An exotic fruit little used by us, the plantain is suitable for a multitude of uses in the kitchen and, thanks to the abundance of carotenoids and flavonoids, it is a nutritious food that can replace bread and pasta in the diet of celiac individuals. So let’s discover all the properties of the plane tree and some tips for using it at its best.
The plane tree is an exotic fruit very similar to the banana and belonging to the same family: that of the heavenly Muse. With a shape similar to that of the fruit we are used to consuming, the plantain reaches larger sizes and is usually used after adequate cooking.
It is a very common fruit in the countries of Central and South America: it is used in many recipes and represents the basis of their diet, similarly to our flour. The plantain, in fact, can be used as the main ingredient of both savory and sweet dishes.
We can find this food, usually coming from Ecuador, in the numerous ethnic shops located in different locations and in some large supermarkets spread throughout the territory.
On the market we can find the plane tree in its 3 varieties: the plane tree with green skin is an unripe fruit, whose taste is not sweet and whose consistency is similar to that of a tuber such as a potato. The plantain with yellow or black skin has a more sugary taste (which increases as the number of black spots on the skin increases) and is mainly used in the kitchen for the preparation of desserts.
Furthermore, it is also possible to find plantain flour, which can be used to prepare the base of tasty pizzas and focaccias, beers and wines produced from these fruits. Let’s now see the nutritional characteristics and properties of the plantain.
Platano: characteristics and nutritional values
The plantain, as well as the more common banana, has a higher carbohydrate content than that of other fruits that are part of our diet. Most of these carbohydrates are found in the form of starches, a polysaccharide used by plants to store energy. Precisely for this reason these fruits can represent an excellent substitute, also suitable for those suffering from celiac disease, for the cereals or tubers that we are used to consume.
The plantain provides about 132 calories per 100 grams of edible part and contains a high quantity of essential micronutrients. Among the most abundant minerals we find magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc, which represent respectively 15%, 13%, 5% and 1-2% of our energy needs.
Among the vitamins, however, the most present are vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamins of group B and in particular B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, which respectively represent 21.6%, 1.2%, 5%, 4%, 3.8%, 5% and 20% of our daily requirement.
Nutritional values per 100g of plantain:
- Waterfall: 65.3 g
- kcal: 132
- Proteins: 1.28 g
- Fat: 0.39 g
- Carbohydrates: 29.6 g
- Fibers: 2.3 g
- Iron: 0.6 mg
- Soccer: 3 mg
- Potassium: 499 mg
- Iodine: 2.5 ugr
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Zinc: 0.14 mg
- Phosphorus: 34 mg
- C vitamin: 18 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.14 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.052 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.054 mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.69 mg
- Beta carotene: 457 ugr
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Plantain: nutritional properties
As we have anticipated, plantains contain a good amount of many essential nutrients. Let’s see together below the functions of the most represented:
- Magnesium: essential mineral for many bodily functions such as bone mineralization, glucose, fat and cholesterol metabolism, DNA synthesis and vasodilation;
- Potassium: mineral involved in various physiological processes such as muscle contraction, the maintenance of a correct hydro-saline balance and the regulation of blood pressure;
- Phosphorus: another essential mineral, it is present in all the cells of our body and is essential for the metabolism of fats and sugars, for normal development, for muscle contraction, for the production of energy and for the well-being of our bones;
- Vitamin C: with its antioxidant function, it is essential for our immune system, it is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and is important for the assimilation of iron by red blood cells;
- Vitamin B1: water-soluble vitamin whose deficiency can cause alterations in metabolic processes, the nervous system, the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems;
- Vitamin B5: essential constituent of Coenzyme A which is fundamental in metabolism;
- Vitamin B6: another water-soluble vitamin whose deficiency is linked to dysfunctions of the nervous system. It is necessary for the synthesis of serotonin (or hormone of good mood) and is therefore also useful in case of depressive disorders.
These fruits, as demonstrated in this review, also contain good amounts of carotenoids and flavonoids with antioxidant action.
The carotenoids present (especially alpha-carotene and beta-carotene), thanks to their action, give the plantain beneficial properties for our health, including strengthening the immune defenses and reducing the risk of developing degenerative diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, some carotenoids carry out a pro-vitamin A activity. As regards the phytochemical compounds of plantain, the most present flavonoids are: catechins, epicatechins and anthocyanins, which have antioxidant, anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor effects.
Finally, plantains contain a fair amount of catecholamines: dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline, substances normally produced by our adrenal glands and necessary to react effectively to a stimulus.
Plantain: health benefits
The properties of the plane tree have long been known and used in traditional medicine in Asia, Africa, Oceania, America and India to treat various diseases such as: inflammation, rheumatism, diabetes, hypertension, colds and bronchitis. In addition, plantain juice is also used as an antidote to snake bites. Let’s see together some of the major health benefits induced by the consumption of plantains.
✓ Delay aging and prevent some diseases
The regular consumption of these fruits is able, thanks to the presence of numerous molecules with anti-oxidant action, to prevent the onset of some pathologies due to excessive oxidative stress, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
✓ Prevention and treatment of diabetes (T2DM)
The consumption of plantains, as a substitute for cereals with a higher glycemic index, can help in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In this study, for example, the use of plantain-based meals (with the addition of soy beans and fiber) in diabetic animals was evaluated: the administration of these foods led to a clear reduction in blood glucose values.
✓ Treatment of diarrhea
A 2009 study of 80 babies aged 1 to 28 months showed that the consumption of plantain reduces diarrhea in terms of duration and consistency.
✓ Protective action against the ulcer
Some studies have shown protective and healing properties of the plantain against ulcer, thanks to the presence of various antioxidant factors that act by defending the gastric mucosa.
Platano: how to use it
First let’s see how to distinguish the plantain from a banana. The fruit of the plane tree is generally larger and has a thicker, leathery skin that is green (when unripe) or yellowish (when ripe).
The lack of gluten and the glycemic index content make it suitable for almost everyone. It is important to remember that the plantain should be eaten cooked and only after carefully peeling it with a knife.
As we have anticipated, the plantain can be used for the base of different dishes: blending a green plantain with a little sugar or honey, some eggs and a little oil produces an excellent base for a fruit tart. Alternatively, for those who love savory dishes, it is possible to remove the honey and use it to prepare a focaccia or the base of a pizza.
We give you one last tip if you are organizing an aperitif: cut the plantain into thin slices, brush it with a little oil flavored with salt and paprika, place the slices on a baking tray and cook at 180 ° C to about ten minutes. You will get some plantain chips that will certainly be appreciated by your guests!
Sycamore: contraindications and potential negative effects
The plantain has no particular contraindications, however we do not recommend consuming high quantities of plantains as they contain, as we have seen, a moderate amount of sugars that make it a caloric fruit.
In the countries where the plane tree is grown, its leaves are also used, useful for the production of bags, containers and papers for cigarettes.