Can’t stom­ach green ba­nanas? Turns out they’re good for you

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Sue Neales

MISSHAPEN, over­sized, spot­ted and un­saleable ba­nanas once des­tined for waste bins, land­fill and cat­tle feed troughs are be­ing trans­formed in far north Queens­land into a new “su­per­food” with unique medic­i­nal prop­er­ties.

Trail­blaz­ing Ma­reeba ba­nana grower and long-time in­ven­tor Rob Watkins has found a way to mill and con­vert un­ripe Lady Fin­ger and Cavendish ba­nanas into green ba­nana flour. It is an in­ven­tion that has cap­tured the at­ten­tion of global health ex­perts and fu­ture food in­vestors.

Be­sides turn­ing 10 tonnes of un­wanted ba­nana crops each week into a new age gluten­free food that can be eaten in breads and cakes by coeli­acs and other suf­fer­ers of gluten in­tol­er­ance, Mr Watkins has also stum­bled across a prod­uct that is ex­cit­ing the nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment and func­tional food world.

The green ba­nana flour and pow­der pro­duced by Mr Watkins un­der his Nat­u­ral Evo­lu­tion brand has been dis­cov­ered by im­munol­ogy and bio­med­i­cine re­searchers at Monash Univer­sity to be one of the high­est nat­u­ral sources of re­sis­tant starch.

Re­sis­tant starch is not di­gested in the stom­ach and small in­tes­tine like most foods, but in­stead passes through to the bowel and colon. It is then bro­ken down and slowly fer­mented by ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria that re­lease sub­stances that can pro­tect against and treat di­a­betes, auto-im­mune dis­eases and other med­i­cal con­di­tions.

“The find­ings il­lus­trate the dawn of a new era in treat­ing hu­man dis­ease with medic­i­nal foods,” said Monash Univer­sity im­munol­ogy pro­fes­sor — and Port Dou­glas prop­erty owner – Charles Mackay.

Mr Watkins, who started tin­ker­ing with mak­ing nu­tri­tious flour from green ba­nana five years ago on his fam­ily’s ba­nana farm, now has a $3.8 mil­lion ba­nana flour fac­tory up and run­ning and buys the waste ba­nanas from three lo­cal farm­ers.

He is al­ready mak­ing about 1.5 tonnes of ba­nana flour a week – it takes 8kg of ba­nanas that are me­chan­i­cally peeled and cold crushed to make 1kg of ba­nana flour pow­der – and is strug­gling to keep up with or­ders from food com­pa­nies and health food stores.

Left­over ba­nana skins are also be­ing turned into a skin cream oint­ment to heal in­fect- ed sores.

“I knew there was some­thing spe­cial about green ba­nanas from watch­ing the cat­tle and wal­la­bies that ate them all the time; they were just so healthy,” says Mr Watkins, who last month won the pres­ti­gious Gold Edi­son Award for in­ven­tors in New York for his unique NutroLock nat­u­ral flour mak­ing process.

“But I am con­stantly be­ing sur­prised by what the sci­en­tists are dis­cov­er­ing; now it seems we have dis­cov­ered a prod­uct — green ba­nana pow­der — that is not just a gluten-free flour but the rich­est source of re­sis­tant starch in the world.”

Pic­ture: BRIAN CASSEY

Table­lands farmer and Nat­u­ral Evo­lu­tion founder Rob Watkins

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