Plantains look like bananas and are preferred for their unique taste. They are generally consumed after steam cooking or frying. They are very convenient to use. These are versatile and offer many health advantages. They are considered whole foods due to their rich vitamin, fiber, potassium, and antioxidant content. Continue reading to learn more about plantains, their nutrition, and the benefits they offer.
What Are Plantains?
Plantains belong to Musaceae, the banana family. They look similar to large bananas. They are also known as cooking bananas because they commonly serve as a source of flavor. Their color varies from green to yellow or dark brown, depending on how ripe they are. Their skin is typically thicker and firmer than that of bananas. These are also commonly known as green bananas.
Also, plantains are starchy and not very sweet. Consuming them raw could be unpleasant, and hence, cooking is required. Plantains are cultivated in tropical regions all around the world and are used in a variety of cuisines. Cooking bananas are widespread in West and Central Africa, northern South America, and the Caribbean islands.
Plantains are nutrient-rich fruits that provide many vitamins and minerals. They could be a great substitute for rice or potatoes. In addition to being naturally high in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, plantains are also easily digestible. The following section provides information about these health-promoting nutrients.
Nutrition Facts Of Plantains
100 g of plantains contain the following nutrients (1):
|Vitamin C||20.2 mg|
These nutrients add great value to plantains and can be attributed to the many health benefits they offer. Learn more about them in the next section.
Health Benefits Of Plantains
1. May Lower Blood Pressure
The nutritional profile of plantains is very similar to bananas. Potassium, a mineral found in plantains, lowers blood pressure significantly. It also reduces the risk of strokes and renal disease, and promotes digestive function (2). Potassium also prevents blockages in the blood vessels and supports artery health. Other studies also support the role of dietary potassium intake in lowering blood pressure (3).
2. May Promote Cardiovascular Health
A fiber-rich plantain may lower your cholesterol levels and promote heart health. Individuals who consume significant amounts of fiber can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and the associated mortality. Dietary fiber also helps reduce total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (4).
Also, as discussed, the potassium in plantains helps control blood pressure. This also can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
3. May Reduce Oxidative Stress
Polyphenols and flavonoids are beneficial plant compounds found in plantains. Activated free radicals damage the body and cause oxidative stress. But these polyphenols and flavonoids combat the free radicals and protect the body from damage. Additionally, plantains contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage. Antioxidants also prevent free radicals from causing tissue damage by scavenging them (5).
4. May Support The Immune system
The vitamin C in plantains acts as an antioxidant to help boost the immune system. Antioxidants help prevent the free radicals from damaging the body. They also prevent illnesses and boost the body’s immunity.
Plantains also contain vitamin A that has anti-inflammatory properties and helps regulate immune function. Vitamin A is required for the development of the immune system. It also plays a regulatory role in cellular and humoral immune processes (6).
5. May Help With Weight Management
The fiber in plantains keeps you full for longer. An increased intake of fiber also helps reduce weight gain. Dietary fiber intake also predicts weight loss and dietary adherence in adults consuming a calorie-restricted diet (7).
6. May Promote Digestive Health
Fiber helps maintain regular bowel movements. It softens the stool and makes it easier to pass. Bulky stools are also less likely to cause constipation. Research has shown that the most widely known and appreciated benefits of dietary fiber are their effect on gut motility and the prevention of constipation. The dietary fiber in plantains can contribute to good digestive health (8).
7. May Help Manage Diabetes
Plantains are widely used by people with diabetes for managing their blood sugar levels. As they are low in sugar, plantains may help prevent a hypoglycemic effect. Unripe plantains are a natural source of resistant starch, which helps control blood sugar levels. According to a study, increasing dietary fiber in the diets of people with type 2 diabetes is beneficial and can help manage the disease (9).
You can reap all these benefits if you add plantains regularly to your diet. Read on to learn more.
How To Incorporate Plantains Into Your Daily Diet
Brenda Peralta, a Registered Dietician, says that depending on the ripeness of the plantain, you can choose to create a sweet or savory dish. If you are looking to prepare a savory dish, you can create tostones. On the other hand, if you are looking for something sweet, you can make them with cinnamon.
- Slice the plantain in thick slices.
- Place the slices in boiling water and cook them for 15-20 minutes or until they are soft.
- Smash them to flatten them out.
- Place them in the air fryer to cook them a little more. Cook them at 180oC for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
- Once cooked, add some avocado (healthy fats) and some chicken (protein) to make a complete dish.
- Cut the plantains into rectangles and slice them in half.
- Add some brown sugar (one tablespoon per plantain), vanilla, and cinnamon.
- Put them in the air fryer and cook them for 10-15 minutes.
Although plantains are a nutritious addition to your diet, they also may have some potential downsides that you should consider. Learn more in the next section.
Disadvantages Of Plantains
- Unlike bananas, plantains are not generally eaten as they are. One must peel the plantain correctly to consume it. Plantains, instead of being eaten raw, have to be cooked beforehand.
- Plantains are generally fried for consumption as a side dish. Having plantains fried considerably increases their calorie content. This can also destroy their water content. The high fat content from frying can increase the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Chopped or sliced plantains cannot be stored as they may change their color and texture. Hence, you may have to peel and chop them just before cooking them.
Plantains are very similar to bananas. However, they do not contain as much sugar as bananas. They are better suited to cuisines with a savory taste. Although high in starch, this edible fruit is nutrient-rich and has fewer sugars. They are usually fried, boiled, or turned into flour. Incorporating them into your diet in health ways can offer important benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do plantains make you gain weight?
No, plantains do not make you gain weight. Plantains have low sugar and fat.
Banana Vs. plantain – which of the two is healthier?
While both are healthy, plantains are much more beneficial in terms of their low sugar content.
Do plantains cause gas?
Yes, plantains may cause gas. This can be attributed to their starch content.
Is eating raw plantain good?
Yes, eating raw plantain is good. However, it may taste too starchy.
- Plantains are similar to bananas, though they have fewer sugars.
- The fiber in plantains promotes digestive health and aids in weight management.
- They also are rich in potassium that may lower blood pressure.
- Boiling plantains is healthier than frying them.
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- Association of raw fruit and fruit juice consumption with blood pressure: the INTERMAP Study1,2,3,4
- The importance of potassium in managing hypertension
- Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses
- Free radicals, antioxidants, and functional foods: Impact on human health
- Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System
- Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study
- The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre
- Dietary fiber for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis