Plantains have long been a staple in African and Caribbean diets. Aside from their great flavor (which can be sweet or savory), plantains have a wealth of nutritional value. Including plantains in the diet can effectively treat and/or prevent a number of the ailments that plague the Black community.
For instance, plantains are very high in vitamin C. This means they can strengthen the immune system and help the body reduce infection. Vitamin C also protects against autoimmune diseases, which affect women at a disproportionate rate. Autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia affects around 6 million Americans, and around 90 percent of those living with the disease are women. Black women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than their white peers, so including foods like plantain the diet could prove beneficial.
Plantains also contain vitamin A, which is essential for skin and eye health, since it keeps the mucus membranes functioning properly. This is a large part of the reason that authentic black soap, which has been used by Black women for centuries, contains plantain peel.
It is also recommended that pregnant women eat foods like plantain. The fruit is high in folic acid, as well as other nutrients in the folate group, like niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. These are all necessary for a baby’s proper nerve and brain development in the womb. The fruit is also a natural diuretic and relieves pain and bloating, particularly during the menstrual cycle, because of its high potassium content.
While Black women and men can be at risk for heart disease, a woman dies every minute of this condition. Black women are much more likely to develop heart disease than white women, and plantain, which is high in magnesium, can help to lower this risk. Magnesium is also necessary for strengthening the bones, and can decrease the chances of osteoporosis in men and women.
Plantains, which are in the same plant family as bananas, can’t be eaten raw. They can be cut into thin slices and fried for a low-fat alternative to the potato chip, or can be sautéed with butter and brown sugar for a sweet treat. Plantain can also be baked or broiled and served with dishes like beans and rice or marinated meats to add more fiber and healthy carbohydrates to a meal.