Eggplant is a vegetable with a lot to offer: a high amount of antioxidants, special phytonutrients including phenolic compounds, flavonoids such as nasunin, and numerous vitamins and minerals too. All of these eggplant nutrition benefits come at a low calorie count of only 35 calories per cup, thanks to eggplant’s high fiber and water content.
Eggplant, a member of the night shade vegetable and Solanaceae plant family, is considered by researchers to be a part of a group of valuable vegetables due to their anthocyanin antioxidant compounds, which can be seen in eggplant’s rich purple colors. (1)
Researchers continue to learn more about the health benefits of eggplant nutrition, but eggplant has been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years as part of healthy, traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diet. Today it is commonly eaten in such places as France, Italy, Australia, Israel, Egypt, the U.S- and just about everywhere else too.
Luckily, cooked eggplant, which is normally the type that most people eat as opposed to raw eggplant, has been shown in studies to have even more benefits. Cooking eggplant results in it having even more available antioxidant content and biological activity of beneficial properties, as the thermal effect further releases eggplant’s disease-fighting compounds. (2)
The Key to Eggplant Nutrition
Eggplant is not the highest in many nutrients as some of the superfoods out there, but it is unique. Eggplant contains a somewhat rare and extremely beneficial type of antioxidant known as nasunin. Nasunin is a type of anthocyanin antioxidants found in all types of eggplant varieties in addition to other deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Nasunin is one of the key contributors to the health benefits of eggplant nutrition. Nasunin, like other antioxidants, has the ability to fight free radical damage in the body which is often the cause of the disease development and the mechanism at which our bodies’ age. Most of the nasunin present within eggplant is found in its purple skin, so consuming the entire vegetable including its peel is important to reap all of eggplant’s health benefits.
According to studies, nasunin is a potent fighter of inflammation and oxidative stress, acting as an O2 scavenger, and also an iron “chelator”, which can protect against lipid peroxidation (3). It is used to help iron become absorbable by the body and also to bind molecules to poisonous metal agents such as mercury, arsenic, and lead which can then be carried out of the body, resulting in a detox (4).
Nasunin has been shown to protect DNA and cell membranes from oxidative stress and damage because of its positive effects on cell walls (5). Nasunin has the ability to protect the fat (or lipid) layer of the cell membrane that keeps its structure intact and prevents mutation or cell death.
Nasunin is one antioxidant involved in the ability to help cells receive and use nutrients from food, and also to discard of waste. Without enough antioxidants like nasunin present within the body, toxins and waste build up and can lead to a host of diseases including cancer, heart disease, arthritis and more.
Eggplant Nutrition Facts
One cup of cooked eggplant provides (in daily recommended values according to the USDA):
- 35 calories
- 5 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of sugar
- 1 gram of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 8 grams of carbs
- 6 percent daily value manganese
- 4 percent daily value vitamin K
- 4 percent daily value vitamin B1/thiamine
- 4 percent daily value vitamin B6
- 3 percent daily value folate
- 3 percent daily value magnesium
- 3 percent daily value potassium
- 3 percent daily value copper
Top 6 Health Benefits of Eggplant Nutrition
1. Helps Protect Against Cancer
It’s believed that there are amazingly 13 types of protective phenolic acids present at significant levels within eggplant. Different types of eggplants have varying levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients, but all share similar qualities in their ability to fight cancer.
Eggplant nutrition contains disease-fighting nasunin as previously mentioned, in addition to many other phytonutrients like chlorogenic acid. Cholorogenic acid is found in the cell walls of certain plants and known to be very beneficial in stopping free radicals from forming cancerous cells and leading to cancer tumor growth. In addition to its anti-mutagen and anti-tumor effects, cholorgenic acid is believed to act as an anti-microbial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol), and also an anti-viral, meaning it protects against various levels of inflammation and disease formation.
2. Helps Lower High Cholesterol
Studies have shown that eggplant can be beneficial to heart health due to its ability to fight inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to healthier arteries and more balanced cholesterol levels (6).
Eggplant nutrition has been shown to be beneficial in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels because of its phytonutrients’ ability to improve circulation and reduce plaque buildup in the main arteries, including the aorta. While your body does need a certain amount of cholesterol, consuming eggplant is correlated with balancing the amount that is held within your blood vessel walls and improving blood flow. Studies have shown that eggplants containing potent cardio-protective compounds judging by their ability to increase left ventricular function (one of the main blood-pumping chambers of the heart) and to reduce apoptosis. (7)
3. Can Help Improve Digestive Health
Eggplant is largely made up of water, which is why it is so low in calories. Consuming vegetables that have a high content of water, fiber, and nutrients helps to flush out waste and toxins from the digestive tract. The digestive tract and colon need to be well hydrated in order to push stool through the intestines and out of the body.
