I got these questions the other day from a couple of people who are new to dieting. One client grew up eating plantains on a near daily basis and was worried she’d have to give them up for a time to shed some weight.
So, are plantains and cantaloupe fattening? No, not only are plantains and cantaloupe not fattening, they actually possess characteristics that make them great food choices when dieting. For example, the dietary fiber content leads to slower gastric and intestinal transit resulting in satiety and lower subsequent food intake.
In a study titled, Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity, researchers stated, “considering the amount of simple sugars found in fruit, it is reasonable to expect that their consumption should contribute to obesity rather than weight reduction. However, epidemiological research has consistently shown that most types of fruit have anti-obesity effects.”1
What we’ll do in the rest of the article, is cover some of the features of these tasty fruits and why each characteristic has a net positive effect on helping one achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Cantaloupe and Plantains Have a High Water Content
Especially cantaloupe! Fruit and vegetables contain a large amount of water which is thought to be responsible for diluting the energy density of these food groups.2,3
As a result, fruits like the cantaloupe and plantain provide less energy per unit of mass compared with processed food that has a negative effect on energy balance.4
For this reason, the addition of plantains and cantaloupe to the daily diet actually reduces overall energy intake and improves energy disequilibrium. Indeed, long-term daily consumption of these foods helps prevent weight gain and improve body fat status.
Cantaloupe and Plantains Are High in Fiber and Resistant Starch
When you eat cake, the bulk of the cake along with its macronutrients send satiety (fullness) signals to your brain signaling fullness. The only problem is, with cake, you’ve already consumed hundreds of calories before the signals reach your brain.
Unlike processed, calorie-dense foods like cake, plantains and cantaloupe contain a large amount of fiber, and plantains specifically have what’s known as resistant starch (RS). Like the water content, fiber and RS adds bulk to the food. This bulk serves to stretch your stomachs receptors sending the same satiety signals to your brain induced by eating cake.
The thing is that—due to the water, fiber, and RS content of fruit—this food group has a mere fraction of the calories present in cake, yet they still impart the same feelings of fullness and satisfaction. It’s almost like cheating!
So, like water, the fiber and RS found in cantaloupe and plantains have a diluting effect on energy density.2,3
Given all of the above, experts have concluded that the continuous intake of fruit helps manage weight and achieve a healthy BMI.
Cantaloupe and Plantains Are Low in Fat
Continuing with the theme of calorie density, keep in mind that dietary fat has about twice as many calories per unit of mass compared to carbohydrates—9 kcal/gram compared to 4 kcal/gram, respectively.
Don’t get me wrong, there are ways in which fat contributes to satiety—it takes longer to digest, for instance. But, when it comes to the short-term—the time it takes to consume a single meal or snack—carbs beat out fat when it comes to satiety.
When you have a high-fat snack, say almonds, it can be easy to scarf down a few hundred calories before the food has a chance to signal to your brain that you’ve had enough. However, with low-fat foods, you tend to eat a lot fewer calories at any given time. This is because high-carb foods tend to fill you up faster.
Cantaloupe and Plantains Are High in Micronutrients
This is where plantains really have an edge over regular bananas. Water content has been mentioned as being important when it comes to calorie density and regular bananas have much more water than plantains. Tangentially, this is the reason why plantains are much better to cook with. If you’ve ever tried to sauté bananas you know what I’m talking about—it’s a mushy disaster!
Well, plantains have much higher levels of micronutrients compared to bananas. Cantaloupe has a lot of micronutrients as well. Micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals that must be acquired via diet—e.g. our body doesn’t make essential vitamins, at least not in sufficient amounts.
Most people know that a lack of micronutrients leads to acute deficiency disease, but much fewer people know that micronutrient deficiencies can also lead to various chronic health conditions, including metabolic disorders. Further, deficiency of these nutrients is correlated with obesity.5
Several studies have shown obese populations to have low intakes of vitamins.6-9
Specifically, vitamins A and C—both abundant in plantains and cantaloupe—have been shown to be negatively associated with central obesity and fat deposition in general.10-12
You may be wondering why this is. It’s thought that influence vitamins seem to have on fat loss is likely due to downregulation of genes that are involved in the generation and differentiation of fat cells as well as what’s known as leptin resistance.13
So, in order to reduce the likelihood of obesity, it’s important that micronutrient intakes be maintained at the desired levels in the body. Fruits like the plantain and cantaloupe are among the densest sources of these essential nutrients.2,3
So, the range of micronutrients found in these fruits accounts for one of the underlying reasons they’ve proven to be so useful when it comes to losing weight.
