If you have allergies, perhaps you may have wondered, why can I eat plantains and not bananas?
After all, they look pretty similar, so presumably, they are from the same fruit family.
So, why would bananas cause an allergic reaction, but plantains have no effect?
Can you swap one for another in a recipe?
Does the fact that plantains are usually cooked make a difference?
Can you actually eat raw plantain?
Let’s see what science has to say about the subject.
If a person is allergic to bananas, it is typically due to a protein in the fruit, also found in latex. As this protein is destroyed by heat, then cooking the banana can remove any risk of having an allergic reaction. Plantains also contain the same protein but are rarely eaten raw. Therefore, because plantains are cooked, they are unlikely to cause any allergy issues. The allergen is also mainly found in the skin of the fruit. Plantains are always peeled before cooking, but with bananas, there is the risk of the peel touching the lips when eating them. Be aware of allergy symptoms which can include itching of the throat and mouth, and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.
What Causes Banana Allergy?
If bananas and plantains come from the same family, why are some people allergic to the former and not the latter?
If you have a banana allergy, then it is most likely due to a specific protein in the fruit.
Surprisingly, this is also found in latex.
Although, if you think about it, latex comes from rubber trees, so this has some similarities to how bananas grow.
So, it is likely you will be allergic to both latex and allergies.
And perhaps some other fruits and nuts will cause an allergic reaction when you eat them, including kiwis and chestnuts.
The majority of the allergen is found in the peel of bananas and, to a lesser extent, in plantain skins.
In general, plantains are not eaten raw and are peeled before cooking.
Although you might say the same about bananas, some people don’t entirely peel the fruit in one go, as it makes it easier to hold.
So, there is always the risk that the peel will touch your lips or tongue.
Whereas you would not willingly put a raw plantain up to your mouth!
Imagine eating a raw potato, it’s a similar experience!
Cooking also makes a difference, as the heat destroys the allergen.
As we have mentioned, plantains are not eaten raw, so you may assume you are not allergic to them because the raw flesh doesn’t touch your lips.
So, it may be worth trying cooked bananas rather than raw, but do consult your health professional first.
Can You Substitute Plantains for Bananas?
So, if you have found that you can eat plantains without an allergic reaction, can you use them in place of bananas?
Well, no, not really!
The taste of plantain is very different, and in fact, they are more typically used as a savory option, not as a dessert.
Plantains have more starch than bananas and are not as sweet.
They are usually boiled, baked, or fried and can be sliced thinly and eaten as a healthier version of fries.
Plantains are enjoyed in most Central and South American countries and across the Caribbean.
In fact, these countries have a multitude of different recipes for plantains in all stages, whether they be underripe, just right, or overripe.
One of the most popular ways to serve plantains is to fry them when they are underripe and green.
They are then mashed into a patty and fried again until crispy and are known as tostones, delicious for breakfast!
In fact, you can make plantain bread, but it will not be the same as banana bread and has a drier texture.
It is better served as a side dish to a main meal rather than as a sweet treat and can be frozen if necessary.
Bananas vs. Plantains
Banana allergies are due to a protein in the fruit similar to that found in latex.
It is typically found in the peel and is destroyed by cooking.
Thus, although plantains contain the same protein, they are always cooked and do not cause allergic reactions.
Plantains and bananas have very marked differences in flavor and cannot be interchanged in recipes.
Always consult a health professional if you suffer any reactions to eating bananas.
And just in case you get confused, here’s some advice on the difference between bananas and plantains.