In this day and age of maximizing health and utilizing sustainable resources, there always seems to be a new health or food trend hitting the scene. And here’s another one for the cookbooks … banana flour!
Maybe at first, this doesn’t sound too appealing, yet this flour has all the health goodies without any of that unnecessary nonsense such as gluten. Made from green, unripe bananas, this incredibly light and only slightly sweet flour is loaded with lots of wonderful nutrients, health benefits, and is yet another great substitute to add to your plant-based baking cabinet. Let’s roll up our sleeves, dive in, and learn what we can about banana flour!
What is Banana Flour?
Banana flour is … well … made from bananas! Yet, not the ripe, sweet, tender bananas that we’re used to noshing on, but green, unripe bananas. These green bananas are gathered, peeled, washed, cut into small pieces, slow-cooked, dried, and then milled into a fine powder that can then be used as flour.
This idea may be somewhat new to hit our health food shelves, yet green banana flour has long been “used in places like Jamaica and African countries as a less expensive option to wheat flours.”
While most of us probably think of banana flour as super sweet — bananas are used as a natural sweetener in bread, smoothies, and other sweet treat recipes — since banana flour is made from the unripe fruit the “result is a mildly sweet product.” On top of that, banana flour is “versatile enough to work in nearly any recipe that calls for all-purpose wheat flour, not just pancakes and muffins.”
Nutritional and Health Benefits
When it comes to the nutritional profile of banana flour, there’s a handful of pluses to choose from. On top of that, each of these wonderful nutritional positives is directly linked with a health benefit. Let’s take a look at what banana flour offers your body, mind, and tummy!
Alright, so what’s in banana flour? Well, obviously, green bananas.
Yet, a study that evaluated the “protein, … resistant starch, [and] fiber” of green banana flour was able to break this down a bit better for us! In a 100 gram sampling of banana flour, there was an average of 21.91 grams of fiber, 68.02 grams of resistant starch, 4.7 grams of protein.
The Food Network takes this breakdown a bit further, out of the scientific realm and into the baking world! Per their analysis, one-quarter cup of banana flour “contains 100 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.” On top of that, they note that banana flour is “free of fat and cholesterol, and it has 330 milligrams of potassium (a fresh medium banana contains 422 milligrams).” When you compare banana flour to other gluten-free flour options on the market, you’ll find both pros and cons.
First and foremost, both “almond flour and oat flour are high in protein, but don’t have the prebiotic resistant starch banana flour does.” On the other hand, banana flour is an excellent source of potassium — one of the most “important minerals in the body” that helps “regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals,” to mention a few benefits — yet “almond flour is higher in vitamin E, and buckwheat and millet flours … have more iron.”
Therefore, if you decide to use banana flour as your substitute, make sure the rest of your diet is fully diversified and rife with plant-based foods to fill the void!
Low Glycemic Index Rating
Most health nuts are very familiar with the glycemic index, but for those who aren’t here’s a bit of a refresher!
The Glycemic Index (GI) “is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.” What are blood glucose levels? In simple terms, this refers to how much blood sugar is currently circulating in your bloodstream. Foods with a low GI are categorized as 55 or less, the mid-range is 56 to 69, and foods with a high GI are above 70. So, what’s so good about those low GI foods, such as banana flour?
Turns out that these foods are “more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels.” This means that banana flour is a great option for anyone on a low-sugar or low-carb diet or those managing diabetes.
Improves Gut Health
It’s all about gut health these days and for good reason! The health of our gut has been linked in various studies to not only our overall health, but also our mental health. Banana flour can be a boon for our gut health due to its high levels of resistant starch. Let’s take a step back … what is resistant starch? In fact, what the heck is regular old starch?
Starch is a “naturally occurring polysaccharide — complex carbohydrates — produced by green plants” that are “broken down into sugar molecules that are meant to provide energy” when consumed by humans. Naturally derived starches — from veggies — are a healthy part of any diet! Processed starches — such as “salty snacks, sweet treats, sugary breakfast cereals, and other easy-to-grab foods” — have very little nutrition, high levels of added sugars, and are generally referred to as “empty calories,” meaning you’re ingesting calories that don’t add to the health of your body.
Resistant starch on the other hand, “received its name due to the fact that it’s resistant to digestion, meaning that it ‘passes through your digestive tract unchanged.'” This doesn’t exactly sound good, but turns out it is!
Resistant starch takes much longer to be digested and actually ferments in the large intestine, at which time it turns “into short-chain fatty acids before mutating into a form of fiber that is used by the colon for energy.” The more “colonic fatty acids” you have the better prevention of the “development of abnormal cells in the gut.” Plus, green banana’s resistance to digestion and fermentation actually turns them into a form of prebiotic, a “component of some foods that the body cannot digest,” which “serves as food for bacteria and other beneficial organisms in the gut.”
