Eggplants are valued for their deep purple color and glossy finish. Historically, eggplants originated from India and were first cultivated in China in 5th century B.C. Eggplants grow like tomatoes, hanging on vines of plants that grow several feet in height.

Disease/Ailments:

Neurological disorders
Cardiovascular disease prevention
Cancer prevention

Health benefits:

Brain protection: Nasunin, an anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin, is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that protects cell membranes from damage, specifically lipids in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, regulating nutrients that come in and out of the cell, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell what to do.

Antioxidant: Eggplants are rich in sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. One phenolic compound, chlorogenic acid, is one of the most potent antioxidants found in plant tissues. Some benefits include antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad) cholesterol, and antiviral activities.  All of these activities help in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer growth.

Cardiovascular health: The phytonutrients nasunin and terpene are partially responsible for lowering blood cholesterol by decreasing cholesterol lining the artery walls and improving blood flow.

Good source of:

Fiber, manganese, potassium

Purchasing, storing, & enjoying:

Purchasing: Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth and shiny with vibrant color. Avoid eggplants with discoloration, scars, and bruises, and make sure the stem and cap at the end is bright green. To test the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, and if an indentation remains, it is not. Peak season is from summer to early fall.

Storing: While they may look sturdy, eggplants are very perishable and should be handled with care. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days.

Enjoying:

  • When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.
  • Most eggplants can be eaten with or without the skin. However, the larger ones will have tougher skins that may not be palatable.
  • To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant to the desired cut and shape sprinkle it with salt and let it rest for 30 minutes. Squeeze gently and pat dry with a paper towel. This will allow most to the water to be pulled out and allow for less oil to be absorbed when cooking.
  • Eggplant can be baked, roasted, stemmed, or sautéed. To roast eggplant as a whole, pierce it with a fork and bake it in the oven at 350°F for 15-25 minutes. To check readiness, insert fork and see if it passes through.

Resources & recipes:

Eggplant parmesan: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/11/08/eggplant-parmesan/

Babaganoush Dip: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/babaganoush-recipe/index.html

Eggplant and chickpea curry: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2011/01/eggplant-and-chickpea-curry.html

Healthy tofu and eggplant stir-fry: http://www.laaloosh.com/2012/11/05/eggplant-tofu-stir-fry-recipe/

 

 

References:

Bliss RM, Elstein D. Scientists get under eggplant's skin.ARS Magazine, 2004 January; 52 (1): http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan04/skin0104.htm. 2004.

Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California. 1983.

Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986. 1986. PMID:15210.

Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York. 1996.

Jorge PA, Neyra LC, Osaki RM, et al. Effect of eggplant on plasma lipid levels, lipidic peroxidation and reversion of endothelial dysfunction in experimental hypercholesterolemia. Arq Bras Cardiol. 1998 Feb;70(2):87-91. 1998.

Kimura Y, Araki Y, Takenaka A, Igarashi K. Protective effects of dietary nasunin on paraquat-induced oxidative stress in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1999 May;63(5):799-804. 1999.

Noda Y, Kneyuki T, Igarashi K, et al. Antioxidant activity of nasunin, an anthocyanin in eggplant peels. Toxicology 2000 Aug 7;148(2-3):119-23. 2000.

Whitaker BD, Stommel JR. Distribution of Hydroxycinnamic Acid Conjugates in Fruit of Commercial Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) Cultivars. J Agric Food Chem 2003 May 21;51(11):3448-54. 2003.

Whitaker BD, Stommel JR. Distribution of hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates in fruit of commercial eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) cultivars. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 May 21; 51(11): 3448-54. 2003.

Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=22


About the Author

Ashley Kim

"Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners." – William Shakespeare

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