Plantains, though they look very similar to their cousin, the banana, are actually quite different and act more like potatoes; they must be cooked prior to eating. Throughout Latin America, plantains are more than just wonderful additions to soups and stews. Unlike potatoes, these treats can be used in all stages of ripeness-from green to almost black! Plantains do not contain any cholesterol or sodium and are low in fat. They contain a good dose of calcium, iron, and potassium, are high in vitamin A, and provide an excellent source of fiber.
Pumpkin, another ubiquitous vegetable found throughout Latin America, is full of taste and health benefits! Whether it's steamed or baked, or added as a flavorful thickener to all kinds of soups and rice and bean dishes, it makes a delicious and healthy addition. Though low in calories, its bright orange flesh is rich in antioxidants and carotenes, as well as potassium and vitamins C and E. It may lower cancer risk, heart attacks, cataracts, and strokes.