If you’ve ever gone through the produce aisle at the supermarket, you may have noticed a food that looks like a banana, but isn’t quite the same color. If you didn’t know what these were, you may have been confused and bought them thinking that they were bananas. After biting into one, you quickly learn that the taste is nowhere similar. These are known as plantains, which are also referred to as cooking bananas since they’re rarely eaten raw.
Plantains are very common in certain parts of the world that include South America, Africa and the Caribbean, but not so much in the United States. However, you can find them pretty easily at your grocery store and they aren’t expensive at all. If you’re thinking about picking up some produce that you haven’t tried before, you should consider plantains. They contain a lot of health benefits that will have you feeling terrific. Let’s look at those benefits, and the nutrition that you get from plantains.
Nutrition of Plantains
Plantains might be a bit higher in calories than some of the other fruits out there with about 180 calories per one cup, but you’re getting just as many great nutrients that you need. Each serving of plantains contain a little bit of protein, and right around 15 percent of your daily recommendation for dietary fiber. You’ll find very little fat in plantains, and no cholesterol to speak of. In terms of vitamins, vitamin C is the big one with nearly half of your daily recommendation.
Vitamin A is also well represented at one-third of your value while vitamin B6 comes in at one-quarter. You’ll find other vitamins in smaller amounts in plantains, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. Just like bananas, plantains have a high amount of potassium, with more than 20 percent daily value. Magnesium is the next notable one at 15 percent, while others that come in between five and 10 percent include iron, phosphorus and copper.
As we mentioned, one of the key components that you’ll find in plantains is the high amount of fiber. With around 15 percent of your daily fiber recommendation, you’ll be able to build a more efficient digestive system. Getting more fiber in your diet allows for you to avoid a lot of minor discomfort and problems that include irregularity, diarrhea and constipation. All of those problems are almost always a direct result of a lack of fiber.
Fiber helps with a lot of other aspects in your body, as well. Fiber allows you to feel more full and energized throughout the day, boosting your metabolism to allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. It even prevents serious diseases in your digestive system, dramatically lowering your chances of developing colon cancer. You’ll also see a blood sugar regulation while eating more fiber in your diet.
Outside of fiber, the other big aspect of plantains is a massive amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is perhaps the most essential nutrient that you need for building a stronger immune system. By getting enough in your diet, you’re able to prevent a lot of the minor illnesses throughout the year and even more serious ones later in life. The good news is, even getting “too much” vitamin C in your body isn’t a problem since you flush out what’s not needed.
Another vitamin that contributes to a healthy immune system include vitamin A, and you’ll be getting plenty of that by eating plantains. Together, these antioxidant nutrients help to fight off the free radicals that are roaming around your body. Free radicals are responsible for attacking cells, inhibiting cancer cell growth and tumor development. You may not hear much about them, but free radicals are the basis for many diseases, which is why it’s absolutely vital that you get more vitamins in your diet.
Good For the Heart
A lot of people in today’s world aren’t getting enough healthy foods, which leads to a widespread amount of people with heart disease. You can avoid becoming one of the millions with heart disease by eating more foods like plantains, which have been shown to help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol while improving your HDL (good) cholesterol. You can also lower your triglyceride levels, which is a good thing.
Plantains contain a high amount of potassium, which is one of the healthiest minerals for your heart. Potassium is essential in controlling your heartrate, and drastically reduces your chance of a heart attack or stroke. Studies show that people who eat more plantains have a balanced cholesterol level, as well as blood pressure. Fiber shows yet another benefit by playing into heart health, as well.
Another mineral that you get from plantains is magnesium, one of the building blocks for your bones. When you get enough magnesium in your diet, your body is able to absorb calcium more efficiently. With more calcium comes more bone strength, even later in life when losing bone density could become a problem. For that reason, magnesium is linked with the lower probability of developing osteoporosis or arthritis.
You’ll even find calcium in plantains, just as an added bonus. When they work together, you add a lot of time to the life of your bones. Another added benefit is that these minerals are also important for your teeth. To keep your smile and avoid periodontal disease, you need to have more calcium and magnesium in your diet.
For Your Head
Bones aren’t the only thing that can start to go with age, as your vision and neurological abilities can also fade. The antioxidants in plantains can help you avoid these problems. With vitamin A, you’re getting a huge boost to your vision that will prevent problems down the road such as macular degeneration. Vitamin B6 and homocysteine, meanwhile, protect your brain from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. There’s also a day-to-day boost in memory and brain function that can help make your workday much easier.
Summing it Up
While the plantain looks similar to a banana and has a lot of the same great nutritional benefits, are there any negatives to eating more in your diet? Well, compared to other fruits, plantains tend to be higher in sugar and carbohydrates. You can certainly work plantains into your diet even when watching your blood sugar, as long as you’re watching your sugar and carb intake in other aspects of your diet.
You’ll also want to be conscious of how you’re preparing plantains. Many people like to fry them, which can add a lot of unhealthy calories and fat to each serving. Baking or roasting are the healthier options for eating plantains, and won’t add anything unhealthy while keeping all of the nutrients. So feel free to work plantains into your diet along with all of the other healthy fruits that you should be eating on a regular basis. They may not be sweet, but they can be delicious when made just right!