• Sumo

How many of you have walked into the produce section of your local grocery store and seen a plantain, only to wonder why they don’t just call it a banana? Well, I’ll freely admit that as a kid (and by that I mean I still do it) I would freely scoff at the notion of calling it anything different since they looked so darned similar. Turns out they may be similar but aren’t the same fruit. Not at all! That means it would only be right to sit down and have a chance to talk about plantains properly, so today’s nutrition facts article will spotlight the banana’s odd cousin, the plantain. Let’s get into it!

Plantain Culture and History

Let’s head way back in time, though not too far back really. Just to right around 500 BC, which is practically yesterday. And let’s make the region southeast Asia because that sounds like a good place to be, particularly because that’s where plantains are believed to have first been cultivated. More specifically, they were a staple of southern India before getting sent to Africa via trade routes, generally passing through Madagascar.

It would take until 327 BC before the Western world would get a hold of plantains, but it would take someone pretty great to do it. Enter Alexander the Great, which would make sense, and suddenly plantains were introduced to Europe at large, though they weren’t quite the mega hit that they were in Asia and Africa.

Jumping all the way to 1000 AD, the not bananas had moved to Japan and Samoa, then into the Caribbean and Latin America 500 years later. Seems like a legit course for it to take. After that, plantains began hopping around in the tropics until today, where they’re doing much the same. We in the US still look at plantains as somewhat of a novelty, but not as much as some other fruits. They’re a good middle ground sort of fruit as they’re not too obscure but they’re not overly popular. Just right if you ask me.

Health Benefits of Plantains

Like bananas, plantains are loaded with potassium. So much so that they actually have more potassium per fruit than bananas do. Man, the one thing bananas do right, every other fruit does better. Poor bananas. But not poor plantain! They’re higher in calories than bananas by a little bit, and contain a healthy portion of fiber as well, so they’re able to fill you up better and then empty you out as well.

Turns out that everything bananas can do, plantains can do better, to a certain degree. Plantains have more vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 than bananas, plus high levels of iron, magnesium, folates, niacin, thiamin, phosphorous, and riboflavin. Oh sweet riboflavin! Overall, plantains are high in vitamins and relatively low in fats, making them a good snack, even more so than bananas. Take that bananas!

However, like bananas, plantain do contain the possibility for allergies in some people, though it’s very rare. Usually this will present with some mild swelling of lips, tongue, or throat, perhaps some itching or a rash and hives, though it can cause stomach problems, hay fever, the closure of the throat entirely, or even anaphylactic shock. Curse you plantains! Why must you have a downside!

Eating More Plantains

Just like bananas, plantains are generally eaten entirely by themselves without any complications whatsoever. Just peel and eat, simple as that. Of course, just like bananas, they can be sliced up and served with other foods such as on sandwiches, in salads, on cereal, or as an ice cream topping. It may take some getting used to if you usually put bananas in these typical places, but plantains are a good substitute.

Chances are you’re more familiar with fried plantains though. There are quite a few recipes that can show you the proper way to bake them, fry them, or generally cook them for use in other, more savory foods, but no matter the reason, plantains end up having a simple purpose of adding bulk with a slight sweet flavor. They’re just so simple to use that eating them isn’t a problem!

But that’s all I have to say about plantains, so it’s time for me to open the floor for your thoughts. Are you a huge fan of plantains, or do you prefer bananas? And do you have a preferred plantain recipe that you can’t live without that you’d like to share? Leave a comment and let us commune with the plantains! I’ll bring the fried plantains!