If you are in the food industry and are looking for gluten-free, grain-free, and low-carb flour, you can’t ignore green banana flour. This superfood is as nutritious as it is versatile. It is capturing attention because it is rich in nutraceuticals and has many health benefits.
Green Banana Flour
Green banana flour is not new, even though you can find it only recently on the shelves of supermarkets in the west. People in West African, Southeast Asian, and South and Central American countries have used it traditionally.
The flour is made from unripe varieties of bananas eaten as fresh fruits; such as Cavendish (Musa acuminate).
It is becoming popular in western countries because people are looking for low-carb substitutes for wheat. As it is not milled from grains, this flour is gluten-free and good for people who are gluten-intolerant or celiac.
Its many nutrients and health benefits make it a superfood.
Green banana flour is similar in color and texture to wheat flour. It retains a slight banana taste when it is raw, but has a nutty or earthy flavor when cooked.
Nutraceuticals in Green Banana Flour
Green banana flour is a combination of many nutraceuticals, capable of helping people suffering from chronic problems. Including it in your daily diet, even if you are healthy, can prevent common diseases.
Green banana flour is one of the few foods that have high resistant starch, type 2. You will find it is also rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin content. The flour also has little fat, making it very nutritious.
Resistant Starch in Green Banana Flour
When fruits develop, they act as sinks of the carbohydrates a plant produces. This makes the fruit grow in size. Banana stores most of the carbohydrates, as starch, as it is a climacteric fruit. Banana differs from other fruits, in that, most of its starch is of the resistant kind.
When we make flour from mature but unripe and green bananas, they have a high content of resistant starch. It makes up 51% of the total starch in peeled green banana flour.
Ripe bananas don’t have resistant starch. As the fruit ripens, it changes the resistant starch to normal starch and then into sugar, making bananas sweet and soft.
It is called resistant starch, because the human stomach can’t digest all of it. Our body moves the undigested starch to the intestines 2. Here the resistant starch functions as a fiber, which leads to most of its health benefits.
Resistant Starch As a Prebiotic
Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic and increases the number of beneficial bacteria in our guts. We have several billions of microbes in our gut, belonging to 300 to 500 bacterial species. Most of our gut flora are useful. These good bacteria ferment the undigested fibers and starch that reach the gut to feed on them.
Thus, the fermenting resistant starch creates ideal conditions for a wide variety of good bacteria and builds their populations up. At the same time, it suppresses pathogenic bacteria.
The ratio of beneficial to pathogenic bacteria in our gut is crucial for our health. Having fewer varieties or numbers of good bacteria can cause health problems.
The beneficial bacteria improve our metabolism, helps us absorb food, and produce probiotics that builds our immune system. The good gut flora can reduce several problems, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, colon cancer, or multisystem organ failure.
We get short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyrate, as a result of the fermenting resistant starch 7. This group of compounds also has health benefits for our bodies.
SCFAs are the preferred energy source of intestinal wall cells. The fatty acids keep the intestine healthy. So the digestive system functions properly. SCFAs lower the pH level, and the risk of inflammation and colorectal cancer.
It can also act as a hydrant in people suffering from diarrhea. Moreover, it helps in the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and iron and prevents osteoporosis.
Lowers Blood Sugar and Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Blood sugar levels depend on the food we eat and how our body processes it. Resistant starch helps in both cases.
Produces less sugar: Usually, the digestive system breaks down starch into simple sugars. Since most of the starch in green banana flour is resistant, there is less sugar produced. As it has a low glycemic index, a diet rich in resistant starch will lower post-meal sugar levels. The effect is strong enough to continue even after we eat a second meal later in the day. So, this food is suitable for diabetic type 2 patients.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity: Scientists have shown, resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity in people. Insulin sensitivity indicates the ability of the body to use sugars with normal levels of insulin. When the cells are not sensitive to insulin, they utilize fewer sugars, so the blood sugar levels increase. We know that resistant starch significantly improves insulin sensitivity in people.
In a study, people showed lower spikes of glucose and insulin production after meals. This was the result of having banana starch for a week in three meals a day.
We know low insulin sensitivity leads to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. So green banana flour can be a low-cost way of preventing the risks of chronic diseases.
Benefit from Minerals
When you make green banana flour part of your diet, you will also benefit from minerals such as potassium and calcium.
Potassium is especially good for the nervous system. Because nervous impulses control muscle function and heartbeats, eating green banana flour can be good for the heart.
If you have high blood pressure, potassium can bring your pressure down.
Since our bodies don’t produce calcium, we have to get it from the food we eat. Women who are pregnant or older than 50 years need a higher level of calcium. People with low calcium can suffer from osteoporosis.
So, a superfood like green banana flour is an excellent way to get the extra calcium and potassium you need.
Products from Green Banana Flour
To include green banana flour in your diet, you can buy ready-made products. Or get the flour and use it to make a wide range of dishe. You will also save ingredients, as you will need 25% less due to its high starch content. The following list gives some common uses:
Carb replacement: Use it as a low-carb replacement in bread, gnocchi, pasta, etc. instead of wheat.
Gluten-free Flour: Use as standalone gluten-free flour or in baking mixes
Paleo-diet: People who enjoy paleo-diets don’t have to miss their grain flour-based food anymore. Try the green banana variant, it is just as good and healthier.
Thickener: Its high starch content makes it excellent as a binder and thickener in soups and sauces.
Condiments: Include it in mayonnaise.
Drinks: Add a few spoonfuls as a supplement to smoothies and other drinks to get the maximum benefits of resistant starch.
Baby food: Green banana flour, especially from organic farms is a popular ingredient in baby food. It is widely used in India and is expected to spread in the Middle East.
You should keep in mind that cooking at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius will degrade the resistant starch. And you can lose some of its health benefits.
If you are interested in green banana flour because you want a low carb or gluten-free or grain-free ingredient, the cooking temperature doesn’t matter.