FRESH PLANTAINS GREEN BANANAS
Plantains are a member of the banana family. They are a starchy, low in sugar variety that is cooked before serving as it is unsuitable raw. It is used in many savory dishes somewhat like a potato would be used and is very popular in Western Africa and the Caribbean countries. It is usually fried or baked.
What’s The Difference Between Bananas And Plantains?
So you see a bunch of what looks like bananas, but they’re bigger, bright green, and thick-skinned. If you’ve ever raised an eyebrow at this shady looking banana imposter in your market or grocery, your suspicions are correct. These aren’t bananas, they’re plantains.
Plantains are members of the banana family, but they are starchier and lower in sugar, which means that when they are ripe, they will still be green in color. If you get them when they are overripe, they may have started to turn yellow or black. While a banana makes a great, raw on-the-go-snack, plantains aren’t usually eaten raw because of the high starch content.
Native to India and the Caribbean, plantains serve an important role in many traditional diets.When used in cooking they are treated more like vegetables than fruit. You’re most likely to encounter them at your favorite Latin, African, or Carribean restaurant baked, roasted or fried up in the form of a delicious savory side.
So while plantains probably wouldn’t be as good covered in chocolate à la Bluth, they are pretty incredible roasted with poblano guava sauce.
7 Reasons to Add Plantains to Your Diet (#5 Will Make You Think)
When it comes to fruit, it’s usually easy to decipher exactly which fruit is which simply by sight. It’s literally an exercise in comparing apples to oranges.
But that’s not always the case. Take, for instance, plantains. At first glance, it’s just as easy to confuse a plantain with a banana, and for good reason. Not only are plantains a close relative of bananas, but the nutrition of this tropical fruit has many of the same qualities as banana nutrition.
Plantains are a solid source of carbohydrates with a low-fat content, but they also provide a number of other health benefits as well. Plus, they don’t contain any significant levels of toxins.
1. Great Source of Potassium
There are 913 milligrams of potassium in one cup of cooked, mashed plantains. That accounts for about 20 percent of your recommended daily amount of potassium, making plantains one of the most potassium-rich foods on the planet. Potassium is the third-most abundant mineral in the body, but when depleted, low potassium can affect the function of a number of organs and processes.
Potassium is an electrolyte and is affected greatly by the amount of sodium in the body. Potassium plays a major role in regulating blood pressure because it combats the effects of sodium. Many Western diets include too much sodium, which means we could all use more sources of potassium. Snacking on plantains or adding them as a side dish are delicious ways to reach your daily potassium goals and help naturally remedy high blood pressure.
Potassium levels also affect skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, which allows for regular digestive and muscular function. It also helps regulate heart rhythm, and studies show that people who consume diets with high potassium levels tend to be at a lower risk of stroke, osteoporosis, and renal disease.
2. Help Regulate the Digestive System
Fiber has a profound effect on the digestive system and plays a significant role in keeping it regular. One cup of plantains provides almost a fifth of the fiber recommended daily, which is roughly 25–30 grams. As a high-fiber food, plantains add bulk to food intake, which aids digestion.
That means, according to research from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program, consuming plantains is a great way to relieve constipation and provide relief from hemorrhoids and digestive conditions like diverticulitis.
Fiber also makes you feel full, which can help with weight control. Thus, increasing intake of dietary fiber can also help enhance weight loss in obese individuals. Soluble fiber is also known to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which prevents heart disease. Fiber can also help stabilize blood sugar.
3. Reduce the Number of Harmful Free Radicals
Free radicals, which are made when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to other harmful elements like tobacco smoke or radiation, play a part in aging, diseases, and cancer. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage.
A serving of plantains can provide over 35 percent of the vitamin C needed per day, making it one of the best vitamin C foods around. The body can’t store vitamin C (excess is released in urine) or produce it independently, so getting the daily recommended amount is very important.
Vitamin C is one of the most powerful vitamins, as it has a hand in growing and repairing tissues all over the body. It’s involved in forming a protein used in making skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, as well as maintaining cartilage, bones and teeth.
