Unripe Plantain: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and Side effects

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Unripe plantain (Musa paradiasica) is an incredible superfood belonging to the banana family.

They are part of the staple diet in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. You can find plantains largely grown in Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Rwanda.

The unripe or green plantain is particularly good for diabetics because of its low sugar but high resistant starch content.

Unlike bananas, unripe plantains must be cooked before eating. They have so many health benefits and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Read on to learn why you should add unripe plantains to your diet.

Nutrition facts

Unripe or green plantains are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 

Although they are more starchy than bananas, their high carbohydrate content consists mostly of resistant starch – a type of dietary fiber.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 large-sized raw, green unripe plantain (267 grams) will give you [1]:

  • Energy: 406 Kcal
  • Water: 163 grams (g)
  • Fats: 0.2 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 98 g
  • Dietary fiber: 6 g
  • Sugars: 6 g
  • Potassium: 1150 mg (milligram)
  • Magnesium: 109 mg
  • Phosphorus: 82 mg
  • Iron: 2 mg
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): 54 mg 
  • Folate: 74 micrograms

Green plantain’s rich fiber content reduces as they ripen while its sugar content increases.

10 Health benefits of unripe plantain

The following are 10 benefits of eating unripe plantains:

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1. High in antioxidants 

Plantains are incredibly rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals that cause oxidative damage in the body.

One study found that the peels and flesh of plantains contain flavonoids and polyphenols – two important antioxidants. [2]

Antioxidants are important because they help fight metabolic disorders like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

2. Great food for diabetes

Unripe plantains are high in resistant starch, which gives them a low glycemic index (GI) of 45 when boiled. [3]

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that does not break down into sugar in the small intestine but passes into the large intestine where fermentation occurs.

Because resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine, it does not raise blood glucose levels, making it an ideal food for diabetes.

Additionally, fermentation in the large intestine improves glycemic control by promoting the growth of “good” gut bacteria. [4]

3. Controls blood pressure

Plantains are rich in potassium – an important mineral that helps to control hypertension. 

1 large-sized green plantain will provide you with about 44% of the daily value of potassium needed in a day.

Also since they are low sodium foods, plantains support a hypertension diet.

4. Improves digestive health 

Both the fiber and resistant starch in plantains helps promote digestive regularity.

Its high fiber content helps matter move easily through the digestive tract – preventing constipation and colon cancer.

While its high resistant starch content promotes the growth of good bacteria that keeps the gut healthy. 

5. Promotes weight loss 

The high resistant starch content of plantains is excellent for weight loss. It promotes a feeling of fullness and helps you to eat less.

So if you are trying to lose weight, load up on healthy carbs like unripe plantain.

Related: 50 African foods to help you lose weight fast

6. Prevents anemia 

Plantains are rich in iron, a mineral vital to the functioning of hemoglobin – a protein that transports oxygen in the blood.

Iron plays a role in many physiological processes in the body and helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia. [5]

7. Good in pregnancy

Plantains are incredibly rich sources of folate (folic acid) and iron. 

Folic acid is required to prevent fetal abnormalities like Spina bifida during pregnancy while iron helps prevent anemia.

Plantains are also loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B-6, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium which all function to promote the growth and development of the baby.

8. Great weaning food for babies 

And when babies are born, plantains are a great weaning food. 

They are gentle on the stomach and can be combined with grains like millet, sorghum, and soybeans.

This combo provides babies with all the essential nutrients needed for their development and growth.

Related: 20 best Food recipes for Babies 6 to 12 months

9. Treats ulcer pain

Unripe plantain is high in fiber and has been in use in traditional medicine to prevent or treat ulcer pain. 

It is assumed to have an antacid-like effect on people suffering from stomach ulcers that helps to lessen pain and prevent further damage.

10. Boosts sexual health

The vitamins and nutrients present in plantains may play a role in boosting sexual performance and libido.

Africans believe that consuming unripe plantains regularly energizes men sexually and boosts fertility.

Culinary uses 

plantain chips great recipe for unripe plantain
Fried plantain chips

Plantains are very versatile and a good substitute for potatoes. They can be boiled, roasted, fried, or baked.  Here are some easy ways to enjoy plantains:

  • Boiled: To boil, peel the skin, cut into chunks, and cook as you would cook potatoes. When done, add to stews, curry, soups, chili, or eat them as a side dish.
  • Roasted: Peel and roast unripe plantains in oven or charcoal till slightly brown. When done, eat with beans chili, roasted fish, stew, or soups.
  • Fried: To fry, peel their skins, cut into small slices, and deep-fry in healthy oil. You can enjoy them as a snack or side dish. For a healthier alternative, you can cook sliced plantains in an air fryer.
  • Baked: You can mash baked plantains and add them to your pancakes or baked goods. They are a great gluten-free alternative.
  • Finely ground: Green plantains can be dried and ground into flour. It can be used to make swallow (African meal) or added to your baked goods.

Possible side effects 

Foods high in fiber and resistant starch may be difficult for some people to digest. They may cause bloating, gas, or constipation.

So increase your intake of unripe plantains slowly and drink lots of water.

The bottom line

Unripe plantains are incredibly healthy and versatile. 

Adding them to your diet could help lower cholesterol, prevent anemia, and help treat stomach ulcers.

Plantains are also great in pregnancy, diabetes, and as weaning food for babies.

However, always remember to cook using healthy methods, as frying in unhealthy oils could increase bad cholesterol levels.

  1. USDA, Food data central; Green plantains, raw
  2. 2. Oyeyinka, B. O., & Afolayan, A. J. (2020). Comparative and Correlational Evaluation of the Phytochemical Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Musa sinensis L. and Musa paradisiaca L. Fruit Compartments (Musaceae).TheScientificWorldJournal, 2020, 4503824. 
  3. Oladele, EO., Williamson, G. Impact of resistant starch in plantains (Musa Aproductstthe s on glycaemic response of healthy volunteers.Eur J Nutr55, 75–81 (2016). 
  4. 4. McKinney C. What is resistant starch?. The John Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes.
  5. Abbaspour, Nazanin et al. “Review on iron and its importance for human health.” Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences vol. 19,2 (2014): 164-74. 
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