Plantains are starchy vegetables that look like bananas, but are much harder and not sweet. These vegetables have a flavor that is similar to a sweet potato. Plantains contain fiber, which is useful for bulking up stool and regulating the digestive system. The starch in plantains, however, gives some people gas.
Flatulence can be caused by a variety of sugars that fuel gas-producing bacteria in your intestines. The most common culprit for gas is raffinose, the sugar found in beans and legumes, according to the authors of "Human Nutrition and Dietetics." However, some people are sensitive to starches, like the starch in plantains. When people who are sensitive to starch consume plantains, they may develop flatulence as the starch breaks down into amylose and amylopectin, its two main components.
Plantains are a source of vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium. They are also a source of fiber. However, plantains do not contain a high amount of any vitamin or nutrient, so if the starch in the plantains bothers you, you can easily get the nutrients and fiber from a different vegetable. For example, carrots have roughly 11 times the amount of vitamin A than plantains and they contain more fiber, according to the HealthALiciousNess nutritional database.
Cooking to Reduce Starch
The cooking process softens the flesh of the plantains and makes the starches in them easier to digest, according to "The Joy of Cooking." Never try to eat a plantain raw, or the starches may cause extreme gas and stomach discomfort. However, there is no scientific evidence that one cooking method is superior than another for breaking down the starch in plantains. If cooked plantains also cause gas, experiment with different cooking methods until you find one that bothers you the least.
The usual ways to cook plantains is to slice them and fry them in butter or vegetable oil or to bake them. When fried, either serve the plantains as is, or mash them and refry them until they are crisp. Then, salt them and serve them as a snack. These crispy plantain chips are known as "tostones." Alternatively, bake the peeled plantains at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 40 minutes, or until they are tender enough to pierce with a fork. Plantains pair well with butter, lime, salt or lemon juice.
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Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.