Bananas are great, but don’t overlook its brother, the plantain, for variety, flavor, and nutrition!
The banana is a widely popular, healthy, and tasty tropical fruit option, but the banana look-alike, the plantain, is ready for some well-deserved superfood attention. Originating in Malaysia, the plantain is rarely seen being used in northern-hemisphere cooking but has a rich history as a dietary staple in almost every south-of-the-equator country. Today, plantains continue to be a culinary staple in Latin cuisine as an inexpensive, reliable source of starch and nutrients. While plantains look similar to bananas, they are quite different where taste, texture, and nutrient profile are concerned. They also must be cooked before palatable consumption because of their raw, bitter taste, while bananas can be eaten raw.
Compared to bananas, plantains contain less moisture and sugar but have a much higher starch content. What also makes the plantain so different is that, while it can be purchased green, yellow, or black (just like bananas), the color doesn’t indicate whether it is under ripe, ripe, or rotten. However you cook them, they are a nice addition to spicy and sweet dishes. Here’s how you can use any variety of plantain in your diet:
Green plantains are very starchy, with only a slight sweetness, and a texture similar to a potato. They are great for use in soups and stews like curry. Or you can thinly slice and bake or fry them up as chips!
Yellow plantains are a little sweeter, as well as a middle-of-the-road ripeness that offers a softer texture. Still nowhere close to a banana, the yellow variety are widely used in Colombian dishes. They can be stuffed with ingredients, mashed, sautéed, or used in casseroles.
Black plantains are the closest you’ll get to a banana as they are much softer and sweeter. This variety is best used for soft dishes and desserts like sweet plantain fritters with coconut ice cream.
Regardless of how you whip them up, you want them to find their way into your kitchen to shake things up. Plantains are available at most large grocery stores and can add new flavors and options to a healthy-eating plan. Here are some of the nutrients packed into the little banana doppelganger:
- Fiber helps keep your digestion moving along by keeping bowel movements regular and reducing constipation. If your digestion is on point, you can more easily absorb and utilize the nutrients in the food you consume!
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that builds up your immune system to keep colds and free radicals at bay.
- Vitamin A is a key component to having radiant skin as well as healthy blood and tissues. The color of the plantain reveals that it’s rich in beta-carotene and a source of vitamin A. Just one medium plantain has about 2,000 IU.
- Vitamin B6 brings oxygen to the body's tissues via red blood cells and can help regulate hormone levels. A diet rich in B6 and magnesium (also present in plantains) can help reduce symptoms of PMS that include cramping, water retention, and depression.
- Potassium is an important component of cellular structure and bodily fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure.
Think you’ll pick up a plantain next grocery run? Comment below about your culinary experience with plantains. Whether it’s just a snack or the star in your next main dish, we want to hear from you!