Plantains are identical to bananas, but they don’t always taste the same. In fact, their taste varies based on ripeness. So what’s the difference between a plantain and a banana?
When it is ripe, many cooks use plantains like they would use a banana. But when it is still green, a plantain tastes and behaves more like a potato.
Plantain nutrition also varies depending on ripeness and method of preparation.
Read these plantain nutrition facts before adding them to your diet to get the most out of this healthy food.
Carbs in Plantains
Plantains provide a healthy dose of carbohydrates. There are three different kinds of carbohydrate in a serving of plantains: sugars, starch, and fiber. The amount of each varies slightly based on the fruit’s ripeness.
If you consume plantains raw (uncooked) most of the carbohydrate is naturally-occurring sugar. You’ll get 22 grams of sugar in a cup of sliced plantain.
You’ll also benefit from 3.4 grams of fiber. The remaining carbohydrate (21.6 grams) is starch.
However, it is important to note that most people don’t eat plainraw plantains. Often they are fried or prepared like you would prepare a starchy potato. When raw plantains are fried in oil (served as plantain chips), a one-cup serving provides 365 calories with 58 grams of total carbohydrate.
Four grams of carbohydrate are fiber, just over 4 grams are sugar, and the remaining 50 grams are starch.
Ripe plantains are less starchy but more sugary. A one-cup serving of ripe mashed plantain (200 grams) provides 62 grams of carbohydrate, 28 grams of sugar, 4.6 grams of fiber, and 29 grams of starch.
The estimated glycemic load of ripe plantain (100 grams) is 12. Glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into account when estimating the food’s effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response. The estimated glycemic load of raw plantain is 13 (but again, raw plantain is rarely consumed plain). The estimated glycemic load of 100 grams of plantain chips is 30.
Fats in Plantains
There is very little fat in plantains, raw or ripe. But when plantains are fried they absorb the oil they are fried in and can become a fatty food. A 100-gram serving of plantain chips contains 36 grams of fat. The type of fat in the chips will depend on the oil used for frying.
For example, if you use a vegetable oil such as canola oil to make plantain chips, you’ll have a higher intake of polyunsaturated fat. A diet higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) is healthier for your heart than a diet high in saturated fat.
If the plantain chips are fried in lard or butter, you’ll increase your intake of saturated fat.
Protein in Plantains
Plantains are not a significant source of protein. A one-cup serving provides just 2 grams of protein.
Micronutrients in Plantains
Plantains are full of healthy nutrients. The fruit is a good source of both vitamin A (28 percent of your daily recommended intake) and vitamin C(16.8 mg or 28 percent of your recommended daily intake). You’ll also benefit from 0.4 milligrams or 18 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin B-6.
You’ll get 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of folate if you consume one cup of plantains and you follow a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet.
Folate, a B vitamin, helps boost red blood cell production and provides other health benefits.
A one-cup serving of plantain provides 12 percent (49.3 milligrams) of your daily intake of magnesium and meets 20 percent of your daily potassium needs.
The vitamin A in plantains helps your body maintain healthy growth, good vision, immune function, reproduction and healthy epithelial tissue (thin tissue that covers the body, body cavities and composes organs). Health experts recommend that you get vitamin A from foods (like plantain, carrots, cantaloupe, etc.) rather than from supplements.
The vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) in plantains acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that may delay cell damage. Vitamin C promotes resistance to infection, boosts bone and dental health, and helps your body absorb iron in food. The vitamin is also required for the biosynthesis of collagen—an essential component of connective tissue that plays a role in wound healing.
The vitamin B-6 in plantains is important for proper energy metabolism and is important for brain development during pregnancy and infancy. Some researchers are also investigating whether or not the vitamin may play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Many athletes and healthy eaters consume bananas for the potassium they provide. But plantains provide almost as much of this important mineral. Potassium is important to maintain healthy fluid volume in cells and can blunt the rise of blood pressure in response to excess sodium.
Lastly, the fiber in plantains also provides health benefits. Fiber helps to boost healthy digestion, may help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and helps you to feel full after eating.
What should I look for when purchasing plantains?
Plantains are becoming more common in grocery stores. If your local market doesn’t carry them, visit a farmers’ market or a specialty food store that carries food from African, South American, or Caribbean countries.
Choosing the best plantain for you depends on how you choose to use them. If you are going to cook with raw plantains (to make plantain chips, for example), look for green, firm fruit.
Once a plantain turns yellow with brown or black spots, many food experts say they become perfect for picking. Once these plantains become softer they are better to eat raw or mashed, like a banana.
If you can’t find plantains that have reached the perfect yellow-brown stage, buy fruit that is available and store them like you would store a banana. Plantains will ripen within a few days.
Can you freeze plantains?
Many food experts say that you can store them raw or fresh, just like you would freeze a banana.
Is it hard to remove the skin of a plantain?
Nope! Score the skin like you would score the skin of a banana and peel it away from the fruit.
Can you use plantains and bananas interchangeably in recipes?
Many cooks say that if you have a recipe that calls for bananas, you can substitute plantains. For example, if you have a favorite banana bread or banana muffin recipe, you can use plantains. The key is to make sure that they are ripe enough. You cannot substitute green plantains for bananas in recipes.
Are plantain chips healthy?
Some plantain chips may be slightly healthier than potato chips, but just like all fried foods, they will boost your calorie and fat intake. Read the nutrition facts label to see what ingredients were used to prepare the chips and how it will affect your saturated fat intake for the day.
Recipes and Preparation Tips
Because plantains taste different and have a different texture based on ripeness, there are different ways to cook and prepare them.
One of the most popular ways to prepare them is to make plantain chips. Of course, many home cooks fry plantains to make the chips, but you can also bake them.
Quick and Easy Baked Plantain Chips:
- 2–3 green plantains
- Olive or avocado oil
- Sea salt or your favorite spice
Peel and thinly slice the plantains. Use a mandoline 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 ten minutes or until crispy.
If you have ripe plantains, use them to bake plantain bread (similar to banana bread), muffins, or other baked goods. Some people also used mashed plantains in stuffing recipes.
Allergies and Interactions
According to the University of Michigan, there are no known food, supplement or medicine interactions that have been reported.
According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, an allergy support network based in England, people who suffer from a banana allergy may also react to plantains. According to the source, symptoms usually appear shortly after eating the fruit and may include itching of the mouth and throat, hives, swelling, or wheezing.
While a mild reaction to plantains may be treated with over-the-counter medications, a more severe reaction can be dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect that you have an allergy to plantains, speak with your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis.