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All about “Banana and plantain”

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Nutritional value of bananas and plantains

  Raw (sweet) banana, medium size, 18 cm to 20 cm / 120 g Raw plantain, sliced, 125 ml (1/2 cup) / 80 g Cooked plantain, sliced, 125 ml (1/2 cup) / 80 g
Calories 105 95 94
Protein 1.3 g 1.0 g 0.6g
Carbohydrates 27.0 g 24.9 g 25.3 g
Fat 0.4 g 0.3 g 0.2g
Dietary fiber 2.1g 1.8g 1.9g
Glycemic load: Moderate
Antioxidant power: High   

Sources  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File, 2010

Banana and plantain: understand everything in 2 min

Health profile of bananas and plantains

Rich in antioxidants , bananas are said to prevent the onset of many diseases . In addition, the sugars it contains would help maintain good gastrointestinal health . From a culinary point of view, there are 2 types of bananas: dessert bananas , like the ones we eat for breakfast, and cooking bananas , like plantains.

The benefits of bananas and plantains

  • Cancer . A prospective study , carried out on 61,000 Swiss women, demonstrated a link between a high consumption of fruit and the lower risk of suffering from kidney cancer . Of all the fruits in the study, it is for the bananas that researchers found the strongest relationship 5 . Bananas have the same beneficial effect on the risk of colorectal cancer, in both women and men 6 .
  • Stomach ulcer . Some in  vitro studies 7 and in animals 8-10 tend to show that bananas in the form of extracts (especially plantains, but also the dessert variety) could protect the stomach lining against ulcers . A study has shown that the extract of 2 varieties of bananas cultivated in Thailand (Palo and Hom) have gastroprotective potential in rats. However, only the Hom variety would have an effect on healing ulcers 11. This type of banana is similar to Cavendish, the most common variety in the world. However, current research is insufficient to recommend the consumption of bananas for the prevention or treatment of gastric ulcers.
  • Chronic diarrhea . Some studies in Bangladesh have shown that eating bananas can reduce the symptoms of chronic diarrhea in children . In some cases, a mixture of cooked rice and plantains or a mixture of rice and pectin could decrease the number and weight of stools, as well as the duration of diarrhea in babies 13 , 14 . In other cases, the consumption of unripe bananas (½ to 3 bananas per day, depending on the age of the children) hastened the healing of acute and chronic diarrhea 17. Another study done in Venezuela showed that a diet including a cooked plantain preparation reduced the number and weight of stools, the duration of diarrhea and promoted weight gain , compared to a traditional preparation based on yogurt 18 .
  • Cardiovascular illnesses. One study indicated that a high consumption of bananas during a meal (400 g, or more than 3 bananas) reduced the free radicals present in the body, 2 hours after the meal. This diet decreased the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol ( bad cholesterol ), a process involved in the development of cardiovascular disease 19 . However, more studies will be needed to target the effects of bananas in the longer term and with more moderate doses.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Resistant starch (a type of sugar) from unripe bananas is believed to contribute to weight loss in obese individuals with type 2 diabetes 20 , as well as to improve the sensitivity of cells to insulin . A resistant starch extract from unripe bananas would also decrease insulin secretion and blood sugar (sugar) in both healthy individuals and those with type 2 diabetes.

What do bananas and plantains contain?

Although bananas are not among the fruits that contain the most antioxidants 1-3 , 21 , they still have a high antioxidant capacity, which could possibly help prevent the onset of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and various chronic diseases. The very popular Cavendish banana is said to contain dopamine , a molecule from the catecholamine family. Dopamine has shown antioxidant activity similar to that of vitamin C, the most powerful water-soluble antioxidant .

Since bananas contain both dopamine and vitamin C, this could explain its high antioxidant capacity 4 . Plantains are also said to be an important source of several phenolic compounds which are well absorbed by the body, thus optimizing their antioxidant potential 22 .

An antioxidant from the flavonoid family , leucocyanidine, has been extracted from unripe plantains. This active compound has shown a protective effect against erosion of the stomach lining , after taking aspirin 12 .

Beta-carotenes and alpha-carotenes
Plantains contain beta and alpha-carotene, 2 carotenoids that can transform themselves into vitamin A in the body. Of all the carotenoids , beta-carotene is the one with the most efficient conversion to vitamin A. The latter promotes the growth of bones and teeth, keeps the skin healthy and protects against infections.

Resistant starch Unripe
bananas contain resistant starch, a type of sugar that resists the action of digestive enzymes (in the same way as dietary fiber) and that makes it intact in the colon 16 . Under the action of the intestinal flora , the undigested starch then undergoes fermentation, which transforms it into short-chain fatty acids (for example butyric acid). These stimulate the absorption of fluids and salt in the colon, thereby reducing the loss of water in the stool. The short chain fatty acids also indirectly improve the permeability of the small intestine, a phenomenon that helps relieve symptoms of diarrhea 14 .

