The eggplant, or aubergine, provides fiber and a range of nutrients. This low calorie vegetable features in the Mediterranean diet.
Many of us are most familiar with eggplants that are large and dark purple, but the shape, size, and color can vary from small and oblong to long and thin and from shades of purple to white or green.
This article will focus on the nutritional benefits of the traditional purple eggplant.
Eggplants are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Antioxidants are molecules that help the body eliminate free radicals — unstable molecules that can damage cells if they accumulate in large amounts. Foods that contain antioxidants may help prevent a range of diseases.
Among the antioxidants in eggplants are anthocyanins, including nasunin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Which other foods are good sources of antioxidants? Find out here.
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and antioxidants in eggplants all support heart health.
A 2013 study found that middle-aged women who consumed more than 3 servings a week of blueberries and strawberries — good sources of anthocyanins — had a 32% lower associated risk of heart disease than those who consumed fewer of these fruits.
In another investigation, researchers concluded that women with a high intake of anthocyanins appeared to have significantly lower blood pressure and less stiffening of the arteries than those who ate fewer of these compounds.
Learn about other foods that can boost heart health.
Results of a 2014 study in rodents indicated that chlorogenic acid, a primary antioxidant in eggplants, may decrease levels of low density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol and reduce the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Managing high cholesterol? Learn which foods to eat or avoid.
The polyphenols in eggplant may help protect the body from cancer. Anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. In the long term, this may help prevent tumor growth and the spread of cancer cells.
How does the diet affect the risk of breast cancer?
Findings of animal studies suggest that nasunin, an anthocyanin in eggplant skin, may help protect brain cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals. Nasunin also helps transport nutrients into cells and move waste out.
Anthocyanins also help prevent neuroinflammation and facilitate blood flow to the brain. This could help prevent memory loss and other aspects of age-related mental decline.
Lab experiments have indicated that nasunin may reduce the breakdown of fats in the brain, a process that can cause cell damage.
Learn more about foods that can boost brain function.
Dietary fiber can help people manage their weight. A person who follows a high-fiber diet is less likely to overeat, as fiber can help a person feel fuller for longer.
Eggplants contain fiber and are low in calories — they can contribute to a healthful, low-calorie diet.
However, eggplant can absorb a lot of oil during frying. Anyone looking to lose weight should prepare it a different way, such as by grilling or air-frying it.
Here, find more tips for weight loss.
Eggplant also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein appears to play a role in eye health, and it may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss in older people.
The following table shows the nutrients in 1 cup, or about 96 g, of cooked eggplant cubes. It also shows how much of each nutrient a person needs each day. However, people’s requirements vary, depending on age and sex.
|Nutrients||Amount in 1 cup of eggplant cubes||Daily requirements for adults|
|Carbohydrate (g)||8.29, of which 3.04 are sugar||130|
|Beta carotene (mcg)||21.1||No data|
Eggplants should be firm and somewhat heavy for their size, with smooth, glossy skin and an intense purple hue. Avoid any that appear withered, bruised, or discolored.
Store them in the refrigerator until they are ready for use. Leaving the skin intact will keep them fresher for longer.
When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel, not a carbon steel, knife to prevent a phytochemical reaction that can cause the eggplant to turn black.
Eggplant can have a slightly bitter taste. “Sweating” an eggplant with salt will draw out moisture and some compounds that contribute to the bitterness, ultimately making the flesh more tender.
To do this:
- cut the eggplant into slices, cubes, strips, or halves and place them on a board
- sprinkle them with salt
- After about 30 minutes, rinse off the salt and pat the pieces dry
- fry, grill, bake, roast, or steam them
Sweating an eggplant will also reduce oil absorption during cooking.
Eggplant’s slightly bitter flavor and spongy texture can make it an interesting and tasty addition to many dishes.
Try the following recipes:
- Crispy baked eggplant
- Japanese miso glazed eggplant burgers
- Roasted eggplant with tahini, pine nuts, and lentils
- Spiced shrimp and eggplant stir-fry
- Eggplant spirals with Greek yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumber
- Eggplant stew
More ways to eat eggplant
Find some more ideas below.
Eggplant pizza crust: Replace pizza crust with sliced eggplant and add tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings for a gluten free, low calorie treat.
Eggplant side dish: Saute or stir-fry chunks of eggplant in olive oil and serve it as a side.
Burger garnish: Cut an eggplant lengthwise into thick slices and grill them. Serve them alone or in a burger.
Oven-baked eggplant fries: Slice an eggplant into strips or wedges and bake them.
Eggplant pasta topping: Cut an eggplant into thick slices, then bread and bake them or saute them and add the strips to a pasta dish. Top the slices with Parmesan cheese to make eggplant Parmesan.
Ratatouille: Saute eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, and tomato in a little olive oil to make ratatouille, a stewed vegetable dish.
Vegetable lasagna: Use the ratatouille above to replace the meat layer in lasagna.
Baba ghanoush: This is a popular Middle Eastern dip of grilled eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Some people add yogurt.
Maghluba: This is an “upside down” rice dish with chicken and eggplant.
Some people should not consume too much eggplant.
Nasunin and iron absorption
Nasunin, a phytochemical in eggplants, binds with iron and removes it from cells. This process, known as iron chelation, may be useful for people who have too much iron in their bodies.
Meanwhile, people with low levels of iron should not consume large amounts of foods that contain nasunin.
Eggplants are part of the nightshade family. Nightshades contain alkaloids, including solanine, which can be toxic. Solanine protects these plants while they are still developing.
Eating the leaves or tubers of these plants can lead to symptoms such as burning in the throat, nausea and vomiting, and heart arrhythmias. The reaction can be fatal.
People are at typically at risk of ingesting the most solanine if they eat potatoes that have turned green. Eggplants contain small quantities of solanine, and eating low-to-moderate amounts is unlikely to have a significant effect.
In rare cases, one or more compounds triggers an allergic reaction. The primary cause appears to be a lipid transfer protein in the plant.
Symptoms of a reaction can include hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should receive urgent medical help, as they may have anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Learn more about anaphylaxis.
Oxalates and kidney stones
Eggplants contain oxalates, though they have fewer than most fruits and vegetables. Oxalates can contribute to kidney stone formation in some people who are more prone to absorbing oxalates. Without treatment, kidney stones can lead to acute kidney injury or kidney death.
Foods containing oxalates, such as eggplant, may not be suitable for people prone to kidney stones. Anyone with this condition should limit their intake of oxalate-containing foods.
Find out more about the causes and treatment of kidney stones.
Eggplant can be a healthful addition to a varied diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Its polyphenols can give eggplant a bitter flavor that some people do not like. Sweating eggplant and varying seasonings and cooking methods can help. Many people enjoy eggplant, and consuming it comes with few risks.