Plantains: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Plantains are the less sweet, starchier equivalent to the banana. Sweet bananas, sometimes called “dessert bananas” are much more popular in the United States and Europe, but plantains are an extremely important staple for people in tropical countries. Unlike dessert bananas, plantains are almost always cooked before eating. In fact, they taste pretty awful raw, so don’t be tricked by their banana-like features. Cooked plantains are nutritionally very similar to a potato, calorie-wise, but contain more of certain vitamins and minerals. They’re a rich source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and B-6, and the minerals magnesium and potassium.
BENEFITS OF PLANTAINS
- Preventing asthma
Plantains are rich sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, and are easily digestible. As a staple food, plantains have been the main fare of millions of people for centuries. Here are the basic nutrition factsTrusted Source for one cup of baked yellow plantains (139 grams), according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nutrition will vary on cooking style.
- Digestive health
Fiber is important because it promotes bowel regularity. Fiber softens your stool and increases its overall size and weight. Bulky stools are much easier to pass and therefore prevent constipation. Eating a high-fiber diet may also reduce your risk of hemorrhoids and small pouches in your large intestine known as diverticular disease. Fiber also increases fullness, slows digestion, and may help manage cholesterol.
- Weight management
Carbohydrates aren’t necessarily a bad thing for weight management like most people believe. The fiber and starch found in plantains are complex carbs. Fiber and complex carbs are less processed and more slowly digested than the simple carbs found in processed foods. They keep you fuller and more satisfied for longer after a meal, which can mean less snacking on unhealthy foods.
- High in antioxidants
Plantains contain a good amount of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a single cup. This vitamin acts as an antioxidant which may help boost your immune system. As an antioxidant, it may protect your body against free radical damage that’s associated with aging, heart disease, and even some types of cancer. Studies have found an inverse relationship between vitamin C intake and lung, breast, colon, stomach, esophagus, and other types of cancers. People with cancer were also found to have lower blood plasma concentrations of vitamin C.
- Good for your heart
The high amount of potassium found in plantains is essential for maintaining the cell and body fluids that control your heart rate and blood pressure. The fiber in plantains also helps lower your cholesterol, which in turn keeps your heart functioning at its best.
- Versatile (like a potato!)
You might commonly come across plantains fried and soaked in grease as a side dish in a restaurant, maybe even topped with sour cream. While they taste absolutely amazing, fried plantains aren’t exactly a healthy choice if fried in an unhealthy oil. It’s better to think of plantains as a starchy vegetable or a substitute for potatoes. Their texture and mild flavor really shines when baked or grilled. You can incorporate plantains as part of a meat- or vegetarian-friendly stew or grill them alongside fish.