Unripe Plantain: A Good Source of Iron


When properly prepared, unripe plantain makes an excellent meal.


It is one of the most versatile food items because it can be eaten in a variety of ways. It can be boiled, fried, roasted, mashed or grilled. Yes you read right: grilled!


It has grown to become a very popular food item in Nigeria where it has in fact gained culture-friendly names. When fried, it is called dodo. When roasted, it is called bole (popular in the southern, eastern and western parts of the country). When mashed, it is called onunu (popular in the southern parts of the country). Onunu is usually eaten with fish pepper soup, and the delicacy is fast rising to be a feature food in southern Nigerian ceremonies as is bole.


Unripe plantains are also prepared with other food items, particularly legumes. Plantain and beans cooked together as a porridge is a popular delicacy in Nigeria. They are also processed to make diabetes-friendly flour for diabetics.


There is a general belief, however, that unripe plantains are rich in iron — a belief supported by the greenness of its outer layers. It is noteworthy to point out, however, that the green of plantains are not eaten. Plantains are usually peeled to rid the edible parts of their green coverings. What is eaten is the pale yellowish flesh obtainable inside.


Granted, greenness signify richness in iron for some food items. But that is for edible greens like green leaves. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, unripe plantains are rich in:


—Dietary fiber

—Vitamin A

—Vitamin C

—B Vitamins (riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine)




They are, however, poor sources of iron.


Does this surprise you? Well, it shouldn’t. The misconception that unripe plantains are rich in iron stems, as mentioned above, from the fact that their outer layer is green in color. And this clarification is necessary particularly for individuals who need to increase their blood iron level.


Iron is an important nutrient for children and adolescents. It is essential for growth and during periods of blood loss. Thus, young children and adolescents need iron the most due to the bodily developments taking place in these periods of their lives. Recent mothers also need iron in the periods after childbirth and during lactation.


With this in mind, there are some recommendations to consider if you need to be on an iron-boosting diet and wish to eat unripe plantains. These will enhance the iron-content of your diet and make for a better supply of said body nutrient.


Cook/make your unripe plantain meals with:

  1. Green vegetable leaves like pumpkin leaves (called ugu leaves in Nigeria)
  2. Meat proteins like fish or  beef.
  3. Legumes, especially the reddish-brown variety of beans.


Also, taking some orange juice or eating some orange fruits after having had your regular meal will help boost your iron level.

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