Eggplant, sometimes called aubergines in Europe or brinjal in India and Asia, are enjoyed the world over for its firm, distinctive texture and slightly bitter taste. But is eggplant good for you?
Wonder no longer! We’re providing all the nutritional egg-sposition you could ask for.
Spoilers: there’s serious goodness waiting for you in an eggplant. But what are the numbers exactly? Let’s look at the vitamins and nutrients in a 99g cup of boiled, unsalted eggplant:
Compared to your recommended daily intake (RDI) of those nutrients, we see that eggplant is packing:
- 5% of your manganese RDI
- 3% of folate RDI
- 3% of potassium RDI
- 2% of vitamin K RDI
- 1% of vitamin C RDI
So, eggplant’s hefty manganese content is actually more substantial than its vitamin/mineral content. Manganese helps your body hold itself together by forming connective tissue, it also helps generate sex hormones. That’s only one of the health benefits contained within this nifty nightshade.
All those eggplant nutrients are sure to stack up and translate into some health benefits. Let’s break down the biggest boosts.
1. Eggplants are loaded with antioxidants
When your body processes oxygen, it produces free radicals. Think of these as like the toxic byproduct of oxygen. They harm your body using oxidative stress, a process responsible for everything from faster visible ageing to a range of serious conditions.
The high antioxidant content of eggplants helps fight oxidative stress and reverse the effect of free radicals. In particular, we can thank anthocyanins. These are pigments that don’t only give eggplants their rich, distinctive color. Nasunin, a particular type of anthocyanin, is a mighty antioxidant which we’ll hear more about later.
2. An eggplant could help to fight cancer
Staying with antioxidants for now, studies have shown that a range of different eggplants could counter DNA damage and mutation. Cancer is a potential consequence of DNA damage caused by oxidative stress.
Other research looks at the solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs) found in nightshade plants like eggplant. These are able to kill cancer cells, adding more weight to the idea that eggplants may have cancer-fighting properties.
At this point, we need more research to say for sure how eggplants interact with cancer cells in humans, but there’s a solid case being built already.
3. Your heart will love you for eating eggplant
Whether eaten raw or cooked, evidence suggests that eggplant contains plenty of strong heart-protecting compounds. Vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, nasunin, the list goes on. It appears that eggplant lowers bad cholesterol and helps clear your blood of triglycerides. That’s good news for your heart.
However, the bulk of research on eggplant’s effects on heart health comes from animal or test tube studies. Studies on actual real-life humans are needed before we can know exactly how and why eggplant is good for the heart.
4. Trying to lose a few pounds? Pick up an eggplant
High fiber (and low calorie count) in eggplant helps your digestive system stay healthy.
Fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer after eating, meaning you’re less likely to snack. Overall, it could be a great idea to swap eggplant in for a higher-calorie ingredient.
Eggplants are perfectly safe to eat. There’s only three things you need to bear in mind: allergies (as with any other food), iron deficiency and solanine content…
Eggplant allergies are rare, but there are a handful of biological mechanisms which might cause an allergic reaction. If you’re on something like the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, which cuts out all members of the nightshade family, you’ll likely want to avoid eggplants to be on the safe side.
Speak to a doctor if you suspect you might be experiencing allergy symptoms from eating eggplant. Symptoms can include hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.
Eggplant, like all nightshade, contains solanine. This protects plants while they grow and can potentially be toxic if eaten in high enough quantities. Don’t worry though, an eggplant doesn’t contain enough of the chemical to do you any harm unless you’re hyper-sensitive to it.
Eggplant is crazy versatile and finds its way into many a cuisine. It also has the firmness and size to work as a meat substitute in some vegetarian or vegan dishes.
Picking a good eggplant
When they’re at maximum ripeness and perfect eatability, the best eggplants are:
- Smooth and shiny-skinned
- Firm but not hard (there should be a little bit of give when you squeeze it)
- Small to medium-sized (big eggplants have more seeds and taste more bitter)
Finally, the very end of the eggplant’s stem should be green and clean. The first signs of dryness or over-ripeness are sometimes blotching or mold on the stem, so keep an eye out!
Cooking an eggplant
You can roast, grill, or boil eggplant to deliciousness. Or, just enjoy it raw in salads.
Some of our favorite eggplant recipes include:
- Vietnamese grilled eggplant salad
- Mashed fire roasted eggplant
- Eggplant curry
- Eggplant and pomegranate dip
- Eggplant and mushroom bake
Before cooking, lots of people like to ‘sweat’ their eggplant to draw out some of the bitter taste. Sweating also helps the plant retain its texture during cooking. To do this:
- Slice your eggplant and place the slices face-up on a cooking board
- Sprinkle salt onto the eggplant’s flesh
- Leave for 30 minutes
- Rinse your eggplant strips, they’re now ready to cook
If it hasn’t been cut into, you can store an eggplant in the cupboard at room temperature for three or four days. Keep it out of direct sunlight, ideally in one of the colder places of the house like the garage.
If you’ve cut into it, you should store your eggplant in an airtight container in the fridge, where it’ll be good for about three days.
You can freeze eggplant, but first you’ll need to:
- Skin it
- Slice it into discs
- Boil it for about five minutes
- Drain and pat-dry it
- Put it in an airtight freezer bag
With all sorts of ways to give eggplant a try, you’d be missing out if you didn’t sample what it has to offer.
Its broad range of proven and theorized health benefits are particularly handy as we get older, helping fight off the inevitable effects of age. But until that happens, enjoy your eggplant in the now!