Diabetes and Plantains

How to Incorporate into a Diabetes Meal Plan

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Plantains are a staple in many tropical cultures, such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  They are also found in some African, Asian, and Indian cuisines. In appearance, plantains resemble bananas, but are larger in size, harder to peel and taste less sweet. Plantains are naturally low in sodium, high in fiber and rich in potassium and vitamins A, C, B6. Plantains cannot be eaten raw and, when cooked, they can be prepared sweet or savory.

Ripe plantains taste sweet, like bananas (these are brown in color or yellow with black specks) whereas green plantains (they should be very green) taste like potatoes. One of the reasons they are so popular is because of their versatility in cooking - regardless of what stage of ripeness, plantains are ready to be cooked. They are also inexpensive, says Maria Rodriguez, RD, CDE. Maria says, "My parents used to eat plantains daily; in Hispanic markets you can often find 10 plantains for as cheap as one dollar." But, can people with diabetes eat plantains daily? Yes, but like all fruit, plantains contain carbohydrates, which means that people with diabetes should manage their portions.

What is the Nutritional Content of a Plantain? 

One cup of raw plantains or one medium sized raw plantain contains: ~180-200 calories, 0.5 g total fat, 47-50 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugar and 2 g protein.

Because of it's high carbohydrate content, you need to monitor your portion, otherwise your blood sugars will spike. If you are not really familiar with carbohydrates and carbohydrate counting, think of it this way - one cup of plantains is like eating 2.5 slices of bread. Two servings of plantains is the equivalent of eating more than 5 slices of bread.

If you are eating plantains with other starches like rice or beans, you should try to limit your portion of all carbohydrates to no more than 1/4 of your plate. If, however, you use all your carbohydrates on plantains, then forfeit the rice and beans. Or perhaps you can split the 1/4 of your plate with brown rice and plantain mixed.

For More Information on Carbohydrate Counting:

Carbohydrate Counting - Should You Do It?

4 Carbohydrate Counting Necessities

Surprising Sources of Carbohydrates 

But Aren't Plantains Healthy? 

In moderation, yes. Plantains are rich in vitamins A, C, B6, which can help promote eye health, boost immunity, produce collagen and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, because plantains are also rich in carbohydrates and sugar, people with diabetes need to manage portions accordingly. Otherwise, like with other high carbohydrate foods, blood sugars could spike.

Preparation is Important:

How you prepare a plantain is just as important as how much you eat.

It is easy to sabotage a healthy food by adding lots of fat and sugar. When possible, avoid deep frying plantains and instead boil, grill, bake or steam your plantains. "Aim to avoid generosity when it comes to salt and try to add just a pinch," say's Maria. If you are following a sodium restricted diet, you can incorporate additional flavor by using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for "sweet" and parsley, oregano, garlic, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper and turmeric for "savory."

Resources: 

Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin C. Accessed on-line. July 26, 2014: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/

Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin B6. Accessed on-line. July 26, 2014: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminB6/

 

 

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