Banana starch: go green for gut health
Entrepreneurial stories like these are the stuff of fairytales. A farmer accidentally drives over a bunch of bananas that had been left out sitting in the sun, releasing a puff of powder that goes on to be discovered as the highest form of fermentable fibre discovered on Earth. It’s green banana starch, a prebiotic essential for feeding the good bacteria in the gut.
Making good use of excess produce
That farmer is Robert Watkins who, with wife Krista, has created Natural Evolution, a Far North Queensland company that produces a range of biomedical ointments, health supplements and food and beauty products using waste bananas previously sent to landfill.
North Queensland throws away 500 metric tonnes of green bananas each week. This is due to the fruit not complying with fresh market specifications or being over-supplied. As much as 50 metric tonnes per acre of sweet potato also ends up as waste. Natural Evolution is now saving more than two million kilograms of that produce every year, and transforming it into products that can improve gut health.
Plant probiotic power
The company’s newest product is GUTHEALTH+. It’s a three-in-one multifibre blend of banana starch prebiotics and vegan probiotics. It consists primarily (95%) of food that would otherwise be thrown away.
“When we started in that space with the prebiotics from green banana powder, what we were finding was that a lot of people were getting great results from the prebiotic,” Krista says. “But they needed a probiotic to go with it.”
Most probiotics on the market are dairy derivatives. However, the majority of Natural Evolution’s customers were looking for plant-based solutions. So Krista and her husband set to work, and found a plant probiotic that comes from barley.
“We did some research with the University of Tasmania on our probiotic combined with our green banana starch,” Krista says. “What they found was that it’s able to significantly reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.”
A blend of three fibres naturally derived from green bananas and sweet potato, GUTHEALTH+ uses scientifically-proven ingredients alongside organic vitamins and minerals. With the addition of the proven probiotic Bacillus coagulans, the powder is robust and can handle extreme environments such as the high levels of acid found in the stomach.
“This product is completely natural,” Krista says. “Moreover, it utilises produce that would otherwise go to waste. Everyone talks about circular economies, but I think this is a really great example. We purchase the excess produce from farmers, we manufacture it in rural Australia, we do the research through Australian institutions. And it’s available to improve the health and wellness of people right around the world.”
Natural Evolution’s banana starch products are available online and at health food stores.