Eggplant has nothing particularly to do with poultry eggs, as anyone familiar with this distinctive garden fruit knows. The name comes from its oblong shape. And yes, I said “fruit” – because, technically, it is grown from a flowering plant and contains seeds.
Eggplant does, however, have many other names, including aubergine, garden egg, guinea squash, melongene, and brinjal. Eggplants are members of the nightshade family and come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors.
Most groceries stock the type of eggplant that has dark purple skins but they can be found colored red, green or black.
Eggplants are high in dietary fiber to aid digestion. They are also called nutrient-dense food which means they are jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals with a low-calorie count.
Here’s how one cup of cooked eggplant breaks down nutritionally:
Carbs: 8.64 grams (3.17 g are sugars)
Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 0.82 g
Fat: 0.23 g
Calcium: 6 mg
Folate: 14 mcg – 5% of the RDI
Iron: 0.25 mg
Magnesium: 11 mg – 10% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 15 mg
Potassium: 188 mg – 5% of the RDI
Sodium: 1 mg
Vitamin B6: 85 mcg
Vitamin C: 1.3 mg – 3% of the RDI
Vitamin K: 2.9 mcg – 4% of the RDI
Zinc: 0.12 mg
Eggplants are high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid which scavenge free radicals that weaken the immune system and promote aging. Antioxidants have been linked to reduced cellular damage, heart disease, and cancer. These important chemicals have been associated with protecting the liver from some toxins.
The striking color of eggplants comes from a pigment composed of anthocyanins (a kind of flavonoid) which are also antioxidants, particularly one called nasunin.
Laboratory studies have linked anthocyanin present in the eggplant skin with helping to carry nutrients into brain cells while removing waste by-products. Research also suggests that anthocyanins help prevent neuroinflammation and increase blood flow to the brain which might well improve memory and prevent age-related cognitive disorders.
Rabbits with high cholesterol received 10 ml (0.3 ounces) of eggplant juice daily over a two-week trial period. Levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides both went down which is good news for people who want to lower their total cholesterol number.
Laboratory animals fed raw or grilled eggplant for 30 days had measurable improvements in their heart function and reduced heart attack severity.
High-fiber foods such as eggplant travel through the digestive tract without actually being broken down and effectively scour the intestinal walls along the way. An added benefit of dietary fiber is that it slows down the pace of digestion and absorbs sugars in the body much like a sponge. The dirty digestive “scrubbing sponge” is then excreted naturally in a bowel movement.
Natural plant compounds called polyphenols in eggplant are being studied for reducing how much sugar the body absorbs in the first place. Polyphenols may also increase insulin production which also helps lower blood sugar levels.
For these reasons, eggplants are featured in the Mediterranean and other low-carb diets. These regimes are helpful in controlling blood sugar spikes and crashes and recommended for diabetics.
Being low in calories and high in fiber, eggplants are a good choice for weight loss since they are filling without being fattening.
Certain types of nightshades, including eggplants, have solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) which appear able to kill cancer cells in laboratory animals and help keep certain types of cancer from coming back. When used topically – applied directly to the skin’s surface – SRGs have been shown to be especially effective against skin cancer.
Some scientific studies show that eating more fruits and vegetables can actually prevent pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, bladder, cervical, and breast cancers.
When shopping for a good eggplant, choose one with a firm, shiny skin and avoid any that are bruised, discolored or withered. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to use them with the skin on to prolong their storage life.
Did you know that cutting an eggplant with a stainless steel knife rather than using a carbon steel blade prevents phytochemicals in the eggplant from reacting chemically, which can cause the eggplant to turn black?
There are natural compounds in eggplants that impart a bitter taste after exposure to oxygen in the air. Solve this easily by sprinkling cut slices or chunks with table salt. Let the salted eggplant stand for about 30 minutes before cooking. Salting will also keep the eggplant pieces from absorbing cooking oil. Be sure to rinse off the salt before proceeding with your meal plan.
Eggplants are a mainstay of Mediterranean and Italian cooking. Who doesn’t love a hot, melting, cheesy serving of Eggplant Parmesan?
Prepare eggplants whole, cubed or sliced. Cooking methods include baking, roasting, grilling, frying, sautéeing, and steaming.