Eating plenty of fresh, whole foods in addition to drinking enough water is crucial for allowing the digestion system to expel toxins and excess water weight. Because of the known benefits of eggplant nutrition, eggplant is included in the GAPS diet for this reason, a diet especially helpful in correcting digestive disease, neurological issues, reducing inflammation and healing autoimmune conditions too.
Because of the fiber and water content that it has, eggplant is also useful in helping to achieve weight loss. Because it provides an array of vital phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals yet is very low in calories, eggplant is a great addition to any low-calorie healthy diet. The fiber in eggplant helps to make you feel full so you are less likely to overeat.
4. High Source of Bone Building Manganese
Something you may not already know about eggplant nutrition is that one cup of eggplant provides roughly 5% of your daily needs of important manganese. Manganese is a mineral that is naturally occurring in the body in small amounts, so the rest must be obtained from a healthy diet. Manganese acts as an antioxidant, seeking out free radicals and eliminating them from causing bodily harm and oxidative stress.
Manganese contributes to the formation of a healthy bone structure because of its impact on bone mineralization and metabolism. It is needed in order to metabolize and use calcium properly and to create essential enzymes for the formation of strong bones.
Additionally, manganese assists in the metabolic activity within our body, formation of connective tissues, and the regulation of hormone levels which are crucial for reproductive health and fighting infertility. It also plays a part in regulating healthy thyroid gland function, fighting depression, and helps to control blood sugar level.
5. Good Source of Energy-Promoting B Vitamins
Eggplant nutrition provides a good source of Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B6, two of the vitamins that are included in the healthy metabolism and energy-promoting B Vitamin Complex. B vitamins are water soluble, found in many vegetables and other whole food sources, and are needed to maintain healthy energy levels, brain function, metabolism, heart health, and focus.
They are also required by the body to absorb all of the nutrients from the foods you eat, working to convert fats and carbohydrates into useable “fuel” for the body the burn.
Vitamin B6 is needed to help create amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are used for numerous bodily functions and without enough of them, problems including a lack of energy, skin inflammation, anemia, depression, chronic fatigue, and nutrient-deficiencies can all occur.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in the formation of hemoglobin (which carries oxygen to the blood), neurotransmitters (which help control your mood), as well as regulation of blood glucose. Vitamin B1, another type found in eggplant, is used for maintain a healthy metabolism, blood and heart health, brain function, and more.
6. Can Help Prevent Skin Cancer
When an extract is taken from the skin of eggplant extract, a highly concentrated cream is made that studies have shown is able to help fight skin cancer. This type of cream contains a 10% concentration of solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (BEC) which has been clinically proven as an effective treatment for several types of skin cancers: keratosis, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas (9).
It’s believed that eggplant has been used in this way for thousands of years and makes an effective natural remedy for malignant and benign skin cancers.
The Long History of Eggplant
Wild eggplant varieties were first cultivates in parts of India and China around the time of 500 A.D. Eggplant were first mentioned in writing in Ancient Chinese texts dating around year 544. Eggplant was introduced throughout the Mediterranean region by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages, and records show that during the time of medieval era, it was brought to Spain where it was given its name aubergine.
Around the turn of the 16th century, eggplant spread throughout England and the rest of the Europe, where it is commonly still consumed today. It made its way over to the Americas with European explorers, although many people chose to stay away from eating eggplant for for many years because it was thought of as a poisonous plant due to its deep color.
It took years before the health benefits of eggplant nutrition became known and understood like they are today, with many people choosing to avoid the vegetables for a long period of history.
Today China, India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey are the leading growers of eggplant, respectively. China alone produced about 58% of the world’s eggplant crops. Eggplant is a very diverse vegetable, appearing commonly in cuisines of many countries, including Thailand, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, India, and others.
Varieties of Eggplant or Aubergine
Eggplant is known by a few different names around the world, but is most commonly referred to as an aubergine in places including England, Australia and France.
Eggplant is loved for its bright purple color, fleshy skin, uniquely bitter-yet-pleasant taste, and of course the widespread benefits of eggplant nutrition.
Eggplants are usually available in markets throughout the whole year, but they are at their very best and freshest in the late summer months running from August through October, when they are in peak season. Today there are about 7 types of eggplant harvested and made available throughout the US, including the most popular types, the large oval eggplant and small Japanese eggplant.
Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables. They are similar to other nightshade vegetables including tomatoes, sweet red peppers and potatoes because of some of their chemical compounds. Eggplants grow on short vines that are similar to those of tomato plants.
When it comes to purchasing organic versus non-organic eggplant, luckily eggplant makes the list for the “Clean 15” vegetables, meaning they are less likely to be sprayed with a high amount of pesticides than other types. This means that buying conventional (non-organic) eggplant is considered to be safe and the benefits of eggplant nutrition are still in tact even in non-organic varities.
