Are you surprised to have clicked on an article about eggplants only to learn you’ll be reading about aubergines? Just kidding—aubergines are eggplants! These often-confused-for-a-vegetable fruits are a member of the nightshade family of plants, and they’re used in a variety of ways.
The eggplant (Solanum melongena) is prominent in both Mediterranean-style and low-carb diets. It is rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which provide the deep, rich skin tones eggplants are known for. Although purple is the most common color, there are a variety of types of aubergines that come in a range of colors like red, white, pink, green, and black.
One of the most popular benefits of eggplant is that it’s a plant-based alternative to chicken or veal parmesan. But eggplant parmesan isn’t the only benefit, or use, the fruit offers. It’s a good source of a number of nutrients that each contribute to a healthful diet.
Eggplant Nutrition Facts
Eggplant is a nutrient-dense food, offering an array of vitamins and minerals in addition to its antioxidant compounds. A cup of raw eggplant provides roughly the following:
|Thiamin (vitamin B1)||3% DV|
|Riboflavin (vitamin B2)||2% DV|
|Niacin (vitamin B3)||4% DV|
|Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)||6% DV|
|Vitamin B6||6% DV|
|Folate (vitamin B9)||6% DV|
|Vitamin C||4% DV|
|Vitamin K||4% DV|
Eggplant Health Benefits
Combined with a high number of anthocyanins, the nutrients in eggplant may offer a number of health benefits. There is even preliminary research linking eggplant, specifically, to positive health outcomes.
Let’s take a look at what these fruits might be able to do for you.
1. Provide a Rich Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants have been identified as powerful players in promoting health and lowering the risk of chronic illness. They protect your cells from free radicals, which has the potential to reduce inflammation and potentially prevent heart disease, dementia, and various cancers.
Eggplant is rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that contributes to the deep-purple color of some varieties. Other rich sources of anthocyanins are blueberries, blackberries, and black rice.
2. May Promote Heart Health
There is research indicating eggplant may play a role in promoting heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease.
One review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the effects of flavonoid consumption on heart health. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid. Looking at 133 trials, they found that diets high in flavonoids were able to reduce blood pressure.
Other research has shown that people who consume more than three anthocyanin-containing servings of fruit and vegetables per week had a 34% lower risk of heart disease than those who had fewer servings.
A study on animals indicated that eggplant juice was able to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, while another study fed animals grilled or raw eggplant for 30 days and found it improved heart function.
3. May Help Lower/Manage Blood Sugar
Eggplant is a good source of fiber, which is known to slow digestion and sugar absorption. When sugar is absorbed at a slower rate, it does not lead to big spikes in blood sugar.
There is also research indicating that polyphenols—natural compounds in plants—may reduce sugar absorption and insulin secretion, which both help reduce blood sugar.
4. May Aid Weight Loss
Eggplant is a high-fiber and low-calorie food, making it an ideal addition to any weight loss program. Fiber increases satiety and fullness, which may lead to less hunger and snacking. Further, it can be used as a low-calorie alternative to the following:
- Pizza crust
- French fries
- Hamburger patty
- Chicken nuggets
How to Prepare an Eggplant
All of the eggplant is edible—skin, seeds, and flesh—so don’t worry too much about what’s in there when cooking with it. In fact, it’s recommended that you eat the skin because that’s where you will get the most nutritional value.
Raw eggplant can be rather bitter, but that can be easily changed. One method is to “degorge” the eggplant by slicing it, salting the pieces, and leaving them to sit for about 30 minutes. Then rinse.
Eggplants can be prepared in multiple ways and are used with great diversity in the cooking world. It can be stewed in a French ratatouille or baked in Greek moussaka or Italian eggplant parmesan. Sometimes it’s charred or roasted, as in baba ghanouj and various Indian dishes.
Eggplant can also be grilled, fried, steamed, cubed, sliced, mashed, or stuffed. Really, it all comes down to how you want to have it!
A ripe, ready-to-eat eggplant should be firm and relatively heavy. The skin should be smooth, glossy, and deep purple. They can be brought home and stored in the fridge for a few days.
3 Eggplant Recipes
Here are three different ways you can take advantage of eggplant:
1. Eggplant Parmesan
Prep Time: 15 Minutes Total Time: 60 minutes Serves:6-8
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups canned, crushed tomatoes
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup basil leaves, freshly chopped
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick rounds
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until the edges start to sizzle and brown. Then add the tomatoes, salt, red pepper flakes and let simmer, stirring occasionally.
- When the sauce thickens, after approximately eight minutes, remove from heat. Pour in the chopped basil and stir.
- Place an 18×13-inch baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.
- As the sheet is heating, set out three shallow dishes. Fill the first dish with the flour, beat the eggs in a second dish, and fill a third with the breadcrumbs. Salt both sides of the eggplant slices. Toss one eggplant slice at a time in the flour, dip it in the egg, and coat it in the breadcrumbs.
- Remove the heated baking sheet from the oven. Grease with two tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the coated eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until the undersides are crisp and browned. Turn over the slices and bake for another eight to 10 minutes.
- Top the eggplant slices with the tomato blend and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning halfway through. The cheeses should be melted and browned and the sauce bubbly. Top with basil before serving.
2. Baba Ghanouj
Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes Serves: 4
1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise
1 head of garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
Coarse sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the eggplant cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the tender flesh easily pulls away from the skin, for about one hour. Let cool.
- Break the garlic head into cloves and remove the tips from the cloves with a knife. Place the cloves in the center of a square of foil. Bring the edges of the foil together and fold them over to form a tightly sealed packet. Bake alongside the eggplant for roughly 20 minutes, or until tender. Let cool. Purée the cloves by pressing them through a garlic press.
- Use a spoon to remove the flesh from the eggplant and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the puréed garlic and oil. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with mini pitas.
3. Chicken Nugget-Style Almond-Dusted Eggplant
Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes Serves: 4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2/3 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
3/4 tsp salt
3 medium Chinese eggplants, sliced diagonally
Olive oil cooking spray (or olive oil in an oil spritzer)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, toasted sesame oil, basil, salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder until emulsified.
- In a separate dish, mix almond flour and salt.
- Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices.
- Dip eggplant slices into oil mixture, then into almond flour mixture, turning to coat. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Lightly spray slices with cooking oil.
- Bake for 15 minutes, flip slices, and spray again. Then bake for another 15 minutes.
- Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.
Eggplant: Nutritious, Versatile, and a Great Addition to Your Diet
The eggplant is a rich source of antioxidants that lends itself nicely to virtually any healthy diet. It’s nutrient-dense, low-calorie, and low-carb, while also being a great source of fiber. It can be cooked in a number of ways to complement virtually any taste. Next time you see an eggplant, consider picking one up!
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