4. Boost the Immune System
Looking to boost your immune system? Then plantains are the perfect snack. They pack 36 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A. As another powerful antioxidant, vitamin A provides a number of benefits to the body. Along with vitamin C, it helps control your immune response, which keeps illness at bay, and a number of important immune system responses rely on vitamin A to perform correctly.
Vitamin A also has a large part in skin health and cell growth, and is a necessary element for wound healing. Cells that overreact to certain foods are the root of food allergies and ultimately cause inflammation. Vitamin A’s antioxidant properties can neutralize free radicals and help prevent inflammation caused by overreacting cells. It also helps with eye health and vision, especially in low light.
5. Promote Healthy Brain Function
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, generates several important neurotransmitters that carry information from one cell to another. A serving of plantains can provide up to 24 percent of your daily amount needed of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 benefits healthy brain function and, according to research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, helps make hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine, which keep moods stable, and melatonin, which regulates the body’s clock.
Homocysteine levels (an amino acid linked to heart disease and nervous system damage) are also controlled by vitamin B6. The vitamin keeps levels low to help prevent damage and maintain the health of blood vessels.
This vitamin in plantains is one of the eight B vitamins that aid in processing food into energy and metabolizing fats. Similar to vitamin A, B6 also helps slow the onset of eye diseases like macular degeneration. It works with B12 to produce red blood cells and cells in the immune system. Boosted levels of vitamin B6 are also linked to prevention or decrease of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
6. Great Source of Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency is a very common problem thanks to Western diets and depleted soil due to overfarming. Plantains offer about 16 percent of your daily need for magnesium, which is especially important because magnesium affects over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
From helping to regulate blood pressure to preventing osteoporosis, there are many ways magnesium keeps the body healthy. Magnesium directly affects calcium absorption, which can avert or reverse osteoporosis. It also lowers the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels via carbohydrate metabolism and insulin regulation. Magnesium has also long been used to help with migraine headaches, insomnia and depression.
7. Prevent Aspirin-Induced Ulcers
In a study from the International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, dried plantain powder showed a significant ulcer-healing effect on an aspirin-induced gastric ulcer. Individuals who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain are at high risk for developing ulcers in the membrane layer of the stomach. According to the study, dried plantain is able to stimulate the growth of the inner lining of the stomach.
Purchasing and Preparing Plantains
Plantains are available at most major grocery stores year-round and can be purchased at any point of ripeness. There are three major points of ripening that make plantains a versatile fruit to prepare:
- Green plantains: When plantains are green, the pulp is fairly hard and sometimes the peel must be removed with a knife. At this stage, they are starchy and not very sweet, similar to a potato. This is the best time to make plantain chips.
- Yellow plantains: Slightly sweeter than green plantains, yellow plantains are mature and most often made into fried plantains. They’re best fried, cooked, boiled or grilled.
- Black plantains: Despite their color, black plantains are still good to eat. They are the sweetest and softest at this point and are typically baked and eaten as a dessert.
As with any fruit, if you know you won’t prepare the plantain immediately after purchase, you can buy a less mature fruit and allow it to ripen at home. Once a plantain ripens, it quickly decays, similar to a banana.
When you get your plantain home, the first steps in preparing them are as follows:
- Wash plantains
- Use a paring knife to cut off both the stem and tip
- Slice into the skin of the plantain lengthwise at the ridges (be careful not to cut too deep)
- Remove strips of skin using the knife, similar to peeling a carrot
- Slice off any remaining peel attached to the pulp
- From there you can dice, chop or use the plantain whole
There are also methods for steaming or boiling off the peel of a plantain. You can also peel a plantain like a banana, but depending on ripeness, the skin may be too hard to make that happen.
Plantains can be used in many ways for food:
- Baked, boiled, grilled, roasted or fried
- Mashed or chopped up and used as an ingredient in stew and soup
- Steam-cooked for infants and the elderly
- Dried and ground down into flour and used with milk for infant food as well
- In Peru, plantains are boiled and mixed with water and spices to make a drink called Chapo
- When deep-fried, plantains are enjoyed as chips and are a popular snack all over the world
- Commonly made into curries
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