Plantain Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Plantain

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Plantains may look like bananas, but they don't necessarily taste like them. In fact, unripe or green plantains may taste more like potatoes. The nutritional content of plantains varies greatly depending on their level of ripeness and how they're prepared. Plantains are a high-fiber and nutritious choice as a healthy source of carbs. Plantains are also low fat when cooked without frying in oil.

You can find green plantains that are firm and starchy, like a potato, or yellow ones that are starchy and soft, more akin to a banana. Very ripe plantains can be quite soft and sweet.

Plantain Nutrition Facts

One cup of boiled green plantains (137g) provides 166 calories, 1.5g of protein, 40g of carbohydrates, and 0.1g of fat. Plantains are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin B6. The following nutrition information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

  • Calories: 166
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 2.7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 40g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Sugars: 3.1g
  • Protein: 1.5g
  • Vitamin C: 12.5mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.3mg

Carbs

Plantains provide a healthy dose of carbohydrates. One cup of boiled green plantains has 40 total grams of carbs, with nearly 4 grams of fiber and just 3 grams of natural sugar. As plantains ripen, fiber content goes down and sugar content increases.

Plantains are high in resistant starch, which gives them a low glycemic index of about 38.5 (ripe, raw plantains) to 44.9 (boiled unripe plantain).

Fats

Plantains are naturally low in fat but easily absorb the oil they're cooked in. Fried plantains are a high-fat food. Try baking plantain chips with a limited amount of high-heat oil for a lighter snack.

Protein

Plantains are not a significant source of protein. A medium plantain has less than 2 grams. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Plantains contain iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, magnesium, copper, and vitamin A. According to the USDA, a cup of plantains provides 12.5 milligrams of vitamin C, which is about 15% of your daily recommended intake. Plantains contain folate, which is a vital nutrient for women trying to conceive. You'll get nearly 20% of your daily recommended intake from a cup of cooked plantains.

Calories

One cup of boiled green plantains (137g) provides 166 calories, 96% of which come from carbs, 3% from protein, and 1% from fat.

Summary

Plantains are a carbohydrate rich source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals such as folate, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6. Plantains are low in fat and sodium.

Health Benefits

The resistant starches and micronutrients in plantains offer several health benefits, especially when plantains are consumed with minimal processing.

Aids Pregnancy Nutrition

Plantains contain carotenoids which convert to vitamin A. Plantains are a crucial source of carotenoids for people living in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

For women of childbearing age, plantain consumption contributes to preventing vitamin A deficiency (which increases the risk of preterm delivery). Furthermore, plantains provide folate and iron, which play key roles in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Helps Control Blood Sugar

Plantains are high in resistant starch. Just like other types of fiber, resistant starch doesn't raise blood sugar levels. By slowing down digestion, promoting satiety, and enhancing "good" gut bacteria, the resistant starch in plantains promotes glycemic control.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Plantains are a wonderful source of potassium, an important mineral and electrolyte that reduces hypertension. A cup of boiled plantains has 396 milligrams of potassium.

Because they are naturally low in sodium, plantains support a dietary plan for treating hypertension (as long as you don't add too much salt in preparation). Since most adults should not exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, plantains can help you stay within the recommended allowance.

Reduces Constipation

The fiber in plantains helps promote regularity. Plantains have both soluble and insoluble fiber (along with resistant starch), which all work together to move matter through the digestive tract. If looking to increase your daily fiber intake, give your body some time to adjust to eating more fiber by increasing slowly over time and be sure to drink plenty of water.

Helps Prevent Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Plantains provide iron and vitamin C, two micronutrients that work together to optimize absorption. Although iron from plant sources is not usually as easily absorbed, vitamin C increases its bioavailability. Iron-deficiency anemia causes fatigue, difficulty concentrating, impaired immunity, and poor regulation of body temperature. Plantains can help you avoid this common condition.

Allergies

Plantain allergies often overlap with banana allergies, as the two fruits are in the same botanical family. Symptoms may appear shortly after eating plantains and include itching of the mouth and throat, hives, swelling, or wheezing.

If you suspect an allergy to plantains or bananas, speak with your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

The resistant starch in plantains may make them difficult to digest. Green, raw plantains are especially high in resistant starch. If you're not used to eating a lot of fiber, plantains can cause discomfort like gas, bloating, and constipation. Increase your intake slowly, allow plantains to ripen fully, and cook before eating to reduce digestive distress.

Varieties

There are two general varieties of plantains: the horn plantain and the French plantain. In addition to finding fresh plantains in the produce section of your grocery store, plantains may also be available dried or ground into flour. Plantains are popular among packaged foods as well and can be found as dried or fried plantain chips.

You can eat plantains when they are green or yellow. The level of ripeness will determine the type of starch and the consistency of the plantain. Green plantains contain more resistant starch, while yellow, fully ripe plantains contain more natural sugars.

When It's Best

Find fresh plantains or plantain products in the grocery store. Because plantains are popular in different cultural dishes (including Asian, Spanish, Caribbean, and African cuisines), you may be more likely to find them in ethnic grocery stores.

Choosing the right plantain depends on how you plan to use it. If you are going to cook with plantains (to make plantain chips, for example), look for green fruit that's firm and heavy.

Use ripe plantains more like bananas. Once plantains turn yellow with brown or black spots, they become softer and sweeter. Green plantains ripen in a few days at room temperature. Avoid buying plantains that are bruised, overripe, or have broken peels.

Storage and Food Safety

You can store plantains fresh, frozen, or dried. If plantains are at peak ripeness but you're not ready to use them yet, place them in the refrigerator for a few days. If plantains are unripe, you can leave them on the counter out of direct sunlight to ripen at room temperature.

To freeze plantains, remove the peel and store them in an airtight container in the freezer. You should store dehydrated plantains at room temperature in low humidity. Use plantain flour or snack foods by their listed expiration dates.

How to Prepare

If you have a favorite banana bread or banana muffin recipe, you can use ripe plantains instead. Some recipes call for plantain skins to be washed and left on for cooking. Plantains are popular in Puerto Rican cuisine. Classic Latin dishes include mofongo (mashed and fried plantains) and tostones (twice-fried plantains).

Recipes

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