Should You Eat Plantains? 5 Things You Need to Know

December 17, 2014

Ever wondered how to use these large banana–like fruit and if they were worth it nutritionally to add to your diet? Find out the 5 things you need to know, including how to prepare plantains here.

Plantains are one of the cultivars of the genus Musa whose fruit is only eaten after its been cooked. They are indigenous to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Oceania, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines and Northern Australia. It is said that Alexander the Great encountered the plantain during his time in India and ordered it to be grown in his African coastal domains; thus Africa is considered a secondary center of diversity for the genus.  Plantains were first brought to US and cultivated during the early 19th century.

What about the Caribbean? Plantains were introduced into the Caribbean islands by Dominican monks from the Canary Isles, and they have become an island staple eaten in dishes of rice and as side dishes which can be mixed with chicken curries. Many Latin American cuisines feature plantains as well. 

Taste? Green plantains taste a little like a potato but are starchier in texture, and can be fried along with a yam or even a sweet potato. When they are green you can do the same with them as you can with a potato in terms of cooking them. As they ripen, they get sweeter.

Nutrient Dense. Plantains have a stellar nutritional profile. They are rich in fiber. A 1-cup serving of cooked plantain slices contains 4.5 grams of fiber, helping you stay regular.  They are also rich in vitamin C, which helps boost immune function. Rich in vitamin B6, beneficial for anemia, as well as decreasing homocysteine levels which are often associated with heart disease. Plantains are also rich in potassium, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, plantains are rich in calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium and zinc. They also contain omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well as flavonoids.

How to prepare? Plantains are inedible raw and should be eaten only after cooking. Plantains can be prepared in numerous ways, and their flavor ranges from savory to sweet, depending on ripeness. Green (unripe) plantains are savory, while yellow/black (ripe) plantains will be quite sweet.

Here is an easy way to prepare plantains:

Rinse the outside of your raw plantain and then using a paring knife, trim both ends.

Next, cut into short lengths. Slit the skin superficially along the ridge and then peel the skin gently away to extract the pulp.

You can now decide how you want to prepare it. You can either cook it whole as part of a roast, you can cut it into thin slices and bake as you would potatoes, fry them in some oil, or you can cook and mash them into a mashed potato texture. 

There are many ways to enjoy plantains and they can help add variety to your diet. Unfortunately plantains are mostly imported, thus not grown locally – but for an occasional treat, try plantains.