Cantaloupe and Plantains Are High in Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are another class of chemicals found abundantly in fruits like plantains and cantaloupe. These nutrients aren’t essential for survival but are thought to provide extra benefits for your health such as helping you maintain a healthy weight, prevent diabetes, and lower inflammation in the body.14,15
Well, it turns out that fruits like cantaloupe and plantains contain many of these compounds. Also, the phytochemicals commonly found in fruit have been shown to have “anti-obesity effects”, by altering certain physiological cascades including:16
- Reducing oxidative stress
- Inhibiting fat cell formation
- Suppressing adipogenesis
- Stimulating lipolysis (fat cell breakdown)
- Initiating fat cell death
Anyway, that pretty much wraps it up. Hopefully, this article helped dissuade you of the notion that fruit like plantains and cantaloupe cause fat gain. Enjoy these amazing and delicious fruits and don’t worry about the sugar content. The food matrix and fiber help slow down the digestion and absorption of these simple sugars so that you get the taste without the negative effect on blood sugar and insulin.
- Satya P. Sharma, et al. Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity. Nutrients. 2016 Oct; 8(10): 633.
- Slavin J.L., Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv. Nutr. 2012;3:506–516.
- Devalaraja S., Jain S., Yadav H. Exotic Fruits as Therapeutic Complements for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Food Res. Int. 2011;44:1856–1865.
- Mozaffarian D., Hao T., Rimm E.B., Willett W.C., Hu F.B. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N. Engl. J. Med. 2011;364:2392–2404.
- García OP, Long KZ, Rosado JL Nutr Rev. 2009 Oct; 67(10):559-72.
- Aasheim E.T., Hofsø D., Hjelmesaeth J., Birkeland K.I., Bøhmer T. Vitamin status in morbidly obese patients: A cross-sectional study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2008;87:362–369.
- Galan P., Viteri F.E., Bertrais S., Czernichow S., Faure H., Arnaud J., Ruffieux D., Chenal S., Arnault N., Favier A., et al. Serum concentrations of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium are influenced by sex, age, diet, smoking status, alcohol consumption and corpulence in a general French adult population. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2005;59:1181–1190.
- Myara I., Alamowitch C., Michel O., Heudes D., Bariety J., Guy-Grand B., Chevalier J. Lipoprotein oxidation and plasma vitamin E in nondiabetic normotensive obese patients. Obes. Res. 2003;11:112–120.
- Reitman A., Friedrich I., Ben A.A., Levy Y. Low plasma antioxidants and normal plasma B vitamins and homocysteine in patients with severe obesity. Isr. Med. Assoc. J. 2002;4:590–593.
- Vaughan L.A., Benyshek D.C., Martin J.F. Food acquisition habits, nutrient intakes, and anthropometric data of Havasupai adults. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 1997;97:1275–1282.
- Johnston C.S., Beezhold B.L., Mostow B., Swan P.D. Plasma vitamin C is inversely related to body mass index and waist circumference but not to plasma adiponectin in nonsmoking adults. J. Nutr. 2007;137:1757–1762.
- Viroonudomphol D., Pongpaew P., Tungtrongchitr R., Changbumrung S., Tungtrongchitr A., Phonrat B., Vudhivai N., Schelp F.P. The relationships between anthropometric measurements, serum vitamin A and E concentrations and lipid profiles in overweight and obese subjects. Asia Pac. J. Clin. Nutr. 2003;12:73–79.
- Aeberli I., Molinari L., Spinas G., Lehmann R., l’Allemand D., Zimmermann M.B. Dietary intakes of fat and antioxidant vitamins are predictors of subclinical inflammation in overweight Swiss children. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2006;84:748–755.
- Scalbert A, Manach C, Morand C, Rémésy C, Jiménez L Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2005; 45(4):287-306.
- Pandey KB, Rizvi SI Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Nov-Dec; 2(5):270-8.
- Meydani M, Hasan ST Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7):737-51.