The health benefits of eggplant nutrition seem to be consistent across the different types, with the exception of the variety known as “Black Magic” eggplants. This strand which is sold commercially in U.S. markets is known to have the highest concentration of certain phytonutrients and may offer additional antioxidant properties than the other types of eggplant.
Some sources have found that Black Magic eggplants can have up to 3x the amount of antioxidant phenolics as the other eggplant types, although more research is needed to confirm the exact differences.
The phenolic acids in eggplant are responsible for giving them their unique, and sometimes bitter taste, and also for turning their flesh brown when it is cut open and exposed to oxygen. Even when an eggplant is browning, there is nothing dangerous about this process and it remains perfectly edible and healthy.
How to Purchase Eggplant
When looking for eggplants to purchase, look for the type with a solid shape that appears to have no serious dents and bruises.
Many eggplants will appear brightly colored and glossy, with shiny skin; this is perfectly normal and the skin is very healthy to eat considering it is where many of the nutrients of eggplant are actually stored.
If you find eggplant at a farmers market, most likely during the late summer months or in early fall, you will probably come across the numerous sizes and shapes that eggplants come in. Eggplant can be found in a range of colors including deep purple, light purple/lavender, jade green, orange, yellow-white, and purple-white striped.
They can be found in sizes that are as large as a football, or small than a tomato or zucchini. The kind most popular in most of North America is the deeply purple, large and oval type. This kind of eggplant has a creamy, beige/white flesh and a spongy consistency that easily soaks up sauce, oil, and flavor.
How to Cook Eggplant
While the different varieties of eggplant will range somewhat in terms of their exact taste and texture, they are usually described as having a spongy, soft flesh and a pleasant but bitter taste. In many recipes, eggplant is used as a complementary ingredient that adds texture, volume, and balance to stronger tastes coming from other highly-flavored ingredients.
Eggplant is commonly used around the world to make the all-vegetable dish Ratatouille in France, Cury in India, Babaganoush spread or dip in the Middle East, Moussaka in Greece, or Eggplant Parmesan in Italy. It is commonly added to Asian stir-dried dishes or grilled on the BBQ in North America and Australia, in addition to many other culinary uses.
Luckily cooking eggplant does not seem to diminish the positive effects of its phytonutrients (10). In fact thermal treatment commonly used before eating it can increase the availability content and biological activity of antioxidant compounds of eggplants (11).
Healthy Eggplant Recipes
Try using eggplant is one of these healthy recipes:
- 1 eggplant
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 tbsp gluten free flour
- basil and sea salt to sprinkle on top
- 1 small wedge of raw sheep cheese
- 1 jar of organic marinara sauce
- Cut Eggplant into 1 inch thick pieces
- Put Flour in bowl and coat both sides of Eggplant
- Melt Coconut Oil over medium heat
- Sautee Eggplant in pan and sprinkle Basil & Sea Salt on top
- Cook for 5-6 mins on each side
- Make sure you add more coconut oil when you flip the eggplant
- Place cut pieces of Sheep Cheese on top and allow to start melting before serving
- Eggplant, thinly sliced to 1/8″
- Goat cheese
- Fresh basil, chopped
- Ghee, melted
- Sea salt
- Place thin slices of eggplant on a baking try. Brush both sides of strips with ghee and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Broil for 4-5 minutes on one side. Flip each strip and broil on opposite side for another 4-5 minutes.
- In a bowl, mix the goat cheese, finely chopped basil and raisins.
- Once the eggplant is out of the oven and cooled, spoon the cheese mixture into the middle of each strip
- Roll each egg plant and use toothpick to hold each together.
- 1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 large ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 4 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/4 cup of fresh whole basil leaves
- 1 tbsp Sea Salt
- Coconut oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Black pepper to taste
- Toss eggplant with kosher salt, oil and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Grill Eggplant slices for 4-5 minutes per side over a medium heat or until they just begin to get grill marks.
- Serve eggplant wit mozzarella, tomatoes and basil stacked.
- Drizzle Balsamic vinegar over top and serve.
Eggplant Side Effects
Eggplant is one of the vegetables in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Other nightshade vegetables include tomatoes, bell peppers, and various types of potatoes. Nightshade vegetables are known for causing digestive disturbances in some people, leading to concern over eggplant’s ability to produce inflammation and possible harmful reactions.
Night shade vegetables are also high in oxalic acid, which has been correlated with an increased risk for forming kidney stones and arthritis in some people. For this reason, if you have a history of kidney stones or arthritis, it may be best to try eliminating eggplant and other night shade vegetables.
Some people report feeling better after removing nightshade vegetables from their diet, suffering from less digestive distress and other inflammatory symptoms including arthritis. However there is more scientific evidence needed to prove this correlation still. What studies have shown is that eggplant does tend to be a common allergen for some people, and that all types seem to have the same negative effects in those who react to negatively to eggplant due to allergies (12)
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