Although the dark purple version of eggplants is best known, the shape, size, and color can vary from small and oblong to long and thin, and from shades of purple to white and green.
This article will focus on the nutritional benefits of the traditional purple eggplant.
- Eggplant comes in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes.
- The anthocyanins in eggplant may protect heart health
- Another chemical in eggplant, nasunin, may help improve blood flow to the brain
- Cooking methods include steaming, roasting, boiling, baking, or frying, but steaming appears to preserve the antioxidant levels most effectively.
- Scientists are looking for ways to maximize the antioxidants in eggplant while reducing the bitter flavor they bring.
Eggplants are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has been shown to reduce the risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
Studies have long suggested that eating plant foods, such as eggplant, can boost overall health and wellbeing.
Laboratory analyses of the phenolic compounds in eggplant show that it contains anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, and chlorogenic acid, a powerful free-radical scavenger.
Anthocyanins and chlorogenic acid function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Studies show that consuming even small quantities of flavonoid-rich foods may benefit human health in various ways.
1) Heart health
In addition, eating foods containing certain flavonoids, including anthocyanins, may be associated with a lower risk of mortality from heart disease, according to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) in 2008.
In one study, those who consumed more than three servings of fruits and vegetables per week containing anthocyanins had a 34-percent lower risk of heart disease than those who consumed less.
2) Blood cholesterol
Chlorogenic acid has been shown to decrease low-density lipid (LDL) levels. It also acts as an antimicrobial, antiviral, and anticarcinogenic agent.
Polyphenols in eggplant have been shown to have anti-cancer effects.
4) Cognitive function
Findings from animal studies suggest that nasunin, an anthocyanin in the eggplant skin, is a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cell membranes from free radical damage.
It also assists in the transport of nutrients into the cell and moving waste out.
Research has also shown that anthocyanins help prevent neuroinflammation and facilitate blood flow to the brain.
This could help improve memory and prevent age-related mental disorders.
5) Weight management and satiety
Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and loss, because they act as "bulking agents" in the digestive system.
These compounds increase satiety and reduce appetite. They help reduce calorie intake by making a person feel fuller for longer.
Eggplant is already low in calories, so it can contribute to a healthful, low-calorie diet.
6) Liver health
Research has suggested that the antioxidants in eggplant may help protect the liver from certain toxins. Nutritional content
One cup of cooked eggplant, weighing around 99 grams (g) contains:
- 35 calories
- 0.82 g of protein
- 8.64 g of carbohydrate, of which 3.17 g is sugars
- 0.23 g of fat
- 2.5 g of dietary fiber
- 188 milligrams (mg) of potassium
- 6 mg of calcium
- 1 mg of sodium
- 0.12 mg of zinc
- 1.3 mg of vitamin C
- 0.25 mg of iron
- 11 mg of magnesium
- 15 mg of phosphorus
- 14 micrograms (mcg) of folate
- 85 mcg of vitamin B6
- 2.9 mcg of vitamin K
Eggplants also contain flavonoids, such as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that have many health benefits. They also help give the eggplant its well-known, dark purple color.
The skin of the eggplant is rich in antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
The phenolic content of eggplant makes it such a potent free radical scavenger that this vegetable is ranked among the top 10 vegetables in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity.
Eggplants should be firm and somewhat heavy for their size, with a smooth and glossy skin and an intense purple hue. Avoid any that appear withered, bruised, or discolored.
They should be stored in the refrigerator until ready for use. Leaving the skin intact when storing will keep them fresher for longer.
Preparing an eggplant
Use a stainless steel knife instead of carbon steel, as this prevents the material from reacting with the phytochemicals in the vegetable, which can cause the eggplant to turn black.
To draw out some of the compounds that contribute to the eggplant's bitter taste and to make the flesh more tender, you can "sweat" the eggplant by cutting it into pieces and then sprinkling them with salt.
Let the salted pieces sit for about 30 minutes. Moisture will be drawn out, leaving the eggplant more tender, less bitter, and more palatable. This will also make the pieces less prone to absorbing any oil used when cooking. Finally, rinse the eggplant to remove most of the salt.
It can be prepared whole, cubed, or sliced, and can be fried, grilled, baked, roasted, or steamed.
Studies suggest that out of baking, boiling and steaming, steaming is the best way to preserve the levels of antioxidants.
An eggplant's slightly bitter flavor and spongy texture can make it a unique and interesting addition to many dishes.
The following recipes have been recommended by a dietitian:
- Crispy baked eggplant
- Japanese miso glazed eggplant burgers
- Roasted eggplant with tahini, pine nuts and lentils
- Spiced shrimp and eggplant stirfry
- Eggplant spirals with Greek yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumber recipe
Click here for an eggplant recipe book with a range of healthful ideas.
10 more ways to eat eggplant
Here are some more tasty tips:
Eggplant pizza crust: Replace pizza crust with sliced eggplant and add tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings for a gluten-free, low-calorie treat
An eggplant paste mixed with tahini, garlic, lime, yogurt, and spices makes a tasty dip.
Egglant side dish: Sauté or stir-fry chunks of eggplant in olive oil and serve as a side
Burger garnish: Cut the eggplant lengthwise into thick slices and grill them. They can be served on their own or in a burger
Oven-baked eggplant fries: Slice the eggplant into strips or wedges and bake them in the oven for healthy eggplant fries
Eggplant pasta topping: Cut the eggplant into thick slices, then bread and bake or sauté them and add them to a pasta dish. Top with Parmesan cheese to create eggplant Parmesan
Ratatouille: Combine eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, and tomato, sautéd in a little olive oil, to make a ratatouille
Veggie lasagne: Use the ratatouille sauce above to replace the meat layer in lasagne
Eggplant stew: Combine with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and spices for a fragrant and warming dish
Baba ghanoush: To make a popular Middle Eastern dip, grill the eggplant in halves for 30 to 40 minutes, remove the flesh and blend with yogurt, tahini, lime juice, garlic and spices to taste. Top with roasted pine nuts and serve with pita bread.
Maghlouba: A chicken and aubergine "upside-down" rice dish
Some people should not consume too much eggplant.
Nasunin and iron absorption: Nasunin, a phytochemical found in eggplants, binds with iron and removes it from cells.
This may be useful for people who have too much iron in their body. However, those with low levels of iron should not consume large amounts of foods that contain nasunin.
Solanine and inflammation: Eggplants are part of the nightshade family. Nightshades contain alkaloids, including solanine, which may aggravate arthritis or inflammation.
There is not enough research to confirm this, but many people with these conditions report relief when they exclude eggplants, tomatoes, and other nightshade foods from their diet.
A dietitian can help prepare a nightshade elimination diet to see if it improves symptoms.
Foods containing oxalates, such as eggplant, are not recommended for those prone to kidney stone formation. People with kidney stones should limit their intake of oxalate-containing foods.
Eggplant can be a healthful addition to a varied diet that contains plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Some people do not like their bitter flavor, which may be due to the polyphenols, or antioxidants, they contain.
In the future, scientists may be able to genetically improve eggplants so that they contain high levels of beneficial nutrients and still remain palatable.