Calories and Nutrient Content of Plantains

How to Incorporate Plantains into a Diabetes Meal Plan

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Plantains are a staple in many tropical cultures, such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. They are also found in some African, Asian, and Indian cuisines. In appearance, plantains resemble bananas, but are larger in size, harder to peel, and taste less sweet. Nutritionally, plantains pack a huge punch. They are naturally low in sodium, high in fiber and rich in potassium and vitamins A, C, and B6. Plantains cannot be eaten raw and when cooked, they can be prepared sweet or savory. Ripe plantains taste sweet, like bananas (these are brown in color or yellow with black specks) whereas green plantains (they should be very green) taste similar to potatoes.

One of the reasons they are so popular is because of their versatility and convenience—regardless of what stage of ripeness, plantains are ready to be cooked. And as a bonus, they are inexpensive. Maria Rodriguez, RD, CDE, says, "My parents used to eat plantains daily; in Hispanic markets you can often find 10 plantains for as cheap as one dollar." But, the question remains, can people with diabetes eat plantains daily? Yes, but like all fruit, plantains contain carbohydrates, which means that people with diabetes should manage their portions.

What is the Nutritional Content of a Plantain? 

One cup of cooked plantains (without added salt or fat) or one medium-sized raw plantain contains about 180-200 calories, 0.5 g total fat, 47-50 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugar and 2 g protein.

Because of it's high carbohydrate content, you need to monitor your portion, otherwise your blood sugars will spike. If you are not really familiar with carbohydrates and carbohydrate counting, think of it this way — one cup of plantains is like eating 2.5 slices of bread. Two servings of plantains is the equivalent of eating more than 5 slices of bread. If you are eating plantains with other starches like rice or beans, try to limit your portion of all carbohydrates to no more than one-quarter of your plate. If, however, you use all your carbohydrates on plantains, then forfeit the rice and beans. Or perhaps you can split the one-quarter of your plate with brown rice and plantain mixed.

For more information on how to start carbohydrate counting: 

What are the Health Benefits of Plantains?

Plantains are also rich in vitamins A, C, B6, which can help promote eye health, boost immunity, produce collagen and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plantains are also rich in fiber, the indigestible carbohydrate, that has been associated with healthier weights. Adequate fiber intake can also help to reduce bad cholesterol and regulate blood sugars and bowels. 

Healthy Ways to Prepare Plantains

The way in which you prepare a plantain is just as important as how much you eat. It is easy to sabotage a healthy food by adding lots of fat and sugar. When possible, avoid deep frying plantains and instead boil, grill, bake, or steam your plantains. "Aim to avoid generosity when it comes to salt and try to add just a pinch," say's Maria. If you are following a sodium-restricted diet, you can incorporate additional flavor by using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for "sweet" and parsley, oregano, garlic, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper and turmeric for "savory."

Recipes with Plantains

If you are looking for new, creative ways to make delicious and nutritious plantains, try mashing or baking them. 

Mash your plantains for a mashed potato mock-up and serve them alongside your favorite grilled or baked lean meat like pork chops or chicken and some beautifully colored vegetables. 

Or if you looking for an alternative for fried plantains—bake them. This recipe couldn't be more simple and a major bonus is you'll save huge on calories and fat.


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Article Sources

  • Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin B6.
  • Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin C.