The first time I ate a plantain I was 10 years old… aboard Moon Dragon…..the prettiest sailboat in the Caribbean. Plantains became a favorite staple source of carbs for me and my family and we ate them in a variety of ways. To this day, plantains are still one of my favorite carb sources and possibly one of my favorite desserts. The recipe at the end of this blog is one way I love to treat myself when I am craving something sweet but don’t want to kill my nutrition goals by eating processed foods found in the U.S.
me on boat

Plantains are very similar to bananas, but have less sugar. Like bananas, they are picked and shipped while green, and change color to yellow and then to black as they ripen. The yellow stage of the plantain is firmer and contains a lot of starch, and has a mouthfeel similar to a potato when cooked. For plátanos maduros, you want to buy the extremely ripe plantains – the black ones. These contain more sugar and have a softer texture. If you don’t have any Latin American grocery stores in close proximity, plantains are often found at supermarkets next to the bananas or in the exotic fruit section. They are bigger and thicker in size than bananas.

When I am trying to avoid tons of sugar, I prepare this dish when plantains are still greenish/yellow to yellow in color. The black plantains are definitely sweeter and yummy so it just depends on if you are looking for a carb source lower in sugar or a dessert.

Plantains relatively have more calories weight for weight than that of table bananas. 100 g plantain holds about 122 calories, while dessert banana has only 89 calories. Indeed, they are very reliable sources of starch and energy; ensuring food security for millions of inhabitants worldwide.
* It contains 2.3 g of dietary fiber per 100 g (6% of DRA per 100 g). Adequate amount of dietary-fiber in the food helps normal bowel movements, thereby reducing constipation problems.
* Fresh plátanos have more vitamin C than bananas. 100 g provide 18.4 mg or 31% of daily required levels of this vitamin. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. However, boiling and cooking destroys much of this vitamin in plantains.
* Plantains carry more vitamin A than bananas. 100 g fresh ripe plantains contain 1127 IU or 37.5% of daily required levels of this vitamin. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A plays a vital role in the visual cycle, maintaining healthy mucus membranes, and enhancing skin complexion.
* As in bananas, they too are rich sources of B-complex vitamins, particularly high in vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine). Pyridoxine is an important B-complex vitamin that has a beneficial role in the treatment of neuritis, anemia, and to decrease homocystine (one of the causative factors for coronary artery disease (CHD) and stroke episodes) levels in the body. In addition, the fruit contains moderate levels of folates, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin.
* They also provide adequate levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. Magnesium is essential for bone strengthening and has a cardiac-protective role as well.
* Fresh plantains have more potassium than bananas. 100 g fruit provides 499 mg of potassium (358 mg per 100 g for bananas). Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure, countering negative effects of sodium.

Whether you are in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico….any island in the Caribbean….and South America to name a few… will discover many ways to prepare this yummy food that many people think is just another banana. Below is one of my favorites however:

• 2 or 3 large Plantains
• Coconut Oil
• Cinnamon (if cooking for dessert)
• Local honey (if cooking for dessert)

plantain pic 3

Peel skin from plantains and slice in desired fashion.
Heat 1 or 2 tbsp of coconut oil in skillet.
Add plantains.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and stir until coated.
Once the plantains begin to turn slightly brown along edges, add small amount of honey and continue frying.
Cook until tender and a light to medium brown color.

plantain pic

NOTE: if you are looking for a less sweet option to pair with a meat and vegetable for a meal, then cut out the honey and cinnamon. Goes great as a potato substitute and topped with goat cheese.