Researchers have observed that resistant starch decreases the absorption of sugars consumed at the same time, which leads to a decrease in blood sugar (blood sugar) 23 . In addition, regular consumption of resistant starch would lead to a greater increase in ghrelin during meals, a hormone that has been associated with improved sensitivity to insulin 24 .

The plantain contains more resistant starch than sweet banana. In addition, as the banana ripens, the amount of resistant starch decreases to such an extent that only bananas that have not reached their optimum ripening stage would contain significant resistant starch.

Main vitamins and minerals

Excellent source Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and plantains are a good source .
Good source Manganese Bananas are a good source of manganese for women , but only a source for men .
Source Vitamin B9 (folate) Bananas and plantains are sources of vitamin B9.
Source Vitamin C Bananas and plantains are sources of vitamin C.
Source Copper Bananas and plantains are sources of copper.
Source Magnesium Bananas and plantains are sources of magnesium.
Source Potassium Bananas and plantains are sources of potassium.


The banana is a food implicated in the oral allergy syndrome . This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollens and is almost always preceded by hay fever .

So, when some people allergic to ragweed eat raw bananas (cooking usually degrades allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction can occur. These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips and throat. the symptomsmay appear and then disappear, usually a few minutes after consuming or touching the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and consumption of bananas does not have to be systematically avoided. However, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

People allergic to latex can demonstrate hypersensitivity to bananas and other foods like kiwi and avocado 15 . The reactions are diverse, going from hives to anaphylactic reactions . Given the potential severity of the reactions, special care should be taken when consuming these foods in people who know they are allergic to latex. Again, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to certain foods and the precautions to take.

Recipe ideas

  • Cooking bananas in a cake is possible with our banana bread recipe . Or maybe you would prefer our banana chips ?
  • Raw , as is, added to fruit salads, cereals, pancakes, or on skewers , with other fruits.
  • In mousses, sorbets, ice creams . Or mash ripe bananas and add them to breads , muffins, cakes, pies, etc.
  • Blend it with milk, yogurt, fromage blanc, soy milk or tofu, and other fruit if desired.
  • Frozen bananas. Take them out of the freezer and let them thaw slightly. Whisk or go through the food processor until you obtain a foam with a texture reminiscent of ice cream.
  • Make fry pieces of ripe plantains in olive oil and serve as a side dish.
  • Add sections of plantain or green banana to curries or other types of stews.
  • With coconut milk. Bring coconut milk with honey to a boil, add pieces of banana, heat and serve.
  • Cucumber salad . Cut bananas and cucumbers into cubes. Mix them with lemon juice, chopped cilantro, grated coconut (preferably fresh), a finely chopped hot pepper and pieces of peanuts. Salt, refrigerate ½ hour and serve.
  • Potato salad . Cook diced potatoes. At the end of cooking, add banana rings and cook for 1 minute more. Drain, add capers, black olives and season with a mustard vinaigrette. Refrigerate 1 or 2 hours before serving.
  • Another salad. Banana slices, chopped apple, shallot and celery. Add yogurt, a little lemon juice and, if desired, mayonnaise. Refrigerate and serve on lettuce leaves with chopped walnuts and dry roasted in a pan.
Annual banana
consumption If the annual banana consumption per person is 2 kg in China, 10 kg in Europe and 12 kg in the United States, it increases to 50 kg in Oceania and 210 kg, or even more, in East African countries.
  • Make poach bananas dessert green in their skin (after washing). They will then be more digestible and can be eaten without any other preparation or added to various dishes. You can also poach or steam ripe bananas, whole or cut into sections. It takes about ½ hour of cooking.
  • Heat a few minutes of green dessert bananas, previously cooked, in a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, with onion, garlic, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let marinate for 24 hours. Serve as a condiment.
  • Pierce the whole banana peel with a fork and put it for fifteen minutes in an oven set to 200 ° C (400 ° F). Serve with a melted butter lemon sauce, a fruit coulis or any other sauce of your choice. Or split the peeled bananas in half and bake them in the oven. Serve with meat , garnishing with roasted peanuts.
  • Raita. Sauté mustard seeds in a little clarified butter. Add grated coconut, cook for a few minutes and remove from the heat. Add yogurt, banana rings, chopped coriander leaves, pour into a bowl and put in the fridge for 1 hour. Serve with a spicy curry.
  • Plantain fish . Brown fish fillets in butter or oil, turning them once. Add lime juice with curry powder, cover, cook for 5 minutes. Add pieces of plantain split lengthwise, cook for another 5 minutes and serve.
  • Thai style . Cook black beans soaked the night before until they are tender. In addition, cook glutinous rice in thick coconut milk with a little honey, until the milk is completely absorbed and the rice is soft. Cut a sheet of aluminum foil into 15 cm by 25 cm rectangles. Place a small amount of cooked rice at one end of a rectangle to which you will have added a spoonful of black beans, cover with a piece of banana split in half then another layer of rice with beans and fold the aluminum foil over way to form a bundle. Steam for 15 minutes and serve.

