Let’s be honest – eggplant isn’t the most popular vegetable. Maybe you’ve had poorly prepared eggplant in the past and the thought of it makes you wrinkle your nose in disapproval. Or maybe you simply have no clue how to prepare this strange-looking vegetable so you’ve never given it a chance.
Either way, eggplant deserves a second chance. Besides the fact that eggplant has a rich creamy texture and full-bodied, meaty taste, this powerhouse veggie is chock-full of some impressive health-boosting nutrients. So, regardless of how you’ve felt about eggplant in the past, I’m certain that the right recipe can convert practically anyone into an eggplant lover.
Now let’s dive into the health benefits of eggplant and explore some of the tastiest ways to prepare this nutrient-dense veggie.
What Is Eggplant?
When you think of eggplant, the first thing that might come to mind is the large purple-hued veggies typically seen in the supermarket. But eggplant actually comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors – ranging from tiny and pear-shaped to long and slim, and from shades of purple to yellow or white.1
Regardless of shape, size, or color, all eggplants are vegetables that belong to the Solanaceae family – also known as nightshades. And this versatile veggie packs a powerful punch when it comes to nutrition.
Eggplant Nutrition Facts
A 0.5 cup or 100-gram serving of eggplant contains approximately:
- 25 calories
- 1 gram of protein
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 3 grams of fiber
Not only is this veggie low in calories and full of healthy fiber, but eggplants are also chock-full of essential nutrients. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these health-boosting nutrients and how they can impact your overall well-being.
Eggplant Nutritional Benefits
Eggplant is remarkably nutrient-dense and contains loads of:2,3
- Vitamins and minerals: Eggplant contains a hefty dose of Vitamins A, B, C, and K, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium to name a few.
- Antioxidants: Eggplant is also full of antioxidants like lutein, nasunin, and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants are important because these molecules stabilize and eliminate harmful free radicals – unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage if left unchecked.
- Phytonutrients: In addition to antioxidants, eggplant also contains compounds known as phytonutrients that are natural compounds that promote your body’s bioactive health-boosting processes. Eggplants are particularly high in phytonutrients like polyphenols and flavonoids.
- Fiber: Eggplant contains a significant amount of fiber – a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t break down. Adequate fiber is essential for gut health and feelings of satiation.
Thanks to an impressive volume and variety of key nutrients paired with its low-calorie content, a diet high in eggplant and other vegetables has been linked to some serious health benefits.
Health Benefits of Vegetables – Including Eggplant
A diet that contains plentiful amounts of varying vegetables is hands-down one of the best ways to support your health and well-being from the inside out. A diet high in vegetables can:
- Protect against cancer
- Ward off oxidative damage and inflammation
- Decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases
- Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
- Boost digestive health and promote a balanced microbiome
- Support weight loss and a healthy body composition
- Enhance cognitive function
While there’s no doubt that vegetables are rich in potent antioxidants, health-boosting, and anti-inflammatory properties, eggplant, and other vegetables in the nightshade family have also garnered some negative attention. Some studies have voiced concerns that eggplant and other nightshade vegetables may actually promote inflammation rather than fight it.
So, Is Eggplant Inflammatory?
The answer is a little bit complicated. You see, eggplant and other vegetables that belong to the nightshade family (like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes) contain compounds known as alkaloids. Studies have found that a specific alkaloid – known as solanine – can be inflammatory when consumed in high quantities.4
But just because eggplant and other nightshades might contain minuscule amounts of solanine doesn’t mean you should avoid these veggies. In fact, quite the opposite. Not only would you likely have to consume copious amounts of eggplant to experience any effects from solanine, but the benefits of vegetables in the nightshade family far outweigh any risk of inflammation that these alkaloids might cause.
With that being said, there are a small percentage of people who don’t tolerate eggplant and other nightshades well.
So, Who Should Avoid Eggplant and Other Nightshades?
Some people may have what’s known as a nightshade sensitivity – meaning their body has a hard time digesting and processing the compounds found in this group of foods. While most people can enjoy nightshades without a problem, if you have sensitivity you may notice a flare up of symptoms after eating a meal that contains nightshades that could include:
- Digestive upset including gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, or heartburn
- Fatigue, brain fog, and/or headaches
- Joint pain, stiffness, and/or swelling
If you notice that you feel worse after consuming nightshades, you may have a sensitivity or intolerance and it may be a good idea to eliminate them from your diet for a period of time. If you are struggling with potential food intolerances and difficult to pinpoint symptoms, I strongly encourage you to seek out the guidance of an experienced Integrative and Functional Medicine Practitioner to help you get to the root of the problem.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you’re probably ready to learn how to cook eggplant and explore some eggplant recipes.
How Do I Prepare Eggplant?
Whether you’re shopping at your grocery store or your local farmers market, you’ll want to look for eggplant with smooth shiny skin, fresh-looking stems, and when you give it a squeeze, it should be firm with a slight give that bounces right back when you release.
Once you get your eggplant home, if you’re not preparing it right away, you’ll want to store it in the crisper of your fridge. Eggplant will typically keep well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days – any longer and you run the risk of it becoming bitter.
Once you’re ready to cook your eggplant, give it a good rinse in the sink with soap and water or an all-natural vegetable scrub to remove any germs or particles from the soil and/or supermarket shelf that might be clinging to its surface. Eggplant skin is entirely edible, so it’s up to you whether you want to leave the skin on or peel it off. Then you can slice it or dice it to prepare it for whatever tasty recipe you decide to try.
Healthy Eggplant Recipes – Roasted, Grilled, and Baked
This versatile veggie can be prepared in any number of ways. Whether you want to fry it in a pan, roast it in the oven, or even throw it on the barbeque – the possibilities are endless. A quick search on the internet will yield countless delicious eggplant recipes. But to get you started, here are 2 of my all-time favorite eggplant recipes:
This hearty bolognese sauce is a lighter, healthier version of traditional bolognese – made with a mix of eggplant and ground beef and a flavorful blend of onions, garlic, plum tomatoes, and red wine. And to top it off, this scrumptious meal can be ready in 45 minutes or less.
This rich savory sauce served over a plate of zucchini pasta is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Click here to get the full recipe.
This healthy take on french fries is the perfect healthy snack or side dish. It’s even kid-approved! All you need is a handful of simple ingredients and 20 minutes in the oven, and voila, you’ve got delicious and nutritious fries. Click here to see the full recipe.
Ready to Try This Versatile Veggie?
Whether eggplant is entirely foreign to you or you’ve had a bad experience with it in the past, I encourage you to give this veggie a chance. When prepared well, this powerhouse vegetable is downright delicious. And the best part is, it’s absolutely loaded with a potent dose of health-boosting nutrients.
Your diet is one of the core pillars of health. Building most of your meals around nutrient-dense vegetables is one of the best ways to support your health. And the good news is, eating healthy doesn’t ever have to be bland or boring.
If you’re ready to start incorporating more veggies and healthy recipes into your life, head over and check out my library of some of my all-time favorite recipes by clicking right here.
Now it’s time to hear from you! Were you surprised to learn just how nutritious eggplant is? What are your favorite eggplant recipes? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- The Population Structure and Diversity of Eggplant from Asia and the Mediterranean Basin (nih.gov)
- Eggplant: Nutrition, Benefits, Risks, Preparation & Storage (webmd.com)
- Eggplant: Health benefits and nutritional information (medicalnewstoday.com)
- What’s the Deal With Nightshade Vegetables? – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.