Green plantain: Why it is the food of choice for hypertension

Plantains are a close relative of the banana and tend to be mistaken for them. But in one of the 120 countries that grow much of the world’s supply of plantains — like Uganda, Colombia and Cameroon — people know the distinction between the two.

That’s because plantains are starchier, contain less sugar than bananas and are much more multipurpose as a cooking ingredient. Also, unlike bananas, plantains are typically cooked before eating.

In fact, plantains are the 10th most important staple food feeding the world today.

Nutritional Facts

Per research, one cup of raw plantain contains the following (in recommended daily values)  according to ndb.nal.usda.gov:

  • 181 calories
  • 47 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.9 grams protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 3.4 grams fiber
  • 27.2 milligrams vitamin C (45 percent DV)
  • 1,668 IU vitamin A (33 percent)
  • 0.4 milligram vitamin B6 (22 percent)
  • 739 milligrams potassium (21 percent)
  • 55 milligrams magnesium (14 percent)
  • 0.9 milligrams iron (5 percent)

Generally, Plantains are eaten when cooked, which changes the fruit’s nutritional value. One cup of cooked, mashed plantains has:

  • 232 calories
  • 62.3 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.6 grams protein
  • 0.4 gram fat
  • 4.6 grams fiber
  • 1,818 IU vitamin A (36 percent)
  • 21.8 milligrams vitamin C (36 percent)
  • 930 milligrams potassium (27 percent)
  • 0.5 milligram vitamin B6 (24 percent)
  • 64 milligrams magnesium (16 percent)
  • 1.2 milligrams iron (6 percent)

Scientific Studies

According to Dr. Axe, plantains are a solid source of carbohydrates with a low fat content, but they also provide a number of other health benefits as well. Basically, plantain is free from toxins according to fao.org.

Good Source of Potassium

One cup of cooked, mashed plantain contains about 913 milligrams of potassium. This represents 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of potassium, making plantains one of the most potassium-rich foods on the planet.

Potassium is the third-most abundant mineral in the body, but when depleted, low potassium can affect the function of a number of organs and processes.

Besides, potassium is an electrolyte and is affected greatly by the amount of sodium in the body. Potassium plays a major role in regulating blood pressure because it combats the effects of sodium and help naturally fights high blood pressure.

FJ et al 2008 study also opined that potassium levels also affect skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, which allows for regular digestive and muscular function.

It also helps regulate heart rhythm, and further show that people who consume diets with high potassium levels tend to be at a lower risk of stroke, osteoporosis and renal disease.

Good for the Digestive System

Fiber plays an integral role on the digestive system health. One cup of plantains provides almost a fifth of the fiber recommended daily, which is roughly 25–30 grams. As a high-fiber food, plantains add bulk to food intake, which aids digestion.

One study by Anderson et al 2009, from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program, demonstrates that  plantains is a great way to relieve constipation and provide relief from hemorrhoids and digestive conditions like diverticulitis.

A 2012 study by Satija and FB also affirms that, fiber also make you feel full, which can help with weight control. Therefore, frequent consumption of dietary fiber can also help improve weight loss in obese individuals. 

Soluble fiber on the other hand is also known to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which prevents heart disease. Fiber can also help stabilize blood sugar.

Fights Free Radicals

Free radicals, occurs when the body breaks down food or when one is exposed to other harmful elements like tobacco smoke or radiation, play a part in aging, diseases and cancer. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage.

Interestingly, a serving of plantains can give over 35 percent of the vitamin C needed per day, making it one of the best vitamin C foods around according to a  2010 study by Lobo et al.

The body can’t store vitamin C (excess is released in urine) or produce it independently, so getting the daily recommended amount is very important says Dr. Axe.

 Boost the Immune System

Plantains are pack with 36 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A. Lobo et al 2010, research further asserted that, Vitamin A, being another powerful antioxidant, it provides a number of benefits to the body.

Along with vitamin C, it helps control your immune response, which keeps illness at bay, and a number of important immune system responses rely on vitamin A to perform correctly.

Vitamin A also has a large part in skin health and cell growth, and is a necessary element for wound healing. Cells that overreact to certain foods are the root of food allergies and ultimately cause inflammation.

The medlineplus.gov, posits that, there are two forms of Vitamin A:

  1. Preformed vitamin A found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods.
  2. Provitamin A found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. The most common type of pro-vitamin A is beta-carotene.

Vitamin A’s antioxidant properties can neutralize free radicals and help prevent inflammation caused by overreacting cells. It also helps with eye health and vision, especially in low light.

