One of the many benefits of having my Health Sciences Division of my Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation in Ecuador is the eclectic mix of delicious healthy foods that we as Americans don't know are just waiting for us to discover. Green banana soup is one example. At first it's like, "you're kidding right?"...then you savor the explosion of flavors and your body "feels" the intense nutrition as it first satisfies your palette and then leaves you planning the next time you'll have this southern comfort (South American that is!) food and what you'll make next to accompany it!
A Bit of Historical Perspective...Loja, Ecuador is a province in the southern most region where this traditional soup originated as far as we know. In the U.S. and Europe, we often cannot find truly green bananas, the bananas MUST be green for this recipe. If they are not readily available and you find green plantains they are a tasty substitute, even though the green bananas make the soup a silkier texture.
Dr. Gloria's Epicurean Experiences: My adventures in Ecuador never cease to amaze me; this soup is the perfect example. Recently I had a long intense week and was extremely tired (yes, I'm still working way too much but that's what happens when you're passionate about your work), and a friend suggested a little quaint restaurant that makes this soup occasionally and they happened to be serving it that day. Off to lunch we went and, much to my delight, it was just what I needed — a calming influence and that feeling of comfort that only a hearty nightshade-free soup can provide. We often forget the pleasures of simple things yet when feasting on this type of satisfying healthy food, it's like nature gives you an internal hug just when you need it most.
Green Banana Soup (Repe Lojano) Ingredients:
- 10 green bananas or 6 green plantains, peeled and diced
- 2 – 3 tbs coconut oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely crushed
- 4 oz. cheese: quesillo, a fresh farmer's type cheese—can also use queso fresco or mozzarella
- 1/2 cup milk or cream
- 1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped—about 1/2 cup already chopped
- 8 cups of water
- Salt to taste
* White sweet potato variation (see notes below)
Avocado or cheese slices. Many Ecuadorians also add kernels of tender sweet corn.
- Heat the coconut oil in large soup pot, make a refrito (sauté) or base for the soup by adding the diced onion and crushed garlic, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the 8 cups of water and bring to a boil (can also use half water, half chicken broth).
- Add the diced green bananas to the boiling water.
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the bananas or plantains are soft, about 15–20 minutes. It will take longer for the plantains to cook than bananas.
- In the same pot, gently mash some of the bananas pieces to help thicken the soup.
- Crumble the cheese and add it to the soup
- Stir in milk or cream, cilantro and salt
- Remove from the heat and serve with slices of avocado, and/or cheese.
*Notes: For a creamier variation of this green banana or green plantain soup, add 1–2 small white sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, while adding the green bananas to the soup. Adjust the amount of water/milk/broth to your preferred consistency or thickness.
Health Benefits of Green Plantains
known as the brain-boosting and immune-building fruit
The first lesson in using plantains is to NOT confuse them
with bananas, albeit they are close relatives. Both varieties
have proven in studies to offer the mentioned health benefits
in addition to help regulate the digestive processes and are
a dense potassium-rich food. Countries like Africa, Ecuador,
Peru and Colombia grow and use plantains because of their
delicious flavor and for their jam-packed health benefits.
Plantains are starchier, yet contain less sugar than bananas,
and are much more versatile for cooking. In Ecuador, high in
the Andes mountains (8,000 ft.) where my research center is
based, specifically, the growing season for plantains is year round
because of its eternal spring climate that averages 72
degrees. Plantain is a great nutrient-rich fruit that provides
an abundance of vitamins and minerals and is an excellent
substitute for rice or potatoes.
Plantains are a solid source of carbohydrates with a low-fat
content, but they also provide several other health benefits as
well. Plus, they don't contain any significant levels of toxins.
There are 913 milligrams of potassium in one cup of cooked,
mashed plantains. That accounts for about 20 percent of your
recommended daily amount of potassium, making plantains
one of the most potassium-rich foods on the planet. Potassium
is the third-most abundant mineral in the body, but when
depleted, low potassium can affect the function of numerous
organs and processes.
Potassium is an electrolyte and is therefore affected greatly
by the amount of sodium in the body. It plays a major role in
regulating blood pressure because it combats the effects of
sodium. Many Western diets include too much sodium, which
means we could all use more sources of potassium. Snacking
on plantains or adding them as a side dish are delicious ways
to reach your daily potassium goals and help naturally remedy
high blood pressure.
