A type flour you may have never heard of, green banana flour, is changing the face of baking for gluten intolerant individuals. Green banana flour is gluten-free flour that is made from ground up unripe green bananas. Yellow bananas won’t work to make flour because they are too soft and sticky without the addition of other ingredients.
Although green banana flour is newer to the US market, it has been popular as an alternative to wheat flour in Jamaica and Africa for several years because it is much less expensive and is made from local crops. Once the bananas are milled, the finished product does have a light banana flavor when eaten raw, but this disappears when it is used for baking. Once baked, it takes on more of a nutty, slightly sour chocolate flavor, making it an awesome addition for cholate-y treats.
Green banana flour has some incredible benefits for your health, blood sugar, and digestion, so let’s explore this awesome gluten-free alternative.
Green Banana Flour Nutrition Facts
The nutritional content in terms of calories and macronutrients isn’t that different in green banana flour compared to wheat flour. If you are looking to cut the calories in baked goods, this isn’t the flour to choose.
The nutrition breakdown is as follows for one cup of flour (1):
Carbohydrates: 100 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Potassium: 1500 mg
Other nutrients include manganese, magnesium, vitamin B6, and copper.
It does have about the same number of calories as wheat flour but is much higher potassium, fiber, and magnesium, as well as other vitamins and minerals. These naturally occurring vitamins and minerals make it a more nutritious alternative to regular wheat flour.
Not only is it higher in fiber than white flour, it has a special type of fiber that has been found have a myriad of benefits. The fiber in banana flour is called resistant starch and may help reduce the risk of diabetes and promote weight loss. Let’s dig in a little more into the benefits of this incredible fiber.
Green Banana Flour Benefits
As we have mentioned, green banana flour has several amazing health benefits. First, it is naturally gluten-free since there is no wheat in it, as it is made only from bananas. It is great for people trying to avoid gluten, while still wanting to enjoy the occasional baked goods or needing something to thicken up sauces.
The second benefit has to do with the type of fiber in the flour called resistant starch. This type of starch “resists” digestion, allowing it to pass through the intestine undigested and this is where a lot of the benefits come from.
Starch is basically a complex molecule of carbohydrates, which your body has to break down to use for energy. Starchy foods include things like potatoes, bread, and of course bananas. When bananas are picked while green, they are higher in this particular type of starch, which degrades as they yellow.
As we mentioned, resistant starch acts differently than other starches because it “resists” digestion. Therefore, it does not get broken down in the gut and passes through mostly intact. The calories from this starch cannot get absorbed because the body is not able to extract the calories since the starch is so resistant.
Instead, it moves whole into the large intestine, providing bulk for the digestive muscles to press against and food for healthy bacteria. The bulkiness provided by the starch moves digestion along, preventing constipation. The starch also acts almost like fertilizer to the bacteria in the gut. It is considered a prebiotic food, or food for healthy colon bacteria, helping keep them alive and thriving, which in turn also helps digestion.
Since it stays whole in the digestive tract it also increases the feeling of fullness after meals. It moves slowly along, preventing sugar from your last meal from rushing into your blood stream, keeping blood glucose stable. This may be why it has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.
This action of resisting digestion, leads to a slew of benefits, including:
- Acting as a prebiotic or food for healthy bacteria, improving digestive health (2).
- Regulating blood cholesterol levels.
- Helping control blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity (3).
- Increases feeling of fullness after meals.
- May help promote weight loss.
- Lowers blood pressure due to high potassium content (4).
For people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes, green banana flour may be a great flour alternative that can also help stabilize blood sugar. A 2014 study evaluated the impact of banana flour on the health of 25 overweight women. The women consumed 20 grams of banana flour or a placebo for 45 days. Those who ate the banana flour had a decrease in blood pressure, hip circumference, and fasting blood sugar levels. Although this is a small study, it is promising for people with diabetes who are looking to better control their blood sugar or who may be at risk for developing diabetes (5).
Another study published in 2010, set out to determine if resistant starch could possibly reduce the risk of diabetes by improving sensitivity to insulin and reducing fat storage. The study gave twenty subjects with metabolic syndrome either 40 grams per day a resistant starch fiber supplement or a placebo for 12 weeks. Throughout the study, they measured insulin sensitivity and fat storage. They found that subjects who received the resistant starch had significantly improved insulin sensitivity and saw a reduction in fat storage and waist circumference (6). Although this small study can’t conclude that eating banana flour will prevent someone from getting diabetes, the improvement in insulin sensitivity and weight loss around the stomach could help reduce the risk.
So, this magic fiber from bananas not only has no calories for humans, helps you eat less, helps improve insulin function, and helps keep your gut bacteria healthy. Not only that, it tastes great in baked goods, sounds like a win-win for us.
How to Use Banana Flour
If you are ready to give it a shot, banana flour can be found at any health food store in the gluten-free flour aisle. It can also be ordered online from virtual health grocery stores. Due to its fiber composition, you need to use about 25% less banana flour in recipes when compared to regular flour. This may make it more cost effective than regular flour. It is also made from bananas that are not suitable for sale for a variety of reasons, so this help cut back on food waste and increasing profits for farmers.
Compared to other gluten-free alternatives, it doesn’t require the addition of thickeners in baking because it holds together similarly to gluten. Due to the high fiber content, you may also feel more satisfied with baked goods made from banana flour, since it increases satiety, so you end up eating less overall. It would be great for someone who wants to lose weight but does still want to enjoy an occasional baked treat.
As we have mentioned, the benefits of banana flour come from the resistant starch. But, once the flour is heated over 140 degrees, the resistant starch starts to degrade. To get the biggest benefit and the increase in insulin sensitivity, you should eat its raw state. If you want to eat it raw, try mixing it into a smoothie or making uncooked treats with it.
Be aware that when you start to eat raw banana flour or any other resistant starch, the bacteria in your colon will be very happy. When they are happy, they tend to produce a lot of gas. It may take a few weeks for your body to get used to it, so try to add it in a little at a time if you are concerned about increased gas.
Cooked or not the flour does remain gluten-free, so it still can be a good option for baked goods or used to thicken sauces. It produces a product that is less dense than foods made with other alternative flours like coconut or almond flour. For a baked good, although it might be lighter than those other flours, you can still taste the fiber. So, the flavor would be a little closer to whole wheat flour, not white flour. Overall you can find recipes for all sorts of baked favorites from brownies to chocolate chip cookies using banana flour.
Overall, banana flour is a great gluten-free alternative to regular flour. The resistant starch may help improve insulin resistance, promote weight loss, and keep your digestive tract humming along. Look for it next time in the gluten-free aisle.