Nutritional Value of Plantains

Incorporating 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 certain African, Asian, and Indian cuisines. In appearance, plantains resemble bananas but are larger in size, harder to peel, and less sweet than you might expect.

Nutritionally, plantains pack a huge punch. They are naturally low in sodium, high in potassium, and rich in antioxidants. Plantains cannot be eaten raw but, when cooked, can be used for both sweet or savory dishes. Fully ripened plantains taste sweet like starchy bananas, whereas green plantains taste similar to potatoes or taro root.

Plantains are popular among tropical home cooks because of their versatility, convenience, and low cost. Regardless of the stage of ripeness, plantains are always ready to be cooked. Despite these benefits, plantains are relatively high in carbohydrates, meaning that people with diabetes need to manage their intake.

Nutritional Benefits

One cup of ripe plantain delivers around 200 calories, 0.5 grams of total fat, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Plantains are rich in vitamins A, C, and B6, which can help promote eye health, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plantains are also high in fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate that can improve bowel function and help regulate glucose and fat absorption in the intestine.

Because of their high carbohydrate content, you need to monitor your intake of plantain; otherwise, your blood sugars will spike. Comparatively speaking, one cup of plantains is equal to eating 2.5 slices of bread.

If you are eating plantains with other starches (such as rice or red beans), try to limit the portion of all carbohydrates to no more than one-quarter of your plate. The same applies if plantains are your only form of starch. If you are diabetic, anything more than a quarter plate is too much. 

Practitioners of alternative medicine believe that plantains can prevent or treat stomach ulcers caused by aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They contend that plantain does so by stimulating the production of gastric mucus.

How to Prepare Plantains

The way that you prepare plantains is just as important as how much you eat. It is easy to sabotage a healthy meal by adding lots of fat and sugar.

When possible, avoid frying plantains (the traditional method) and instead boil, grill, bake, or steam them. If you are following a sodium-restricted diet, incorporate additional flavor with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for sweet dishes and seasonings like oregano, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and turmeric for savory dishes.

A plantain is ripe when it is mostly black with a little yellow and still slightly firm to the touch (like a ripe peach). Completely black plantains are good to eat but are likely too soft to use for cooking.

Cooking With Plaintain

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

Mashing plantains with a little low-fat milk and a nob of butter can make a dreamy substitute for mashed potatoes. However, avoid overworking them as they can become gluey in texture. Some people will mix 50% mashed plantains with 50% mashed potatoes for a nice accompaniment to pork chops or jerk chicken.

Baking plantains is one of the healthiest ways to consume the fruit. Simply peel the plantain and cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 425 F for 20 minutes until soft. Baking plantains concentrates the sugar and gives them a soft yet slightly firm bite.

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Article Sources

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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Plaintains. Updated April 1, 2019

  2. Chatterjee A, Bandyopadhyay SK. Herbal remedy: an alternate therapy of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug induced gastric ulcer healing. Ulcers. 2014;2014:361586. doi:10.1155/2014/361586

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