 75% water. They contain 11% to 13% carbohydrates (starch and sugar), about 6% fat, and about 2% protein.
The remaining 4% to 6% of the banana peel is fiber.
Fiber is an extremely important nutrient for rabbits. It prevents a potentially fatal condition called woolblock, in which swallowed hair can accumulate in a hairball in the pit of the rabbit’s stomach that it cannot cough up.
Rabbits also have probiotic bacteria that transform bacteria into healthy fats (as do humans).
Banana peels are a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, and sodium. The phosphorus helps the rabbit’s body regulate calcium and reduces the risk of kidney stones.
Banana peels also supply trace amounts of copper, manganese, and zinc. Unlike the fruit inside, they are not a very good source of potassium.
There is a significant amount of vitamin C in banana peels—but your rabbit’s body makes its own vitamin C.
More important to rabbit health are the beta-carotene and other antioxidants that occur in banana peel.
A rabbit’s body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A for fur, skin, and eye health. Banana peels also contain antioxidant compounds that fight germs and reduce inflammation.
There are, however, differences in the nutritional value of banana peels depending on the variety and how ripe the banana is.
Also read: Are Bananas Good for Rabbits?
Not All Banana Peels Are Equally Nutritious
Banana peels and bananas that are damaged in shipping are used in livestock feed not just for rabbits, but also for goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, monkeys, catfish, and zebras.
Animal scientists have studied the nutritional value of bananas and banana peels in animal health in great detail.
Here are the most important findings of their research.
- The starch in a banana peel changes into sugar as it ripens. About 30% of the carbohydrate in a yellow banana is sugar, while only about 15% of the carbohydrate in a green banana peel is sugar.
- Green bananas actually decay faster than ripe bananas when they are exposed to heat, humidity, and mold spores.
- Ripe bananas protect themselves against decay by producing a compound called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is also the antioxidant found in green tea. Giving your rabbit the peel from a ripe banana gives them the same antioxidant protection as they could get from green tea leaves—actually about 10 times as much as you get from a cup of green tea.
- The peels of ladyfinger bananas have unusually potent antibacterial power. They protect against food poisoning by E. coli.
When banana peels are used as livestock feed, they are usually mixed with hay, beanstalks, or alfalfa pellets.
You can have more fun with your pet rabbit just feeding them a banana peel by hand.
But you should only feed your rabbit the peels from organic bananas. Nearly all conventionally grown bananas are treated with toxic fungicides.
Also read: How Long Can A Rabbit Go Without Food?
Rabbits Should Only Get Peels from Organic Bananas
You might wonder why anyone would want to buy organic bananas, either for human consumption or for sharing with rabbits.
After all, bananas are not part of the “Dirty Dozen,” the fruits the Environmental Working Group tells us we should always buy organic. The list varies from year to year but usually includes thin-skinned fruits like apples and peaches, berries like strawberries, and celery.
Bananas have never made the “don’t buy” list. That’s because the toxins in conventionally grown bananas are concentrated in the peel, not in the fruit inside.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.
Acetylene is a gas that is released when water is added to calcium carbide.
This gas was once a favorite fuel for welders’ torches. In smaller amounts, it ripens fruit in the same manner as ethylene, mentioned below.
The problem with acetylene is the impurities in the calcium carbide used to make it.
Arsenic and phosphine are common contaminants. They are toxic, and they have a garlic-like smell.
For these reasons, acetylene and calcium carbide are banned as ripening agents in most of the world. If you live in a county where they are still used, you should not give your rabbit the peels from bananas you buy at the market.
Ethylene and Ethylene Bromide
Bananas are cut when they are just beginning to ripen. When they arrive at countries where they will be sold, they are sent to special ripening centers where they are sprayed with a chemical called ethylene bromide.
Ethylene is a natural and safe chemical. Bananas, tomatoes, and avocados produce their own ethylene to help them ripen.
Bananas in a bunch release concentrated ethylene, allowing them to ripen at the same time, more quickly than a single banana.
Ethylene dibromide, on the other hand, is an extremely toxic manufactured chemical. It has bromine added to ethylene to make it more highly reactive, binding to the banana peel.
This chemical is banned in California as a carcinogen, and it is being phased out in the US and Canada.
Fruit wholesalers once used ethylene bromide treatments to make sure that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same time. They now use the much safer and more natural ethylene gas (without the added bromine), for shorter periods of time.
However ethylene treatment greatly increases the amount of sugar in the banana peel as well as in the banana fruit.
The most nutritious choice for your rabbit is the peel from a banana that has been allowed to create its own ethylene, ripening in a bunch.
It takes about two weeks to ship bananas from the plantations where they are harvested to your local supermarket.
Banana growers cut the stalk when the fruit is “just ripe enough,” so it will ripen during transportation. They spray the fruit with a chemical called tiabendazole (also known as thiabendazole) to stop the growth of mold on the peel.
Even with chemical treatment, as much as 40% of the fruit spoils on the way to the store.
Tiabendazole is not so toxic that it will kill your rabbit outright. But can stop growth in your rabbits and cause pregnant rabbits to miscarry or absorb their embryos back into their bodies.
Bananas all over the world are attacked by fungal diseases.
One of them, called Panama Blight, wiped out most of the world’s banana production in the 1950s and is threatening to wipe out world banana production again, but it is just one of over a dozen common fungal pests of bananas.
In the United States, the USDA monitors fungicides on imported bananas to make sure they are at minimal, “safe” levels.
They do not, however, monitor mineral oil use on bananas (sprayed on the fruit to suffocate fungus). You or your rabbit can get an upset stomach from this mineral oil.
Organic Bananas Are Better for Your Rabbit and Better for the Environment
Organic bananas are a better choice for you and for your rabbit. They are not contaminated with the fungicides and chemical ripening agents that can appear on conventionally grown fruit.
Organic bananas are also a better choice for farm worker health, and they protect fish and butterflies that are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
Here is another reason to buy organic bananas to share the peel with your rabbit:
Organically grown bananas taste better than conventionally grown bananas.
Organic banana farmers don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides in growing bananas. They don’t use ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizers to stimulate the growth of their plants.
As a result, organically grown bananas pick up the “terroir” of the soil on which they are grown. They have flavors that are unique to just one banana plantation, and develop even more complex flavors as they ripen.
You will enjoy your part of the banana more when you buy organic bananas, and your bunny will enjoy the peels more, too.
Also read: Are Oats Good for Rabbits?
Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Banana Peels to Rabbits
Q. Can rabbits eat the middle of the banana in addition to the peel?
A. It’s OK to give your rabbit a small piece of banana fruit as an occasional treat, about once a week. Limit feeding to 1 or 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 grams).
Q. Can rabbits eat plantains and plantain peels?
A. Rabbits enjoy plantains and plantain peels, the greener, the better. Give your rabbit organic plantain and plantain peels.
Q. What about cooked bananas and dried banana chips for rabbits?
A. Cooked banana dishes like mofongo and Bananas Foster will upset your rabbit’s stomach, and banana chips are too high in sugar for them.
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