Choice and conservation

A few words about bananas and plantains

From a culinary point of view, there are 2 types of bananas: the banana dessert and cooking bananas . In the latter category, plantains are by far the most widespread. For each of these types, there are a multitude of varieties yielding fruit whose size, shape, color and flavor vary considerably. Most of these varieties are unknown outside their country of production. The main banana producing countries are located in Latin America and Asia, as well as in Africa for cooking bananas. Almost all dessert bananas exported around the world come from a single variety, Cavendish.

To choose

The more green the banana has , the less ripe it is and the longer it will keep. It can then be used for cooking. On the other hand, it should be left to ripen before consuming it raw, because at this stage, it is indigestible . It is ready to eat when the flesh gives way slightly to pressure and the skin is yellow and slightly tiger-colored, without any green coloring. When it has brown or black spots, it has passed this stage and is therefore better suited for cooking. Note that small bananas are generally sweeter than large ones.

The plantain is usually sold when their skin is green.

You will find in specialty grocery stores a red rose banana , which can be eaten raw or cooked.

The dried banana trade are often added sugar: be sure to read the label.

The “  banana essence  ”, which is used to flavor liqueurs and confectionery (as well as certain processed cheeses), is in fact amyl acetate, a synthetic substance obtained from acid acetic. The essence of natural banana is too volatile to be of culinary interest.

You can find frozen banana leaves in Asian grocery stores , which you can use to cook food in foil.


Ambient temperature . As bananas darken on contact with cold, it is recommended to store them at room temperature, in a fruit bowl or on the counter. To hasten the ripening of green bananas, we put them in a brown paper bag.

Freezer . Remove the skin and freeze it whole, in pieces or mashed. Sprinkle lemon juice out of the freezer to prevent oxidation.

To prepare

Do not peel the banana until you eat or prepare it, as its flesh oxidizes on contact with air. If it has to be peeled in advance, it is lightly lemony .

Plantains peel more easily after being blanched for 5 minutes in boiling salted water.

The little story of bananas and plantains

Common names  : banana, plantain, garden fig, cooking banana, banana-flour, banana-pig, cute fig, apple of paradise, etc.
Scientific name  : Musa spp.
Family  : musaceae.

The term ”  banana  ” appeared in 1602. It comes from the Portuguese banana , borrowed, according to some, from a Bantu language; according to the others, to an Arabic word meaning “finger”. The fruit was first designated under the names of “apple of paradise” and “garden fig”.

The term ”  plantain  ” to describe plantain first appeared as “plantain” at the beginning of the XVII th  century. It derives from the Spanish platano , which indicates the plane tree, a tree having nothing to do with the banana tree . We do not know why the Spaniards who landed in South America named it that way. Note that “plantain” also designates a small herbaceous plant whose name derives from the Latin plantago .

The banana tree and its diet
The banana tree is not a tree, but rather a giant grass . The trunk is actually a pseudostem, composed of leaf sheaths (leaves which overlap at the base).
The set of bananas produced on the same plant (from 100 to 400) is called ”  diet  “, which is divided into groups of 10 or 20 fruits called ”  hands  ” or ”  legs  “. The individual fruits are called ”  fingers  “.

The banana tree is one of the oldest known plants. It is also probably one of the first to have been domesticated. However, it is believed that the fruit was hardly consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors since, before the domestication of the plant, it was not very fleshy and contained many inedible seeds. On the other hand, we most likely consumed its buds as well as its internal leaf sheaths. Primitive fishermen used the fibers of its rod to make nets. The leaves also knew various uses.

The musaceae family includes only 2 botanical genera, Musa being by far the most widespread and the most diverse. This genus is subdivided into many species (from 30 to 50, according to experts), several of which still grow in the wild . However, the majority of banana and plantain varieties come from the M. acuminata and M. balbisiana species or from their cross.

Originally from Southeast Asia , the banana tree has followed human migrations to the Indian Peninsula, the Pacific Islands and Africa. Under the influence of natural evolution and human intervention, it has greatly diversified. In Africa , farmers grow a wide range of plantains, distinctly different from those in the Pacific, as well as another group of cooking bananas, with their own characteristics.

As the banana does not keep well and is easily damaged during transport, it will be slow to be known in the West. It seems to have been consumed by the Egyptians, the Greeks or the Romans, did not emerge in the Middle East at the VII th  century AD. It will spread in Europe and North America until the nineteenth th  century, ships then being faster and better controlled conservation methods.

If the banana is considered a simple dessert or a snack in rich countries, it is quite different in Africa, Asia and South America. For nearly 400 million people, it is a subsistence food , to be put on the same footing as nutritious tubers, such as taro, cassava or sweet potato. Research carried out in these regions by national and international organizations is of great importance. They aim to increase the productivity of banana plantations and find solutions to the problems of diseases and insects that attack this crop.

Besides the fruit, the young shoot, the base of the stem or the male flower are consumed in various parts of the world . The ashes of the burnt leaves are used as salt in Asia. Some banana species are only grown as ornamental plants. Others are used to produce fibers to make ropes, fabric, paper, baskets, carpets, roofing materials and are called ”  Manila hemp  “.

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