Why all this fuss about green bananas on the blog, lately? First it was my gluten-free, fluffy banana flour pancakes. And now I’m back discussing the real thing: whole, green bananas. So, what’s so good about them? And why on earth would you dare eating them in their unripe form? Well, it’s all a matter of resistant starch, you see.
Why our gut loves resistant starch
Resistant starch is a unique type that helps improve satiety, glycaemic control and is now being suggested as a primary way to help tackle Australia’s alarming rates of colon cancer. It’s so named, because it ‘resists’ digestion in the small intestine. Instead, it travels straight to the large intestine where it’s the food-of-choice of our beneficial bacteria. A prebiotic, if you will. And if our good bugs are happy and fed, they’re more likely to stick around and contribute to a healthy, functioning gut.
Do you know how they do that? They devour this resistant starch and produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyric acid. This substance is a bit of a miracle worker in the gut. It reduces inflammation and permeability (or ‘leaky’ gut) and is actually the preferred energy source of the cells in the gut lining. And if the cells themselves are well-fed, they help us absorb nutrients efficiently.
The other function of butyric acid is to keep our colon pH low. This makes it a less favourable environment for harmful microbes. We talk about butyrate and resistant starch quite a bit in the What To Eat program because of their crucial roles in gut health.
Green bananas: the richest food source
The thing about resistant starch is that most people don’t get enough. Ideally we should aim for an intake of 20 grams per day. Unfortunately the average is only around a quarter of that amount.
Most starchy foods contain very little resistant starch. For example, cooked white rice contains 0.37g per 100 grams and a cooked potato, 0.59g. It’s worth noting that these values double when these foods cool (which is why potato salad beats baked potatoes).
However, green bananas contain a whopping 8.5g per 100 grams! That equates to 12.75g per standard banana – more than half the recommended intake. One ripe banana provides around 2.76g, by comparison.
How to enjoy green bananas
So, how can we enjoy these impossibly pithy things on a regular basis?
Enter Melissa Wilson-Shaw. Superstar graduate of my What To Eat program and an amazing cook to boot. You can follow her over at The Real Food Club. She’s put a deliciously sweet twist on a South American classic. (Where fried plantains and green bananas are all the rage – usually as a savoury snack). This recipe is part of the What To Eat e-cookbook.
Recipe by Melissa Wilson-Shaw
- 4 green bananas
- 2 tbsp fat, coconut oil or ghee
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup, optional
- Using a paring or other small sharp knife peel the skin from the bananas which is quite tough and carefully slice bananas lengthways.
- Warm up chosen fat in a non-stick pan on medium heat, add in bananas sliced down and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until caramelised. Turn over and cook on other side for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove bananas from the pan, spoon over the coconut oil or ghee, sprinkle with cinnamon, maple syrup and serve.
The bananas are delicious with a big dollop of labne or coconut cream, served with porridge or just on their own.
Our family have made these on a regular basis since Melissa inspired us. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. One thing to note, if you’re low FODMAPS: green bananas are a fermentable fibre, so probably not ideal in large amounts. For everyone else – I’d love to know how you go with them!