Plantain Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Plantain, annotated

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 can either be a high-fiber and nutritious choice, or a salty, fried snack food. Here's how to get the most out of this hearty fruit.

Plantain Nutrition Facts

Plantains can be used when ripe (yellow) or unripe (green) and should be consumed cooked rather than raw. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (154g) of sliced, boiled green plantain.

  • Calories: 179
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 8mg
  • Carbohydrates: 48g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Sugars: 22g
  • Protein: 1.2g

Carbs

Plantains provide a healthy dose of carbohydrates. A medium (223g) green plantain (boiled) has 70 total grams of carbs, with 5 grams of fiber and 31 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 oil when cooked in it. Fried plantains are a high-fat food.  Try baking plantain chips with a high heat oil in a limited amount 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 are especially rich in iron, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin A.

Health Benefits

The resistant starches and micronutrients in plantains offer several health benefits, especially when plantains are consumed with minimal processing. Here's what some of the research says.

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 the prevention of 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 as well.

Controls 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. One medium-sized boiled plantain has 1,040 milligrams of potassium. Since most adults need between 2600–3400 milligrams per day, plantains can help you meet your requirements. Because they are a naturally low sodium food, plantains support a dietary plan for treating hypertension (as long as you don't add salt in preparation).

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.

Prevents 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 fully ripen, 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.

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.

Once a plantain turns yellow with brown or black spots, they become softer and sweeter. Use ripe plantains more like bananas. 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

Plantains can be stored fresh, frozen, or dried. If plantains are at peak ripeness but you're not ready to use them yet, place in the refrigerator for a few extra 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 in an airtight container in the freezer. Dehydrated plantains should be stored 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). For a healthy vegan plantain recipe, try spicy vegan tomato and plantain stew.

You can also try making your own healthy version of baked plantain chips. You'll need:

  • 2–3 green plantains
  • Olive or avocado oil
  • Sea salt or your favorite spice

Peel and thinly slice the plantains. Use a mandolin or the side of a cheese shredder. Place the slices in a bowl and sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons of oil.

Lay the slices on a non-stick baking sheet (or use parchment paper). Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crispy.

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Article Sources
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