Plantains look similar to bananas, but they are vegetables instead of fruits and should be cooked to eat them. Manny Alvarez says in his book, "The Hot Latin Diet: The Fast-Track to a Bombshell Body," that plantains are nutritious and offer several health benefits in addition to their delicious flavor. Add plantains to stews or soups in place of potatoes to get the advantages they offer.
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One plantain supplies several grams of fiber to your diet, Victor Preedy, Ronald Watson and Vinood Patel say in their book, "Flour and Breads and Their Fortification in Health and Disease Prevention." Fiber is an important nutrient because it helps decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, such as colon cancer. Fiber also helps prevent constipation by keeping your intestinal tract working the way it should.
Plantains are also a source of beta-carotene, which the Mayo Clinic says you need to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for eye health as well as normal growth. A diet lacking in vitamin A can result in difficulty seeing in the dark, dry eyes, eye infection and unhealthy skin. Adding cooked plantains to your diet is one way to increase your intake of this important vitamin.
Your bones, teeth, nails and muscles rely on an adequate intake of calcium to maintain their health and their strength. Alvarez says that plantains supply a good amount of calcium. Calcium contributes to strong bones, which helps prevent breaks and fractures as well as diseases, such as osteoporosis, as you age. Calcium also aids in keeping your teeth healthy so you are less likely to experience cavities, periodontal disease and teeth that fall out easily. Including plantains in your diet can help you consume more calcium.
Plantains are also a source of vitamin C. Preedy, Watson and Patel say that one plantain supplies you with 20mg of vitamin C in each 3.5 oz. serving. This translates to between 40mg and 60mg of vitamin C, depending on the size of your plantain. Consuming enough vitamin C helps your body fight off infections that can lead to sickness and also promotes healthy gums, teeth and skin. Getting plenty of vitamin C also helps your body absorb the iron you consume from your food so you are able to produce red blood cells and provide oxygen throughout your body.
- "The Hot Latin Diet: The Fast-Track to a Bombshell Body"; Manny Alvarez; 2009
- "Flour and Breads and Their Fortification in Health and Disease Prevention"; Victor Preedy, Ronald Watson and Vinood Patel; 2011
- Mayo Clinic: Beta Carotene