Plantains vs Bananas

Ever wonder about the differences between bananas and
plantains? Which is more nutritional? Tastier?  Easier to
store? In the bananas vs. plantains debate, you no longer need
to wonder.

Everyone loves bananas. According to government data, bananas
are the world’s favorite fresh fruit. In the United States
alone, each person eats more than 11 pounds of bananas per
year. But what really is the difference between the
similar-looking fruits?

bananas and plantains
Gary
Stevens / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Epicurious.com sums up
the bananas vs. plantains question nicely: “Think of
plantains as the sister to the banana. They’re not as sweet,
as they contain less sugar. They’re also higher in starch
than most fruits, making them perfect for gluten and
grain-free breads.”

It would seem as if everyone has a favorite. For Julia
Turshen, the award-winning writer and cookbook author of the
recently published, “Feed The Resistance”, the choice
is a bit difficult: “While I am a big believer
in and instead of or, I must say
if I had to choose between these two family members, my vote
would be plantains. They’re so much more versatile. Whether
they’re crisped into
tostones
, mashed into
mofongo
, or allowed to ripen until they’re completely
black on the outside and then turned into the sweetest

pan-fried plantains
, I really love any ingredient that
gives you so many options at each stage of its life.”

Here’s a quick glance at the difference between bananas and
plantains:

Bananas vs. Plantains: Nutrition 

As mentioned, when it comes to the nutrition of bananas vs.
plantains, there are a few key things to know:

  • Plantains are not as sweet as bananas and they contain
    less sugar.
  • Plantains are higher in starch.
  • Bananas are lower in carbohydrates and a bit higher in
    fiber, although fiber does not make up a significant amount
    of either’s nutrients.
  • Plantains are higher in calories, but not by too much.
  • Both are rich in potassium and vitamins A and C.
  • Both are relatively low in vegetable protein and fat.

Bananas vs. Plantains: Taste & Texture

We’ve all seen ripe bananas. They taste soft and sweet and
have a yellow peel. As they ripen, they develop brown
spots. When it comes to plantains, Caleb Backe, a health
and wellness expert for Maple Holistics notes: “Plantains have
a thicker skin compared to banana’s thinner skin. It’s
interesting because as we’ve hybridized bananas over the
years they’ve become this sweeter and softer version,
whereas bananas in their original form would have resembled
more like a plantain. Over the centuries, we’ve bred out
those traits bringing it to its more desired current
existence.”

 

Bananas vs. Plantains: Cooking

Although similar to each other, these two fruits require
different approaches when it comes to cooking. Jamie Logie, a
nutritionist, health and wellness coach, and personal trainer
from Regained
Wellness
blog and podcast notes that although bananas and
plantains appear to be similar, she prefers to use plantains
as a vegetable and bananas as a fruit.

Logie likes to use them as a potato substitute, noting
that plantains are tougher, starchy, more
fibrous, and best consumed after cooking.

 

Bananas Recipes 

Since bananas can be eaten raw, they are often a go-to
healthy snack. Jenny Dang, a
Registered Dietitian in the Washington D.C. area, likes to
use bananas raw on cereal, oatmeal, toast, bread,
pancakes, smoothies, or as a snack.

“Some grocery stores offer a discounted prices for bananas
that are riper or separated from the bunch. I like to grab
the discounted bag of bananas and freeze some for later use.
Remember to peel the skin off and cut the bananas into chunks
before freezing.” Dang has these suggestions for frozen
bananas:

  • Mix into oats for a creamy banana bread oatmeal
  • Blend with cocoa powder and milk for a “chocolate ice
    cream”
  • Stuff them with peanuts and dark chocolate chips and
    throw them on the grill for a sweet treat

Jamie Logie agrees: “I like to use bananas for smoothies as
they blend up well. But the way I most often use them is to cut
them up and put them in a bag in the freezer. This keeps them
for a lot longer and then I make protein/smoothie drink out of
them. The frozen bananas, along with ice, make it almost like a
milkshake/frosty drink but a lot healthier when you add in
protein powder and some other healthy ingredients.”

Raw, frozen, or cooked, you can use bananas to sweeten all
sorts of recipes:

Plantain Recipes

Before we get too carried away, we can’t forget all the
wonderful uses for plantains. It is fair to say that
plantains are more popular outside the United States. In
fact, plantains are a staple in much of the Caribbean and
South and Central Americas, where they often show up in
school lunches!

It’s important to serve plantains cooked because of their
starchier composition. Some of our favorite plantain recipes
include:

Bananas vs. Plantains: Storage

Given that a bunch of bananas tends to ripen all at once, you
may be faced with the decision of how to best store them. The
experts all agree: Keep both at room temperature, and they
will ripen naturally. Jamie Logie suggests that when it comes
to bananas vs. plantains storage, they are best handled
differently: “Bananas need to be kept away from other fruits
as they give off ethylene which is a gas that accelerates
ripening, leading other fruits to spoil quicker. Plantains
can be stored right along with things like potatoes and
onions.”

Caleb Backe notes: “Bananas are quicker to ripen than
plantains. If you are not planning on using bananas anytime
soon, keep them in the refrigerator. Note that bananas will
darken noticeably if kept in the fridge.”

Bananas And Plantains Hacks

If you are like me and have kids who don’t like darkened
bananas, try this banana
storage hack
: Wrap banana stems in
plastic wrap to keep them from ripening too fast. The theory is
that the ethylene is released from the stems and wrapping them
snuggly slows that process. Backe has one final word of advice:
“Don’t forget to eat your bananas! If they are out, put them in
a bowl, and in a spot which you look at frequently. If they are
in the fridge, keep them in view, rather than stuck in the back
of the shelf. One of the basic laws of cooking and eating is:
you eat that which is in front of you.”

If you’re left with a pile of peels, check out this fascinating
infographic about 10
Ways to Use Banana Peels To Stamp Out Food Waste
.

Finally, a quick note: banana farming has some controversial
practices. Please make sure to buy
ethically sourced bananas and plantains
.

 

 


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