Nutrition

Get your 5-10 a day: Bananas and plantains

Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

Get your 5-10 a day: Bananas and plantains

Bananas come from the tropical parts of Asia, although their cultivation and consumption has spread across much of the world. Bananas come in a number of colours and sizes, but in Canada, by far the most common variety is the sweet yellow "Cavendish" banana, typically eaten raw. Another variety available is the plantain, slightly larger than the sweet banana and a staple food in many tropical parts of the world. Plantains are lower in sugar content than the Cavendish and are usually considered a vegetable.

Selection and storage
Bananas and plantains are usually picked when still green for ease in shipping; they will gradually ripen after picking, going from green to yellow to brown, and they sweeten as they get riper. Buy them when they are less ripe than you like to eat them. They will ripen at room temperature but not in the refrigerator, so only put them in the fridge if you want to slow the ripening process. Bananas can also be stored in the freezer -- frozen bananas make a great low-calorie treat in the summer (not to mention a fantastic addition to smoothies), and frozen bananas can be thawed for use in baking treats such as banana bread and muffins. When cooking with plantains, try to select green ones so they will hold together when you cook them.

Nutrition
A medium banana or half a medium plantain contains just over 100 calories and about 2 grams of fibre. Both bananas and plantains are a good source of potassium and vitamin B6, and plantains are also high in vitamin A.

Preparation
Bananas are typically eaten raw: as a snack, sliced on cereal, blended into a smoothie or as part of a fruit salad. Most people prefer them when they are yellow (sometimes with the tips still green), although personal tastes vary. Riper -- and therefore sweeter -- bananas are also delicious fried, and can be mashed and used in baking. Mashed bananas are a perfect food for infants or for anyone who needs some light comfort food.

Plaintains are more commonly eaten cooked, in savoury dishes such as the recipes given below. They can be eaten raw when very ripe. Plantain chips are also available, and delicious -- but make sure to eat them in moderation, as they're fried and therefore quite high in fat.

Both bananas and plantains make a healthy addition to your diet. Expand your repertoire with the recipes below.

Recipes
Curried Banana Beef Stew
Roasted Chicken on a Bed of Plantains and Onions
Bananas Foster
French-Toasted Banana Sandwich
Chocolate Banana Cake
Chocolate and Caramelized Banana Tarts
Retro Banana Cream Pie

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Nutrition

Get your 5-10 a day: Bananas and plantains

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