Green banana flour is the newest grain- and gluten-free flour to hit the market, with astonishing versatility and unique health benefits that outshine other alternative flours.

Banana flour is simple. Unripe green bananas are harvested before the sugars within have fully developed, then they are peeled, sliced, dried and milled into a fine, smooth powder. The flour is characterized by the distinct, straightforward flavor of—unsurprisingly—green bananas, but don’t let that put you off. On its own, the flour has a starchy, slightly sandy texture that, when baked, feels a little like a shortbread cookie.

The folks at WEDO Banana Flour attest that this flour works well as a direct substitute for wheat-based flours in baked goods, but it also pairs well with protein-rich coconut flour. It has many uses beyond that of baking; for example, a tablespoon in a smoothie or a small amount whisked into a sauce will thicken the mixture and add some health-boosting benefits. Plus, banana flour is a great source of potassium, fiber and resistant starch, the current darling of the Paleo movement.

Resistant starch is unlike other forms of starch in that it passes through the stomach unchanged by the digestive enzymes therein. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and can even help lower blood sugar levels at later meals, a concept called the “second meal effect.” A study conducted at the University of Colorado also found that resistant starches can boost the body’s fat-burning capabilities by 20 to 25 percent.

Resistant starch also increases the production of two satiety hormones, glucagon-like peptide 1 and peptide YY, both of which help the body recognize the feeling of fullness earlier in a meal, and for a longer time after eating. Additionally, resistant starch is a prebiotic that feeds and promotes the growth of a healthy gut flora. As bacteria ingest and ferment resistant starch, they produce short-chain fatty acids that nourish a variety of cells and contribute to their own hardiness.

One important aspect of understanding resistant starch is the way that heat changes the molecular arrangement—raw resistant starch retains the aforementioned health benefits, while heating and cooking a source of resistant starch renders it digestible just like any other carbohydrate. (But completely cooling the cooked source of resistant starch restores the benefits.) This is what makes green banana flour so useful—the unripe bananas are not cooked, thereby preserving the power of their resistant starch.

As an added bonus, WEDO Banana Flour is as committed to social responsibility as it is to health. The concept of “buy one—feed one” is paramount to the mission of the company: Every time a WEDO Gluten Free purchase is made, the World Food Program USA provides a meal for a hungry child.

Not only that, but the inspiration for the company was born out of philanthropic stimulus. Co-creator of the company David Wintzer traveled to Kenya in 2008 and 2009. While there, he worked with a small group of women through the Women Entrepreneurs Development Organization (WEDO) to grant microloans for small business startups. One of the many businesses Wintzer came in contact with was a banana flour factory, which eventually became WEDO Gluten Free’s original supplier.

Wintzer returned to the U.S. with banana flour in tow, and with his friend and WEDO co-creator Todd Francis, began experimenting with this relatively unknown supplement—with impressive results for their own well-being. The health benefits of the flour, coupled with the mission of WEDO in Kenya, catalyzed the creation of WEDO Gluten Free, the only banana flour company in the United States.

WEDO Gluten Free continues to support third-world communities by partnering with small-scale farmers and ensuring fair wages for their product, and works tirelessly to prevent excess waste by using perfectly usable but “blemished” bananas unsuitable for commercial sale.

The product is pure. The company’s mission is pure. And the health benefits of banana flour only slightly outshine the good that WEDO Gluten Free is doing in the world.

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