Support Healthy Brain Function

Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, a serving of plantains can provide up to 24 percent of the daily amount needed of vitamin B6.

Malouf and Grimley  2003 research demonstrates that Vitamin B6 benefits healthy brain function and, helps make hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine, which keep moods stable, and melatonin, which regulates the body’s clock.

Homocysteine levels (an amino acid linked to heart disease and nervous system damage) are also controlled by vitamin B6. The vitamin keeps levels low to help prevent damage and maintain the health of blood vessels.

This vitamin in plantains is one of the eight B vitamins that aid in processing food into energy and metabolizing fats. Similar to vitamin A, B6 also helps slow the onset of eye diseases like macular degeneration.

It works with B12 to produce red blood cells and cells in the immune system. Boosted levels of vitamin B6 are also linked to prevention or decrease of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Great Source of Magnesium

The Western diet is the major problem with Magnesium deficiency  and depleted soil due to overfarming. Plantains grant us 16 percent of our daily need for magnesium, which is especially important because magnesium affects over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

Magnesium helps to regulate blood pressure to avert osteoporosis. Magnesium directly affects calcium absorption, which can avert or reverse osteoporosis.

Abbasi, B et al 2012 study postulates that, Magnesium lowers the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels via carbohydrate metabolism and insulin regulation.

The study further attested that Magnesium has also long been used to help with migraine headaches, insomnia and depression. This position supports earlier study in 1992 by Paunier L.

Other parts of the fruit uses

According to a 2015 study by Arun et al flour made from plantain peel is a very good source of antioxidant dietary fiber and can be used to make cookies.

Because peels are a major by-product of the dried plantain chip industry, this new information encourages the peel to be utilized.

Plantain flowers are commonly used as food in countries like Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines. The male flowers that bloom at the end of the shoot do not all mature to fruit.

The flowers are used on salads or raw in vermicelli soup. There is also a type of dry curry called poriyal made in South India from plantain flowers.

Plantain leaves have many practical uses, as they are larger and stronger than banana leaves. They’re often used as a wrap for other dishes to achieve a stronger aroma and flavor during cooking and preparing, and there are many different variations of wrapping.

In the olden days, it is used to wrap banku for storage purposes. It is also used to serve waakye as well.

Purchasing

  • Green plantains: When plantains are green, the pulp is fairly hard and sometimes the peel must be removed with a knife. At this stage, they are starchy and not very sweet, similar to a potato. This is the best time to make plantain chips.
  • Yellow plantains: Slightly sweeter than green plantains, yellow plantains are mature and most often made into fried plantains. They’re best fried, cooked, boiled or grilled.
  • Black plantains: Despite their color, black plantains are still good to eat. They are the sweetest and softest at this point and are typically baked and eaten as a dessert.

Risks and side effects

Because plantains have a high carbohydrate content and glycemic load, they can raise blood sugar according to healthyeating.sfgate.com/

Those with diabetes should be aware of pairing plantains with other foods that can raise blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index helps estimate how much a particular food is likely to increase your blood sugar levels, with foods having scores of 55 or less being low on the glycemic index and unlikely to cause a large increase in blood sugar, and those foods having scores above 75 being more likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Green plantains have a glycemic index of 40, which means they will have a slow but sustained impact on your blood sugar.

Glycemic Load

Glycemic load scores provide an even more accurate estimate of the effect of a food on blood sugar levels because they take into account not only the glycemic index, but also the portion size of the food.

A score of 10 or below is considered low, while a score of 20 or above is considered high. Because of their relatively high carbohydrate content, the glycemic load of green plantains is 13, so it is likely to have a moderate effect on your blood sugar levels.

Take Home

  1. Green Plantain is the food of choice for lowering high blood pressure due to the abundance of magnesium and potassium content
  2. Because of their relatively high carbohydrate content, the glycemic load of green plantains is 13, so it is likely to have a moderate effect on your blood sugar levels. Hence, it should be use moderately in diabetics

DISCLAIMER:  This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

NB: The writer is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips, scientific herbs and healthy recipes in the world.

The writer Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, RND, PhD  is an honorary Professor of Holistic Medicine-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine, president, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine and currently, LLB law student. He is also a Chartered Management Consultant, Canada. He is the formulator of FDA approved Nyarkotey Hibiscus Tea for Cardiovascular Support and wellness, Men’s Formula for Prostate Health and Women’s Formula for wellness. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556

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