Plantains (Musa paradisiaca) are closely related to bananas and are a good dietary source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fiber. Plantains are also a good source of beta-carotene and a small amount of alpha-carotene (plantains with orange flesh have a higher carotenoid content than lighter colored plantains). Deep frying greatly reduces the vitamin C content of plantains but does not significantly reduce the carotenoid content. Plantains appear to protect the stomach lining against stomach acid by increasing gastric mucus secretion. Ripe sweet plantains have a high glycemic index.
Cancer-related effects of eating plantains
Plantains contain some kaempferol, myricetin, and ferulic acid, all of which have been reported to have anti-cancer properties. Cooked plantains have a slightly higher vitamin and mineral content than bananas and might share the banana's anti-cancer properties. However, few population studies that specifically address the association between plantain consumption and cancer are available.
Whether under-ripe and green or overripe and sweet, plantains must be cooked by steaming, baking, boiling or frying before being eaten. Plantains should be washed before peeling or before cooking whole since pesticides often are liberally applied in growing them.
The leaves and other parts of the plants Plantago lanceolata L. and Plantago major L. are found in some herbal remedies and may be listed as "plantain." This is a completely different plant from the banana-like plantain. In the past, herbal preparations labeled as containing plantain have been found to be contaminated with the heart medicine digitalis. In one study, the plant contained in one preparation was identified as Digitalis lanata instead of "plantain leaves." It is not clear whether such contamination continues to be a problem. Laxatives based on psyllium seed husks are derived from another plantago cultivar, Plantago psyllium (P. psyllium).
Note that while we are continually searching for new evidence specifically concerning this food, there is not much interest in it among breast cancer researchers, so few studies are available.