Potassium levels also affect skeletal and smooth muscle
contraction, which allows for regular digestive and muscular function. It also helps regulate heart rhythm, and
studies show that people who consume diets with high
potassium levels tend to be at a lower risk of stroke, osteoporosis
and renal disease.
Help Regulate the Digestive System
Fiber has a profound effect on the digestive system and plays
a significant role in keeping it regular. One cup of plantains
provides almost a fifth of the fiber recommended daily, which is
roughly 25–30 grams. As a high-fiber food, plantains add bulk to
food intake—aiding digestion.
According to research from the University of Kentucky's
Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences
Program, consuming plantains is a great way to relieve
constipation and provide relief from hemorrhoids and digestive
conditions like diverticulitis.
Fiber also make you feel full, which can help with weight
control. Thus, increasing intake of dietary fiber can also help
enhance weight loss in obese individuals. Soluble fiber is also
known to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which
prevents heart disease as well as help stabilize blood sugar.
Reduce the Number of Harmful Free Radicals
Free radicals, which are made when your body breaks down food
or when you are exposed to other harmful elements like tobacco
smoke or radiation, play a part in aging, diseases and cancer.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radical damage.
A serving of plantains can provide over 35 percent of the
vitamin C needed per day, making it one of the best vitamin
C foods around. The body can't store vitamin C (excess is
released in urine) or produce it independently, so getting the
daily recommended amount is very important.
Vitamin C is one of the most powerful vitamins, as it has
a hand in growing and repairing tissues all over the body. It's
involved in forming a protein used in making skin, tendons,
ligaments and blood vessels, as well as maintaining cartilage,
bones and teeth.
Boost the Immune System
Looking to boost your immune system? Then plantains are the
perfect snack. They pack 36 percent of your daily recommended
amount of vitamin A. As another powerful antioxidant, vitamin
A provides several benefits to the body. Along with vitamin C,
it helps control your immune response, which keeps illness at
bay, and several important immune system responses rely on
vitamin A to perform correctly.
Vitamin A also plays a large part in skin health and cell
growth, and a necessary element for wound healing. Cells that overreact to certain foods are the root of food allergies
and ultimately cause inflammation. Vitamin A's antioxidant
properties can neutralize free radicals and help prevent
inflammation caused by overreacting cells. It also helps with
eye health and vision, especially in low light.
Promote Healthy Brain Function
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, generates several important
neurotransmitters that carry information from one cell to
another. A serving of plantains can provide up to 24 percent of
your daily amount needed of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 benefits healthy brain function and,
according to research published in the Cochrane Database of
Systematic Reviews, helps make hormones like serotonin and
norepinephrine, which keep moods stable, and melatonin,
which regulates the body's biological clock.
Homocysteine levels (an amino acid linked to heart disease
and nervous system damage) are also controlled by vitamin
B6. The vitamin keeps levels low to help prevent damage and
maintain the health of blood vessels.
This vitamin in plantains is one of the eight B vitamins
that aid in processing food into energy and metabolizing fats.
Like vitamin A, B6 also helps slow the onset of eye diseases like
macular degeneration—it works with B12 to produce red blood
cells and cells in the immune system. Boosted levels of vitamin
B6 are also linked to prevention or decrease of rheumatoid
Abundant Source of Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency is a very common problem thanks to
Western diets and depleted soil due to over farming. Plantains
offer about 16 percent of your daily need for magnesium, which
is especially important because magnesium affects over 300
biochemical reactions in the body.
From helping to regulate blood pressure to preventing
osteoporosis, there are many ways magnesium keeps the body
healthy. Magnesium directly affects calcium absorption, which
can avert or reverse osteoporosis. It also lowers the risk of
getting type 2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels via
carbohydrate metabolism and insulin regulation. Magnesium
has also long been used to help with migraine headaches,
insomnia and depression.
Avoids Aspirin-Induced Ulcers
In a study published in the International Journal of Research
in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, dried plantain
powder showed a significant ulcer-healing effect on an aspirin-induced
gastric ulcer. Individuals who use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drug therapy for conditions such as rheumatoid
arthritis and chronic pain are at high risk for developing ulcers
in the membrane layer of the stomach. According to the study,
dried plantain can stimulate the growth of the inner lining of