What are plantains?
When we talk about fruits, it often becomes easy to understand which fruit is which just by looking at it. However, this would not be the case when talking about plantains.
When you glance at it for the first time, it can be easily confused with bananas. Aside from being a close relative of bananas, plantains also have a similar nutritional value of bananas. Studies have shown that plantains and bananas are good when it comes to boosting the body's immune system. They also help regulate the levels of potassium in the body. However, plantains are still different from bananas. Plantains are starchy, so they are often cooked first before consumption.
Plantains are native to Southeast Asian and Oceania regions. They can also be found in Central America and the Caribbean. They were brought by the Spanish and African traders to the Caribbean. Plantains are grown around 120 countries.
What to do with plantains?
Depending on its stage of ripeness, plantains can be used as a fruit or vegetable. Plantains usually ripen slowly than bananas because of their moisture content. When a fruit contains more moisture, its starch content also breaks down into sugar faster. Because plantains take a longer time to ripen, they can be cooked in a variety of ways on each ripening process.
Stage 1: Green Plantains
Green plantains are very starchy and firm similar to potatoes. You can fry green plantains and make them as a snack called tostones. It is a staple of the Caribbean and Latin American cuisines.
Other uses of green plantains include:
- Plantain crackers
- Drop biscuits
- Mofongo (typical Caribbean dish)
- Oven-baked plantain chips
- Plantain Soup (Sopa de Platanos)
Stage 2: Semi-Ripe Plantains
Plantains turn into yellow when they become semi-ripe. At this stage, plantains are softer than the green plantains but are still starchy. For this reason, semi-ripe plantains must be cooked. They are often in recipes that need mashed plantains, such as plantain tortillas, plantain waffles, and Dominican mangu, which is a popular Dominican breakfast dish from the Dominican Republic.
Stage 3: Ripe Plantains
Yellow plantains will have dark brown spots at the third stage of ripeness. They also get softer and have a sweeter taste. They can still be fried, but you can also use them in other dishes, which include:
- Plantain crust pizza
- Plantain and apple fritters
- Pastelón (a sweet Puerto Rican casserole dish)
- Roasted sweet potato and plantain burritos
Stage 4: Very Ripe or Black Plantains
When plantains are very ripe, they will be very soft and turn black in color. Although they may externally look bad, very ripe plantains are the sweetest and can be used for a variety of desserts, such as:
- Caramelized plantains
- Sweet plantain cake
- Plantain brownies
- Oven-baked sweet plantains
Whenever you purchase plantains, look for heavier and firm ones. It should be green in color and well-formed. Plantains can be stored at room temperature for a period of 4-5 days. Plantains can also be used as a replacement for potatoes. They can be grilled, fried, baked, or mashed. In the southern parts of India, plantains and banana chips that have been seasoned with pepper and salt are great snacks. Plantains can also be used for making vegetable dishes.
Difference Between Plantains and Bananas
Plantains belong to the Musaceae family or the banana family of plants, which consist of herbaceous, tropical plants. Bananas are the most popular member of this family. Although plantains belong to the same family of bananas, they are still different from bananas since they have a higher starch content with longer and thicker skins.
The main difference between bananas and plantains is their sweetness. Banana as generally sweeter at all stages of ripeness, while plantains are less sweeter and are often used as a savory vegetable.
Nutritional Content of Plantains
100 grams of raw plantains contain the following nutrient values:
- Calories: 122 kCal
- Carbohydrates: 31.89 g
- Sugar: 15 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.3 g
- Protein: 1.30 g
- Fat: 0.37 g
- Water: 65.28 g
- Potassium: 499 mg
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Magnesium: 37 mg
- Calcium: 3 mg
- Iron: 0.60 mg
- Phosphorus: 34 mg
- Zinc: 0.14 mg
- Vitamin A: 1127 IU
- Vitamin C: 18.4 mg
Nutritional Content of Bananas
100 grams of raw bananas contain the following nutrient values:
- Calories: 89 kCal
- Carbohydrates: 22.84 g
- Sugar: 12.23 g
- Dietary fiber: 2.6 g
- Protein: 1.09 g
- Fat: 0.33 g
- Water: 74.91 g
- Potassium: 358 mg
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Magnesium: 27 mg
- Calcium: 5 mg
- Iron: 0.26 mg
- Phosphorus: 22 mg
- Zinc: 0.15 mg
- Vitamin A: 64 IU
- Vitamin C: 8.7 mg
The GI or the glycemic index provides an estimate on how likely a particular type of food would increase the level of blood sugar in the body. The glycemic index of plantains, as well as bananas, are 40 and 52 respectively. Ripe bananas have a higher glycemic index and are easy to digest. They are known to have high amounts of antioxidants and are said to produce a substance called TNF, which is an anti-cancer agent. It functions by stimulating the production of white blood cells (WBCs) and killing abnormal-looking cells. Bananas can also help stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the body.
The potassium present in plantains and bananas helps in boosting brain power, as well as in the regulation of blood pressure. Potassium also helps lower the risk of stroke, renal conditions, and osteoporosis. The vitamin A content of plantains also helps in enhancing the health of the eyes and skin. It also boosts the immune system and cell growth. Consuming bananas that have darker patches also enhances a person's immune system.
Concerns About Plantain Consumption
There are people who have plantain and banana allergies. Such allergic reaction may immediately occur or after one hour of consumption. People may experience symptoms that are similar to other food allergies, such as swelling of the face, tongue, lips, and throat, itching or hives, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing, among others.
Plantains can also raise a person's blood sugar level since they have a high carbohydrate and glycemic load. People with diabetes must be aware of it, especially when pairing plantains with other foods that can increase their blood sugar levels.
- Plantains are different from bananas, but both belong to the same banana family of plants.
- Plantains are starchy, so they are often cooked first before consumption.
- Depending on its stage of ripeness, plantains can be used as a fruit or vegetable.