Plantains are, without question, one of our TRC hero foods.
In Mexico, where Real Coconut Kitchen began, plantains are abundant. We had always been aware of them but it took a short while for us to really fall in love and understand the multitude of uses that we could get out of this one fruit.
Our love affair was a slow burner, but those are often the ones that last the course. After a few relaxed and unexpectant experiments in our test kitchen using the whole plantain fruit, along with the flour, we finally produced a plantain flour loaf of bread which resulted in a curious and giddy eureka moment, causing us to put down our coconut milk ice-cream smoothies and really contemplate the incredible diversity and potentiality of the beautiful and humble plantain fruit. Fast forward to more food tests and research on its nutritional properties, and we started to realise that the plantain was easily ticking all our boxes in terms of sustainability, nutrition, digestibility, diversity and flavour! We might soon need to change our name to The Real Plantain, though that doesn’t sound quite so catchy!
Based on all our tests, we were keen to know more about the humble plantain, (or Platano Macho en espanol).
So what is the plantain?
Plantain is from the same family as the banana but less sweet and less cultivated and therefore less hybridized. So far so good! However, plantain generally has to be cooked before eaten as it is much more starchy than a banana which may therefore be why it hasn’t been so popular in Western mainstream cooking.
It is highly starchy and can lend itself to both sweet and savory cooking and baking.
Ok, so it seems to be pretty versatile!
Tell me more!
Plantains can be used as a whole fruit when green (unripe), when yellow (ripening), when black (very ripe), or as a flour.
The flour is usually made from unripe, green plantains which are dehydrated and then milled into a flour. The resulting flour is very high in resistant starch which is becoming more recognised as an important food as it passes through the GI tract undigested and then provides a food source for the bacteria in the large intestine. This is important as the gut bacteria produce short chain fatty acids as a waste product from feeding on the resistant starch, which the cells of the colon in turn use as fuel for themselves.
The whole fruit is also high in insoluble fibre which makes it particularly gut friendly. Insoluble fibre can help to improve the frequency of your bowel movements as it absorbs water whilst travelling through your intestines adding bulk to the stools which helps to keep them moving. High intake of insoluble fibre has been shown to have many other health benefits such as decreasing the risk of colon cancer, improving insulin sensitivity, regulating blood sugar levels, regulating hunger hormones (to keep you feeling full) and has been shown to improve ulcerative colitis in animals. Fab!
So apart from its versatility and gut friendly properties, it is also high in vitamin C, A, B6 and potassium. Suffice to say it really is a wonderful fruit and we beseech you to try it!
Great, sounds lovely but is it really a hero?
It falls into our hero category specifically because it is normally tolerated by people following most dietary philosophies, especially those following a gut healing protocol. It can be eaten if you are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, primal or following a specialist gut healing philosophy like the GAPS diet (gut & psychology syndrome) or autoimmune paleo protocols. This was a magical realisation for us, as we put so much thought into making food that is gut friendly and accessible to as many people as possible. We find it so digestible and satiating that it has now become a daily staple in our diets and we can’t imagine life without it!
The plantain seems to be so gut friendly as it does not have any inherent properties that make it damaging to the intestines. However if you have any kind of serious digestive health issue such as SIBO (serious intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or any other condition that has lead to serious degeneration of the digestive tract, then it is possible to have sensitivities or allergies to any starchy food, so they should be introduced carefully if this applies to you.
The ‘piece de resistance’...
The plantain tree, like the coconut, is a food of abundance; bearing fruit all year long, requiring little or no additional water, and no pesticides to grow, making it a reliable and highly sustainable food source. As well as the health benefits, these facts made us get excited about the potential for agricultural programs using plantain, and plantain flour production to support farmers in Belize.
So yes, the plantain is truly a TRC hero ingredient and we are excited to be able to share more of our recipes, menu creations, and products containing plantain, in the near future.