10/02/2013

NUTRITIONAL/HEALTH BENEFITS OF PLANTAINS

Plantains are widely eaten in West Africa. Plantains are similar to bananas but larger in size. While bananas are termed fruits, plantains are vegetables. Bananas are mostly eating raw, while plantains are usually cooked before consumption. Plantains can be eaten unripe, ripen or over-ripe. When unripe, plantains are usually green in colour, when ripen, they turn yellow. In Nigeria, for example, unripe plantains are usually used to cook plantain porridge, ripe plantains are mostly fried and used as a supplement to main dishes like rice and beans. Over-ripe plantains are used to make snacks like plantain fritters. 

Plantain is rich in fiber. A diet rich in fiber can lower your cholesterol level, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels. Plantain is also rich in Potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral that helps the circulatory system. Potassium also plays a role in the digestive system and helps support a strong skeleton as well. 


Plantains are also a good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps build up your immune system and scavenge free radicals. It also promotes healthy gums, teeth and skin. Vitamin A can also be found in Plantains. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A plays a vital role in eye health and enhancing skin complexion. A diet lacking in vitamin A can result in difficulty seeing in the dark, dry eyes, eye infection and unhealthy skin.

Plantains are a good source of calcium. Calcium is essential for strong bones, teeth, nails and muscle. Strong bones helps prevent breaks and fractures as well as diseases, such as osteoporosis. Plantains 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.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to eat plantains. I would provide a recipe for plantain porridge. This can be eaten as a main meal.

Plantain Porridge Recipe

Ingredients
(serves 2-3)
  • 2 Unripe Plantains
  • 2 Ripe Plantains
  • 1 or 2 Stockfish
  • 2 handfuls of Ugwu/Pumpkin leaves
  • Palm Oil (optional)
  • Condiments (Pepper, Salt, Cubes)
  • A handful of ground crayfish
Preparation
  • Peel of the skin from the unripe plantain, dice the plantain into small cubes, or into mouth size chunks. Place diced plantain in a pot and boil. While boiling, Peel and dice the ripe plantain and keep aside.
  • Wash the ugwu/pumpkin leaves, if necessary. Cut up into smaller pieces and keep aside.
  • Break stock fish into smaller pieces, place in a bowl and pour hot water over to soften.
  • Once the unripe plantain begins to soften, add your condiments, crayfish, palm oil (optional), ugwu/pumpkin leaves and finally the ripe plantains. 
  • Lower heat and let mixture slowly cook until ripe plantain is cooked. 
Notes
  • To make the porridge marshy, you can use a wooden spatula (famously called the garri turner here in Naija) to stir the pot until desired result.
  • You can substitute fish with chicken, or any other meat of your choice.
  • You may add scent leaves to the mixture.
  • As usual, feel free to play with the ingredients and quantities. We all have our preference.
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