Plantains are a staple food. Grown in more than 130 countries, 93.39 million tons of bananas and plantains are grown every year. Furthermore, plantains represent 85% of all bananas cultivated globally. However, besides being considered a staple crop, does plantain have any health benefits?
History Of Plantain
Plantains belong to the Musaceae species. They are the first cousin of bananas. Plantains are thought to be indigenous to Southeast Asia. From Asia, it is estimated that plantains made their way to Eastern Africa as early as 3000 BCE and Madagascar by 1000 BCE.
Plantains then made their way to the New World via the slave trade. Interestingly enough, plantains served two purposes on plantations.
First, the tall leaves provided shade for valuable crops such as cacao, coffee, and peppers which depended on indirect or specific times in the sunlight to thrive. In this regard, plantains were not valued for their fruit but for intercropping or sheltering important plants.
The second use for plantains was as a food source. Plantains were easy to digest and provided energy and calories for the tedious brutal labor slaves endured on sugar plantations. Today what was once an intercrop has now been transformed into a beloved food source that plays a staple role in West and Central African, Caribbean, Central Asian, and South American cuisines.
Types Of Plantains
Modern plantains are either horn or French plantains. The major difference between the primary types of plantain is how the plants grow and how much they yield. French plantains have big bunches with plenty of fruits, while horn plantains have smaller benches and produce less fruit.
What’s The Difference Between A Banana And Plantain
Most people assume plantains and bananas are identical. While there are some similarities between plantains and bananas, they are different.
In their juvenile phase, both plantains and bananas have green peels that change to yellow, dark brown, and black during the ripening process. In addition to this, plantains and bananas grow in bunches known as hands, but that is all they have in common.
Bananas have a softer texture and are much sweeter than plantains. In comparison, plantains are larger than bananas and have a thicker peel. Green plantains are not as sweet as ripe plantains.
Like cassava, plantains must be cooked before consuming them since they contain so much starch. Cooking plantain softens the starchy flesh. Plantains can be cooked in several ways. They can be fried or dehydrated to make plantain chips, baked, roasted, boiled, and steamed.
What Does Plantain Taste Like?
Green plantains are extremely starchy and boast a bland flavor similar to cassava or potatoes. On the other hand, medium ripe plantains have yellow peels or a yellow peel with black spots and a subtle sweet flavor. Once their peels have nearly turned black, the plantains are ripe and boast a sweet smell and flavor.
How To Cook With Plantains
It’s best to approach cooking plantain like you would cook cassava. Unless you are boiling green plantains or roasting them, the first step is almost always to remove the peel from the plantain.
Ripe plantains are as easy to peel as their first cousin, the banana. On the other hand, green plantains are harder to peel. You will have to trim both ends of the plantain off, then use a knife to slice the plantain from the top to the bottom to remove the peel.
It may be best to remove the peel by placing the plantain under cold running water. Green plantains contain sap which can turn your hands and countertops brown or black. Rinsing the plantain with water will prevent your hands from becoming stained. Once you have peeled your plantain, you are ready to fry, dehydrate, roast, bake or steam it.
The Health Benefits Of Plantain
Although it contains a lot of starch, plantains also contain beneficial compounds. Plantains contain high concentrations of fiber. Fiber may lower cholesterol as well as prevent colon cancer by alleviating constipation. Plantains also contain rich levels of potassium which may prevent blood pressure levels from increasing and prevent muscle cramps.
Moreover, the pulp of green plantain may possess anti-ulcerogenic, ulcer healing, and anti-diabetic properties. The flavonoid leucocyanidin is said to be responsible for plantain’s anti-ulcerogenic properties effects. It may even be more effective than conventional agents known to possess antiulcerogenic properties.
Not only is the fruit full of beneficial compounds, but the root, fruit stalk, and bract of plantain have medicinal and domestic uses. For example, plantain leaf juice can be used to treat insect bites, cuts, or injuries. The leaves may also function as an abortifacient, while the sap may be used to treat dysentery, epilepsy, diarrhea, and hysteria. The fruit may also be used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, and antiscorbutic.
Plantains are a delicious, nutritious food that has several potential health benefits. From being a wellspring of fiber and potassium to acting as an anti-ulcerogenic and treating epilepsy, plantains are beneficial to human health.
However, it is best to consume plantains in moderation. Depending on how you cook your plantain as well as the portion size you may be consuming more calories than you realize.