I know that I would not be far off by saying that 99.999% of Latin America absolutely loves platanos. It is the one vegetable that conjures up feelings of my abuela cooking in the kitchen along many holidays and birthdays where it was the sweet side dish I loaded my plate with. I recall eating platanos and eggs watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid, and the list goes on and on.
The cooking strategy and prep work for everything from amarrillos, to tostones and mangu are passed down by family from generation to generation until one day you find yourself in a kitchen with a caldero of hot oil ready to cook them for your own family. Platanos are one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet. On top of that they have a ton of health benefits. One of my issues with many mainstream American based meal and diet plans is that they forget to add this delicious vegetable to their menus. I am here to tell you why they are one of the healthiest foods in Latin culture. After all, platanos are a staple starchy vegetable in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America. All of these continents cannot be wrong.
Platanos are a great source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. They are high in fiber, which helps to keep you regular and push food through your digestive system. They also contain a ton of Vitamin C to help build up your immune system and promote healthy teeth, gums and skin. Vitamin A is another powerful antioxidant found in plantains and also plays a role in vision and enhancing skin complexion. Just like their banana cousins, platanos also contain potassium, an important component of cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure.
The calorie breakdown of the plantain is as follows –
One medium plantain has about 218 calories, with 57g of carbs making it high on the starchy side. This makes it an ideal post workout meal food that you should be taking advantage of. The plantain also boasts 4gs of fiber and 2.3 grams of protein. Not a bad profile for this delicious veggie!
Now the big question is when to eat them and where is the best place to put them into your diet?
We all know it is easy to eat platanos for breakfast lunch and dinner, believe me, growing up in a Boricua household, I know! To reap the health benefits without overdoing it on the starch simply save your plantain meal for one meal a day 3-4 days a week preferably on training days.
A few tips on plantains I have learned from my family over the years. Feel free to give more tips below! When selecting a plantain to take home and cook, look for firm, deep green plantains that feel heavy in your hand. Do not buy them too overripe or when the skin is too soft and black, they won’t turn out as well and do not last as long.
Things you should know for preparing plantains – Plantains are inedible raw and should be eaten only after cooked. The easiest way to prepare them is as follows:
- Wash your raw plantain and then using a paring knife, trim both ends
- Next, slit the skin along the ridge and peel the skin gently away from the flesh to extract the pulp from the inside
Now it is up to you to decide how to prepare it! You can bake, fry, mash, or boil – it is up to you. Call a family member and find out what they say. Either way, it is time to cook, enjoy the food, and reap the wonderful health benefits of this delicious vegetable. Platano Power!
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