Gluten-Free and Nut-Free
For those with a gluten-sensitivity or allergy — such as Celiac disease — or those with a nut-allergy or even those unfortunate souls with both gluten and nut allergies or sensitivities, banana flour is the perfect flour substitute for you!
While coconut flour also meets the guidelines as gluten and nut-free, it’s not necessarily the best replacement or substitute in a variety of recipes. Therefore, most of us find ourselves mixing multiple flours together — such as coconut, teff, and amaranth — in order to make one substitute that will work.
Banana flour, on the other hand, is best known for its ability to be used as a straight substitute for all-purpose flour. This means you just need one single flour substitute on your baking shelf to meet almost all of your gluten and nut allergy demands!
How to Substitute with Banana Flour
There are a couple of unique things about banana flour that make it a must-have ingredient in a plant-based baking cabinet!
First and foremost, we return to that resistant starch content. Because banana flour is so high in resistant starch, it’s perfect as a plant-based, natural, and healthy thickening agent. This means that if you’re a fan of soups, stews, curries, or any other thick sauce, banana flour can help you obtain that creaminess without the use of corn starch or animal-based ingredients such as butter or whipping cream.
Banana flour is also touted as the best plant-based flour replacement for all-purpose flour! With that said, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind before plunging into your favorite cookie recipe.
Know the proper substituting measurements — “use 3/4 cup of banana flour for every cup of wheat flour in a recipe.” While banana flour doesn’t have the intense sweetness of your regular banana, it does have a “bit of a banana flavor.” This flour is incredibly powdery, part of its wonderful thickening characteristic, but you may need to add a bit more liquid to your recipes to avoid too much thickening.
Banana Flour Recipes
It may seem that you can simply jump into the kitchen and start substituting with your newly purchased bag of banana flour. Yes! You absolutely can!
With that said, you may be throwing out your first couple concoctions. Therefore, in order to try and avoid any waste, how about giving some formulated banana flour recipes a try first? This way you can see how banana flour mixes with liquids, bakes, and rises. This is also a great way to understand better measurements for substituting banana flour for other flours in both gluten-free and non-gluten-free recipes.
Here are a couple of banana flour recipes to get you started!
Green Banana Flour Pancakes
I’m not sure why my mind goes directly to pancakes when I think of flour — rather than bread, muffins, cake, or cookies — but it does! When it comes to preparing delightful, fluffy Saturday morning pancakes with banana flour, keep in mind that this flour is known for its ability to thicken things up. This means that while you can definitely achieve that fluffiness, it’s all about finding the right measurements of liquid to flour.
This Green Banana Flour Pancakes recipe by Mitra Shirmohammadi is the perfect place to start! You’ll notice that Mitra combines one cup of banana flour with a combination of six tablespoons of water, plus an additional 3/4 cup of non-dairy milk and a small teaspoon of apple cider to give them that fluffy texture we all love in a good pancake.
Chickpea and Banana Flour Chocolate Chip Brownies
Brownies are the perfect dessert to try out banana flour! Not only are you giving your brownies a slightly natural sweet flavor, but, as banana flour is a natural thickening agent, you’re already half-way there with that rich-fudgy texture.
These Chickpea and Banana Flour Chocolate Chip Brownies by Sara Grandominico are “firm and a teeny bit crips on the tops and edges, but gooey and fudgy in the center.” They will have a slight banana twinge, yet retain the classic brownie flavor we all love. On top of that, Sara uses a mixture of chickpea flour, which gives these brownies an additional boost of protein-rich nutrition!
Flourless Banana Bread With Cream Cheese Frosting
What’s a more natural use of banana flour than in actual banana bread? Not only will you get an even more powerful dose of banana flavor, but I bet this bread will be richer and more formed than your traditional almond or coconut flour-based banana bread recipes.
This Flourless Banana Bread With Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, also by Sara Grandominico, takes your banana bread to the next level with a delightful frosting topping! Plus, this recipe keeps it super simple with only four ingredients: banana flour, mashed bananas, flax eggs, and a cup of almond milk! If you want to add that creamy frosting, all you need are cashews, dates, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and a bit of water.
Maybe banana flour simply isn’t your thing? I mean we can’t all go gaga over bananas, can we? If you’re still looking for that perfect gluten-free flour or want to learn a bit more about your options, check out a few of these stellar One Green Planet articles to get you started.
- A Guide to 15 Types of Gluten-Free Flour
- Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Flour!
- Tips for Making DIY Gluten-Free Flour Blend
- The Ultimate Gluten-Free Vegan Baking Substitution Guide
- How to Ensure Your Gluten-Free Baked Goods are Moist
- Want to Keep Your Baking Grain-Free? Check Out These 15 Grain Alternative Flours You Can Buy Online Right Now!
- Gluten-Free, Vegan Living
- The Ultimate Guide To Being Gluten-Free And Vegan!
- Our Top 10 Gluten-Free Plant-Based Recipes From July 2019
- 12 Unbelievable Recipes That Are Both Gluten-Free and Vegan
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Source: Green Banana Flour Pancakes
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