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Really! How can plantain help to prevent hypertension and stroke? 

Plantain vs. Banana

Bananas are known for being rich in potassium. Almost every healthcare provider or nutritionist would advise eating bananas and other foods for potassium before they would recommend plantain. Why is that? This is because some people including healthcare providers do not know about plantains and its benefits. At times people who are not familiar with plantain, tend to call it a banana. It reasonable why they refer to plantain as bananas because they are from the same family (Musaceae). The scientific name for plantain is Musa paradisiaca and banana Musa sapientum. Did you know that plantain contains more potassium than a banana? Half a cup of plantain has 465 mg of potassium compared to half a cup of banana which contains 358 mg of potassium.

Importance of Potassium

There is a protein in the cell, specifically the cell membrane that pumps sodium (Na +) out of the cell and potassium (K +) into the cell using energy (ATP) in the body. This is very important because this pump controls certain functions in the body such as brain cells sending messages to each other and to different organs and muscles in the body known as nerve signaling. The Na/K pump also controls kidney function and heart contraction. 

Reducing sodium

Sodium is good for the body, low sodium in the blood can cause other health conditions such as kidney disease.  As much as low sodium is bad, too much sodium in the body is worse. Excess sodium in the blood can cause high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are conditions that reduce the ability for blood to flow through blood vessels due to blocked vessels, therefore causing events such as hypertension, heart attack, stroke or chest pain. 

Overconsumption of Sodium

Table salt is made with two compound Na(sodium) and Cl (chlorine) known as sodium chloride. Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day.  The recommended amount of sodium not salt but sodium is 2,300 mg a day and preferably 1,500 for adults. Lowering sodium intake to 1,000mg can help reduce blood pressure. Salt is not the issue, the sodium in the salt is! Individuals with high amounts of sodium in their body, or have high blood pressure or hypertension are told to reduce food with high sodium such as preserved food, prepackaged foods, canned foods or even restaurant foods that can help reduce sodium in a person’s body. 

Additionally, eating food such as a plantain that is high in potassium can help reduce sodium in the body.  Others have suggested salt substitutes such as potassium chloride (KCL) instead of sodium chloride (NaCl), with the goal of reducing sodium (Na) from the body. KCL is a type of salt without sodium. If an individual is at risk of terrible heart issues due to high blood pressure, or hypertension, medication is prescribed to them. However, It is well known that heart disease medications can have negative side effects.

Potassium helps to reduce sodium

Potassium reduces sodium in the body through urine. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium leaves the body. Potassium in foods such as plantain can prevent the blockages in the blood vessel. It also prevents the hardening and narrowing of arteries. Both potassium and salt leave the body through urine, therefore one needs to consume/eat foods with potassium on a daily basis. The daily amount of potassium needed for a female age 19 and up is 2300mg, male 3,400 mg. A study showed that people who are deficient in potassium have an increased risk of stroke. Research also suggests that eating foods with high amounts of potassium can prevent stroke.

Foods with a high amount of Potassium

FoodsservingPotassium (mg)
Apricots, dried½ cup1,101
Plantain1 medium890
Lentils, cooked 1 cup731
Avocado1 cup708
Baked Potatoes1 medium610
Banana1 medium422

Above are the different foods that are loaded with potassium. Dried apricots are loaded with potassium as you can see, however, if you are not into apricots or dried apricots, the next best thing is plantains. Plantains are also packed with potassium and there are so many different ways that it can be cooked. Plantains can be boiled, fried, roasted, dried, made into chips, or flour for fufu, etc. Check out this recipe book for different ways to cook and eat plantain.  Aside from plantains being a good source of potassium, it tastes great. If you are diabetic or trying to reduce your blood sugar, consider eating green plantain. 

Below are a few recommended snacks with high amounts of potassium. Lite salt is a low sodium salt, with a mix of potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). Ask your doctor about the lite salt!

Talk to your doctor

If you would like to take more than the recommended daily amount of potassium or use salt substitutes such as potassium chloride (KCl), talk with your doctor, nutritionist or dietician. 

Sources:

Kumar, K. S., Bhowmik, D., Duraivel, S., & Umadevi, M. (2012). Traditional and medicinal uses of banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 1(3), 51-63.

Lamptey, R., Velayoudom, F. L., Kake, A., Rhedoor, A. J., Kibirige, D., Ndour, M. N., … & Kalra, S. (2019). Plantains: Gluco-friendly usage. JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 69(10), 1565.

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/plantain-vs-banana#similarities-and-nutrition

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