Health Benefits of Eggplant
Asked to describe an eggplant (aubergine), most would mention dark purple, glossy, and shaped like a very large teardrop. Eggplants are known as aubergines in other parts of the world, where they’re much more popular. India is said to be the native country of this strange-looking fruit – because that’s what it is, rather than a vegetable.
There are many eggplant varieties. One eggplant type is small, white, and looks a lot like an egg, another is long and skinny like a bean, while the “Toga” variety is yellow-orange with green stripes. But all of these hang suspended from tall plants that can reach several feet in height.
Eggplants made their first appearance in Europe in the 14th century, and Thomas Jefferson first introduced them to 18th century America. Florida, California, and Georgia are leaders in U.S. eggplant production.
When choosing an eggplant, it should be firm and not too large. The length of a cucumber and the general circumference of a large pear should be about right. Smaller eggplants are less likely to be bitter (a bit of salt can help with this) and have fewer seeds, although these are edible.
The above nutrition chart is for raw eggplant, but it’s a tad bland in its raw form. It’s usually served baked rather than raw or boiling, which some cultures do, although it makes the white flesh inside a little mushy. Grilled is a more healthful way to prepare this vegetable to retain the most natural goodness. Culinary creativity can bring out the best features of this veggie.
While eggplants don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one nutrient, they do contain an impressive array across the board of many vitamins and minerals, such as excellent amounts of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid.
Studies indicate that eggplant has a number of health benefits from all these ingredients, as well as traditional uses. Sometimes, the leaves and roots are juiced or boiled to make a tonic for throat and stomach troubles, asthma, skin diseases, rheumatism, inflammation, intestinal hemorrhages, foot pain, coughs, anorexia, toothache, or as a general stimulant.
Modern-day scientists found that the Black Magic variety of eggplant contains nearly three times the amount of antioxidant phenolics they found in other eggplant types. Phenols are known to be one of the most powerful free radical scavengers, which can prevent cancer development and heart disease, but it’s these very attributes that give eggplants a slight bitter taste.
Another study found that anthocyanin phytonutrients in the skin of eggplants, called nasunin, is a potent antioxidant that zaps free radicals and protects the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes from damage.
One interesting aspect of eggplant is its shady connections, since it’s a member of the nightshade family of plants with tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers, as well as chili peppers, habeneros, jalapenos, and paprika. Many nutritionists caution that too many servings of eggplant might cause problems. In fact, ancient Mediterranean people reportedly nicknamed it “mad apple,” believing that eating eggplant every day for a month would cause insanity. Read More